Ahlers Center Provides a World of Opportunity

Ahlers Center Provides a World of Opportunity

The University of San Diego campus commands some 180 Pacific Ocean-view acres. But even that vast expanse isn't enough to contain a USD education. More than 70 percent of students have an international component to their degree programs, which is enough to earn the university a top national ranking each year in terms of the percentage of undergraduate students who study abroad.

The Ahlers Center for International Business offers study-abroad opportunities through its offices in the Coronado Building, Room 115, on the west side of campus. The Ahlers Center also works with the International Center (Serra Hall 201) which provides programs for all undergraduate students. Fall 2016 marked the start of a dual degree program where an undergrad can split time between USD and Madrid, Spain or Dublin, Ireland. But international education doesn’t require a passport. Sometimes, it’s as accessible as an Olin Hall classroom. The Ahlers Center brings the world to the USD campus, with international business leaders and speakers, international faculty and programming that benefits and serves all USD students. 

This year alone, 29 faculty from the School of Business are leading student groups on consulting projects and experiential focused courses all over the world in programs organized by the Ahlers Center and the International Center. That firsthand experience comes back to USD, helping students understand the cultural and economic landscape to build relationships that literally mean business. The Ahlers Center also supports faculty through various faculty development programs, such as last year’s trip to Dubai and Kuwait City where 22 of our faculty met with alumni, local companies and universities to learn more about the business and economic environment of the Middle East. Previous trips were organized in Asia and Latin America.

“The faculty bring research experience to the classroom, not just business practices, but cultural elements and the ability to compare and contrast between various countries and cultures, and to know the most effective means to communicate,” Dimon says.

That was exactly the environment Leonie Sandlebaum, International MBA ’14, was looking for in an MBA program. After earning an undergraduate degree in Germany, she looked to study in the United States.

“USD really stuck out,” Sandlebaum remembers. “The academic reputation is very strong, and when I saw the relationship that faculty have with students, I knew this was what I wanted. I wanted to be challenged, and I was.”

Dimon smiles at the mention of Leonie’s name. “The poster child for what we’re trying to encourage for graduate business students at the Ahlers Center,” she says. The Germany native came to USD for her graduate degree and fit in a study abroad semester in Argentina.

“I was making an investment in myself. I wanted to learn as much as I could,” she says. “If there was a speaker from Turkey talking about business in that culture, I was there. If a professor would suggest extra reading about a certain topic, I always did the extra reading, whether it was for extra credit or not.”

Leonie parlayed that work ethic into a consulting position at Deloitte and Touche before moving to corporate strategic development at ING Bank.

“I do project planning of client global transformation programs,” she says, “primarily evaluating specific return targets on equity/cost/income ratio of key performance indicators,” she says. “That is a lot of data. But evaluating and making recommendations in specific cultural contexts can be even more difficult. That’s where my USD experience has been so valuable.”

On a recent vacation to the United States, Leonie was back on campus, sharing her insights with business students. “In both undergraduate and graduate classes, the level of student involvement just jumps out at you,” she says. “It’s a great experience to walk the halls again and feel the energy that is here. I’m talking to students about what I do and hopefully giving them some real-world insight, but it’s good for me, too. I’m taking some of that energy back to ING.”

— Timothy McKernan

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