Sunday, July 6, 2008


Column for AIESEC June 1, 2008

It might seem like a long time ago, but my lessons from AIESEC have stayed with me for over 40 years. In fact, as a member of the graduate faculty of the Integrated Marketing communications department at Northwestern University (www.medill.northwestern/imc)
I continue to raise internships for my graduate students (over 50 percent are international) in the tradition of AIESEC every year. One difference might be the price (we secure support of $16,500 for each student for 11 weeks), but the spirit of AIESEC reigns in my process. My Olympic experience this summer will also reinforce my AIESEC education and beliefs.

In 1968 the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter of AIESEC was vital and exciting. The group of UW students was so dedicated to the concept that we worked overtime to find meaningful internships in our small college town (Madison was under 100,000 populations). First Wisconsin Bank, Oscar Mayer and other firms were the corporate exception in a city dominated by the University and Wisconsin state government, but they knew the value of developing new talent in a global environment. At that time, Madison was thought to have more “foreign” cars per capital than other cities. The influence was the strongly global faculty who often came from international schools, conducted international research and brought home a Volvo, Saab, MiniCooper (the original one), MG or even Allard. I drove an Allard, Austin-Healey and TR-3. (It was a bad habit my Dad taught me and has stayed with me to this day (Porsche C4S)).

From foreign cars (the terms is oddly dated) to global students, the leap was comfortable and fun. While I had “won the lottery” that year for raising more internships than my peers; I regrettably was unable to assume my internship in Copenhagen Denmark due to some surgery from poor skiing behavior. Instead, I stayed in my home town of Madison, worked in the PR function of Oscar Mayer and hosted our international AIESEC guests.

It was a great experience. I wish I could remember their names but the Scandinavian group of men and women was excited to be in Madison. Wisconsin still has a great tradition of celebrating its northern European values and traditions. They found their welcome warm. We took them on weekends to local tourist sites (Frank Lloyd Wright’s school Taliesin, Wisconsin Dells (natural rock formations and tacky tourist attractions), the World Circus Museum and more.

The faculty advisors of AIESEC from the School of Commerce also showed their global nature. I particularly remember a backyard event at the home of Management Professor Ed Petersen and his wife Ruthie with Marketing Professor J. Howard Westing and Peg (my future father and mother-in law).

My global halcyon days continue. As I write this I am on my way to Lijiang China by way of Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Bejiing. I will be celebrating my long interest in world issues (not as an athlete) but as a guest of the Olympic Committee, Samsung and China to carry the Olympic Torch for 200 meters. As I carry that torch, I will remember that it was AISEC that gave me my first organizational introduction to a global world. As I run, I plan to carry a memento of my students, family, universities and AIESEC.