Monday, March 29, 2010

My Service Learning Partner and Project

I am partnered with Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing for my service learning project. Cristo Rey is a Catholic Charities Agency whose mission is “to care for the spiritual and social needs of individuals and families by offering services that encourage self-sufficiency and recognize the dignity of the human person.” The community center began in 1968, and has provided services to the community including: “a medical health clinic, prescription programs, senior and community kitchens, youth programs, diversion programs, employment and training programs, counseling programs, direct assistance, food bank, disability services, English and Spanish as a second language classes, and parenting programs.”

Patricia Welling, Administrative Manager at Cristo Rey, told me about a need for some kind of system to keep track of the food bank. They already have databases and entry systems for the actual cash flows, but not for the non-cash items such as food. Since Cristo Rey partially relies on grants from the government, as well as from individuals/companies, they have a need to document every transaction and every individual that they helped. Having these statistics will help maintain aid, as well as help to draw in additional donors. As you may have gathered, document creation that I will be assisting them with is an inventory/tracking database (using Excel/Google) for the food bank.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Service Learning

Service learning is a concept that incorporates community service and intern-like educational learning into a (hopefully) beneficial experience. I hope to apply what I have learned throughout my college career and help someone in the community, all while reaping the benefits of service learning. Many schools and universities are beginning to realize the importance of community service, as well as the educational benefits and real-world hands-on experience that students need to understand the education they are receiving. Service learning is almost like an internship, except that the organization that the student is working for is not for profit (which usually means their purpose is to help the community). Service learning is a wonderful idea that motivates students to become active members of their community, and if properly coordinated, helps students achieve the experience in their field that they will need for their future endeavors.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Workplace Culture and Effective Communication

To ensure effective communication in my future workplace I will employ these strategies:

• Learn and keep up on lingo used in the field of International Business (import, export, WTO, tariffs, embargo, etc.)
• Educate myself on the (business) culture of the country/region I will be doing business with before engaging in communication with prospective company.
• Maintain knowledge of different areas of the business world (accounting, finance, economics, trade law, etc.)
• Apply positive attitude/outlook throughout business dealings.
• Understand the diversity of ideals throughout the business world.

To an average person, the term import/export usually sparks images of a harbor with shipping containers being loaded and unloaded. The basic concept may relate to this idea, but understanding everything related to importing something from another country includes knowing what is being imported and how the laws of the country in question compare to those of the United States. For example, to import something from Cuba is currently (mostly) illegal because of the trade embargo. However, exporting is a completely different topic when it comes to Cuba and the trade embargo. In 2000, Congress allowed agricultural sales to the island on a cash basis (meaning you cannot trade $5 million of agricultural goods for $5 million of steel or computers because that would mean you were importing something). Every country is different and the knowledge required to import or export with another country varies depending on the country in question.

The business culture of the country/region you are doing business with is very important to understand so that you are not offended and so that you do not offend anyone. For example, in Middle Eastern countries, if you do not fluently speak the native language, it is frowned upon to even try as some people may think you are “murdering” the language. In some cases, if you are not a native (and even if you are fluent in the language), businessmen would rather conduct business in English (to some people, ethnicity and language are intertwined and a bias may also be present). In China, you are expected to be on time to a meeting, if not early; while in Spain, you may be on time or early but the Spanish culture does not put as much emphasis on punctuality (being at the meeting on time). This kind of knowledge is important even in English speaking countries like England. The traditional hand gesture in the U.S. for “peace” is the index and middle fingers up with the palm facing out, while if the same fingers are up but the palm is facing inward, it is a vulgarity equivalent to “giving someone the middle finger” in the U.S.

A degree in International Business usually means that a management position is yearned for. Being a manager in a corporate environment requires knowledge of many different fields such as accounting and finance. To produce reports for the company (or division), a manager must incorporate all of the information from accounting, finance, marketing, and production for facts and figures. This means that managers will have to be able to communicate with these departments, as well as to the board and stockholders.

The most important thing to remember is to be positive, even when things are looking negative. If there is evidence of lower than normal third quarter profits, emphasize the possibilities of the fourth quarter or the new developments from the R & D department that might help improve all parties’ attitudes.

Nobody wants to do business with a negative person.