In a summer when student internships and jobs were dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, 19 Maryland Smith students got the chance of a lifetime.
Incoming students from the Global Consulting Fellows program took part in working with organizers from Expo2020 Dubai, a six-month World Expo set to start in 2021 with participation from over 190 countries, on increasing awareness and participation toward the American exhibits at the Expo.
For students, there was no better opportunity to take advantage of their summer before starting in the program, says Maryland Smith’s Mark Wellman.
“World Expos offer a fantastic intersection of innovation and cultures,” says Wellman, clinical professor of management and organization, and faculty champion for the Global Consulting Fellows program. “From an educational point of view, there is an enormous amount of knowledge and learning that can be gained from universities attending the World Expo.”
The Global Consulting Fellows program is one of 12 Maryland Smith fellows programs. In the yearlong program, students are challenged to conduct research and innovate to help meet client needs.
Wellman, who has led more than 1,000 undergraduates and MBA students on study abroad courses, including several visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi between 2009 to 2020, had the idea to get students involved in the Expo during a trip to Dubai this past January.
Event organizers were initially hesitant about creating an academic project, given the limited timeframe, Wellman says. But the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic a month later resulted in the Expo’s postponement until 2021 and presented an opportunity.
Through the summer, students met with instructors every week to calibrate their efforts and stay on track with their research, which included speaking with previous attendees and organizers. Several Zoom meetings with students and the Expo Team in Dubai began at 9:00 a.m. EST to accommodate the difference in time zones from across the globe - it was 5:00 pm in the UAE.
At the end of the project, students pitched recommendations to event organizers regarding increased virtual programming, risk management and the implementation of certificates for participating students.
“This was a step into deep water for a lot of these students, but they really embraced it and showed that they have the tenacity to endure this process,” says program professor Roy Thomason.
As the program gets set to begin again this fall, former Fellows like Joshua Chen ’21 are grateful to have been able to take advantage of this program.