Dina Khamash (left) and Cassandra Pantel (right) sprang up with enthusiasm. Their team, including students from Iowa and Amman, just won first place in the Global Solutions Summit for their sustainable water system business concept.
The Global Solutions Summit was the culminating event of the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a Stevens Initiative-supported virtual exchange implemented by IREX. Over a 10-week virtual exchange, 15 binational teams and more than 315 students from the US and Jordan investigated the impact of global hospitality and tourism issues in their local communities, collaborated with team members in another country, and developed sustainable business concepts in response to a challenge prompt inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Of the 15 teams that participated in the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, three teams became finalists and participated in the Global Solutions Summit. Nearly 50 college students and faculty leaders from Jordan joined their binational partners for the summit – a four-day professional development opportunity in Washington, DC that ended with a business pitch competition at the Aspen Institute.
Reflecting on her experience as a college student in Jordan collaborating with community college students in the United States as part of this virtual exchange, Dina Khamash, a student director from Luminus Technology University College, expressed discovering skills she never knew she had. “Assigned as the director of the team while working on the challenge, I discovered that I have the leadership skills needed to succeed in my career. I have improved my communication skills [through the process] to be able to understand and listen to others–no matter how their point of views differ from mine,” she said.
Young people involved in tourism are on the front lines of building understanding across cultures, but often lack cultural exchange opportunities to develop the skills needed to be successful in the industry. The Global Solutions program provides unique workforce development and cross-cultural exchange opportunities to students that might not otherwise have global opportunities.
Jordan’s tourism workforce needs to meet growing demand in the tourism sector with a projected 5,896 jobs expected to go unfilled by the end of 2019. The current tourism workforce in Jordan is 90 percent male. With the current underrepresentation of women in tourism jobs, a large portion of the population’s talent is untapped. As a result of the program, Dina and three of her teammates acquired a job at the Four Seasons Hotel Amman.
In the United States, community college students are unlikely to have access to opportunities that develop cross-cultural collaboration skills that other student may acquire through in-person exchange programs. Of the total number of students who study abroad in the United States only 3 percent of those students are from community colleges. Virtual exchange provides the opportunity to increase access to develop global competence, a critical skill for modern workforce needs.
Dina’s US counterpart — Cassandra Pantel, a student director from Kirkwood Community College — said that she had been looking for opportunities to study abroad but found exchange programs too expensive for a working community college student. The Global Solutions program gave her the opportunity for a quality cross-cultural exchange without the expense.
“I now consider myself a leader. Prior to this experience I was more reserved and kept my opinions to myself. This project helped me step outside my comfort zone. It pushed me to learn how to motivate a team and find my voice. I now feel confident speaking in public and sharing my thoughts, ideas, and accomplishments with others,” said Pantel. “Global Solutions prepared me to become the President of Kirkwood’s American Hotel & Lodging Association Student Chapter and through learning these vital public speaking skills and attention to detail it helped me land a job as a Front Office Manager at Home2 Suites.”
As participants in this challenge, students across a variety of disciplines had the opportunity through virtual exchange to get to know students on the other side of the world, build cross-cultural skills, tackle real global challenges on a local level, and make a difference in their communities. On a larger scale, the program creates a pipeline of talented youth to enter the hospitality and tourism industries where jobs in diverse fields eagerly await.