What do agriculture, business, information technology, family and consumer sciences, health and medical sciences, marketing, trade, industry, and technology have in common? Each of these dynamic industry sectors are dominated by entrepreneurs worldwide. They are also disciplines explored by students in the Career and Technical Education Program offered by the Virginia Tech School of Education.

Understanding the needs of global entrepreneurs at the local level is usually constrained by the cost of travel and language and culture differences. Further complications arise from the interrelated nature of these sectors and how entrepreneurship is taught. These are the issues that School of Education faculty members Joseph Mukuni and William Price seek to address with their program, “Globalization Business Skills, Diversity Awareness, and Entrepreneurship Workforce Development in Zambia.”

Recently awarded a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship by the U.S. Department of Education, Mukuni and Price seek to promote integration of international studies into the career and technical education curricula at the middle school, high school, and post-secondary levels in the United States. Their ultimate goal is to enable middle- and high-school teachers and administrators to integrate firsthand knowledge of business globalization skills, particularly in the area of entrepreneurship and small business operations, into their curricula.

“This project enhances participants’ experiential knowledge of diversity,” said Mukuni, a collegiate associate professor in the School of Education. “Immersing participants into the Zambian culture — as well as the country’s education, business, and governmental sectors — will assist them in gaining an awareness and greater appreciation of the importance of accepting diversity in their classrooms and life in general. This awareness and appreciation will contribute to each participant’s personal growth as a teacher and as a human being, allowing them to be people who enhance diversity and use it to improve their classrooms and life in general.”

Price noted that, for more than a decade, the team has led various projects in Zambia in partnership with the country’s Ministry of Education and  Ministry of Technical, Entrepreneurship, Vocational Education and Training.

“We have always wanted to take a group of U.S. career and technical education teachers and Virginia Tech graduate students to Zambia to learn about the entrepreneurial spirit that prevails within the country and the cultural influence that guides this spirit,” said Price, an associate professor in the School of Education. “The Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship will give us the opportunity to enlighten the fellowship participants with life-changing experiences that will help them grow personally and professionally.”

Twelve faculty members and graduate students in the Career and Technical Education Program will immerse themselves in the cultural, environmental, business, educational, and governmental sectors of Zambia. This immersion will allow participants to gain firsthand knowledge of how these sectors are interrelated and how they affect entrepreneurship education in Zambia.

The participants will also receive instruction in Tonga, one of approximately 73 indigenous languages and dialects spoken in Zambia. Learning the language will serve the primary purpose of easing the introduction of the students to Zambian citizens; it will also expose both teachers and students to the experience of learning another language in a culture where that language is the lingua franca.

Mukuni and Price hope this experience will make the teachers more aware of the challenges and coping strategies that need to be taken into account when interacting with English-language learners. This is the first-ever Zambia immersion project of the school’s Career and Technical Education Program.

“While global business is a reality for entrepreneurs worldwide — and the foundation for a curriculum in global business exists for career and technical education teachers — it is rare that an entire year can be devoted to these lessons at the middle or high school level,” said Kristin Gehsmann, director of the Virginia Tech School of Education. “This experience will prepare these teachers to integrate units on critical entrepreneurship skills and conducting global business into the courses they teach, helping our high school students develop global, entrepreneurial competency.”

As Price explains, “With total immersion into the culture, our main goal is to have participants gain a thorough understanding of the roles entrepreneurship plays in the formal and informal sectors of business and the impact these businesses have on the Zambian economy.”

As project director, Mukuni will coordinate project activities in the United State and in Zambia. He will also provide language training before and during the trip for the students. Price, as project consultant, will be responsible for participant recruitment, project planning, and travel and logistics planning.

“This global entrepreneurial project is just one of many ways we’re working to reimagine the future of education in the Virginia Tech School of Education and beyond,” said Gehsmann. 

The Fulbright Scholar Program offers diverse opportunities for U.S. academics, administrators, and professionals to teach, research, conduct projects, and attend seminars abroad. The Global Education Office oversees the Fulbright Program at Virginia Tech and serves as a resource for student and faculty applicants. For questions or more information on Fulbright programs, please contact the Global Education Office.

The Virginia Tech School of Education is a global catalyst for individual and social transformation through education, applied research, and advocacy. With 20 degree and certificate programs, the school offers students a range of pathway to serve the greater good. To learn more, visit the school’s website, or find the school on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

For more information about research projects in the School of Education, visit the research section of the school’s website.

Written by Sharon Stidham