It is nine o’clock on a Thursday, and UMBC students Romi Pal and Connor Ganley are waiting with 23 other Albrecht Fellows at the Hammond’s Ferry Road Park and Ride to travel to McCormick & Company, Inc. They are a part of the inaugural class of the World Trade Center Institute’s Global Pathways for Students summer program, and every Thursday since May 31, they have journeyed to different Park and Rides throughout the Baltimore region as WTCI connects them with Maryland’s top international companies.
GPS is meant to provide a roadmap — pun intended — to its fellows, exposing them to the different career paths that fall under international business and helping them see the possibilities in their futures. Just some of the companies they visited include The World Bank, Johns Hopkins Medicine International and Ciena. The Albrecht Fellows — named after the program’s visionary founder, James Albrecht — come from universities all across the greater Baltimore region and have majors ranging from International Business to Mechanical Engineering.
The program, which focuses largely on network-building, was launched, in part, to reach, “a rather untapped demographic,” for WTCI, as one of the program managers, Jamal Washington, wrote in an email communication. “[We wanted to] provide a platform for some of the top students in the region to gain real-world access to some of the most globally minded companies based right here in Maryland,” he wrote.
A recent graduate of Towson University, Washington believes that his involvement with the program is a “natural fit” as he has always been excited to help foster a network of mentorship, one that the program hopes to expand in subsequent years.
Before completing the program, Pal, a junior global studies and political science major, did not think she had many post-college options in her degree pathway since it was so broad. “Ever since I was young, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to dabble in different areas,” she said. “Why should I limit myself?”
Ganley felt much the same way. A Grand Challenge Scholar and a senior chemical engineering major, Ganley has always thought it important to be well-rounded, and through the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, he has been able to look at the most prevalent problems our society faces under an interdisciplinary lens and often in a group-based setting.
When Pal and Ganley talk about their expectations for the GPS program, they laugh. “We had no idea what to expect,” they said. Pal had originally applied for a different internship at WTCI but did not get in. When they emailed her back, they asked her to look into the GPS program. Ganley heard about the program from the former GCSP Program faculty lead, Dr. Marie desJardins, who recently became the founding dean of the College of Organizational, Computational and Information Sciences at Simmons College.
Their first day was orientation, where they practiced effective networking, created LinkedIn profiles and learned how to build a personal brand. They were given WTCI business cards to use over the course of the program and are planning to use their extra cards to distinguish themselves at the upcoming campus career fair.
Pal and Ganley also learned how to introduce themselves correctly, an exercise that, while seemingly rudimentary, was actually more useful than anyone originally thought. The formula: A rise in inflection on the first name, followed by a fall in inflection on the last name, a confident tone and a strong handshake, repeated with every person in the room. They were ready for the site visits.
The site visit
The ten companies welcomed the Albrecht fellows for two-hour open houses on Thursdays, giving presentations from different departments and allowing the fellows to ask questions and tour the facilities. At the end of the session, the fellows had time to network with the presenters, build connections and practice the communications skills they learned during orientation.
Both Pal and Ganley’s favorite site visit was to McCormick & Company, Inc. Why? Because of the free snacks — and the state of the art facilities. “They took us to their labs. They had equipment that can detect what compounds are in what foods to create their spices,” said Ganley. “It was really, really cool to see … the front end of [operations] and the back end with all the research.”
While they sometimes wished for site visits to extend longer than half the day, Pal and Ganley were also able to participate in other internships during the summer because of the GPS program’s format. Pal worked in the Treasury Department of the governor’s office in her home state New Jersey, which gave her a better sense of economic policy, supplementing her work within her major and the GPS program.
Ganley had an internship at W.R. Grace, a chemical company with a very international focus, in Columbia, Maryland. He worked on a project surrounding a chemical plant in Germany, allowing him to immerse himself in international solutions throughout the entire summer.
Washington has expressed that, for future classes, WTCI is, “looking into a number of different partnerships with universities and companies to allow for more of an immersive experience amongst the cohort of fellows. That is the biggest change on the horizon.”
The 2018 Albrecht fellow class still talks in the group chat they made during their time together, keeping in touch and making sure this new network of colleagues and friends stays alive as the school year begins again. Pal and Ganley brought their experiences to campus, eager to share them within their respective departments and scholar programs.
Pal was especially excited to reach out to her global studies advisor Dr. Brigid Starkey, who she says has been there for her since the beginning of her college career. Dr. Starkey is excited to have Pal visit her Global Studies 100 class to tell them about the program and encourage them to apply for this local opportunity.
Dr. Starkey hopes to see a partnership form between the GPS program and the UMBC Global Studies department in the future. “I wish all students could go through this program,” she said. “It could help them see the career possibilities … You don’t have to go to Asia or Latin America. There are global issues right here in Baltimore.”
For Pal, GPS opened what she calls a “window of opportunity.” Pal initially chose UMBC for its proximity to D.C. and its access to national politics, but through the GPS program, she has learned what is also available to her in the region in the realm of Global Studies.
“Now there’s so many different businesses that I have a place in — I’m not leaving anytime soon,” she said.