Synergies is the word that Clayton State University Director of International Programs John E. Parkerson Jr., uses to describe the work of his office. Clayton State’s Office of International Programs (OIP) is the University’s primary clearing house for all on and off campus international activities dealing with students, faculty members, and the larger community.
As a result, Parkerson is always on the look-out for mutually advantageous relationships between international universities, metro Atlanta’s international business community, and Clayton State to support the University’s global education initiatives.
“We can no longer survive and prosper as a nation on our resources alone,” says Parkerson. “The OIP is about synergism where students, faculty, and communities effect growth of global relationships.
“International education is so important for our students because the world is shrinking. Just read Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat; we are in an environment of advanced technology and global transportation. If our nation is going to continue to prosper in the future, we need to graduate a generation of professionals who understand other cultures and perspectives.”
It is Parkerson’s goal to help the Clayton State community develop this global perspective. After retiring as Delta Air Line’s in-house international legal counsel, Parkerson, who is also a trustee of the Clayton State University Foundation, joined OIP in 2008. He put to work his 30 years of experience in international law, his relationships with Chambers of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and his role as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Hungary for the southeastern United States, to develop partnerships that have led to student and faculty exchange programs, as well as study abroad opportunities.
Under Parkerson’s leadership, OIP has developed programs that range from a marine biology excursion in the Bahamas to a trip exploring Literary London. For the Clayton State School of Business, where Parkerson is also a Management professor, OIP also has created several international opportunities.
First on the list is India. We have a very mature relationship with part of the University of Mumbai system. We’ve had faculty exchanges for the last four years, Parkerson notes. OIP expanded that collaboration last year by working closely with the former Dean of the School of Business Dean, Dr. Jacob Chacko, to establish the first MBA trip to India.
Then OIP turned to Turkey. The May 2010 study abroad trip to Turkey actually got its start in 2008 with Parkerson’s relationship with the Istanbul Center, which promotes education and cultural understanding between the United States and Turkey. This relationship initially led to four Turkish students joining Clayton State’s MBA program. In turn, three of these students were able to accompany the study abroad group to Turkey, acting as both students and guides.
In addition to India and Turkey, OIP facilitated a agreement of collaboration in May 2009 with the University of Pannonia in Hungary. Parkerson himself went to Pannonia in February 2010 as Clayton State’s first exchange faculty. He taught an English language international business class for two weeks. The two universities are currently selecting Pannonia and Clayton State business faculty representatives to exchange this fall.
“A Hungarian student has already joined Clayton State this fall, and we’re reaching out to Clayton State students that would be interested in going there in exchange,” says Parkerson. “Pannonia is about 60 miles from Budapest in the beautiful wine country. It’s an exciting opportunity.”
There is also a study abroad trip planned to Hungary wherein Clayton State will partner with Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business.
“By partnering with Kennesaw for the Hungarian program, we ensure that we’ll have the number of students we need to make the trip financially feasible,” says Parkerson.
Opportunities for the School of Business are also in the planning stages at the University of Caen in France and the Georgia-American University in the Republic of Georgia, but Parkerson has even bigger plans for the future.
“A number of larger universities have international centers that act as umbrella organizations within universities to support international studies. Georgia Tech, for example, has the European Union Center of Excellence,” he says. “The OIP is now in the early stages of planning two such centers at Clayton State University. The first is the Center for Central-Eastern European Studies, which would house the Turkish and Hungarian activities. This program has been endorsed by the University, and we are currently seeking funding.”
The second opportunity is a Gandhian Study Center. Grounded in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, this center would have a political science, history, and philosophy focus.
“We are working with Indian universities to create the center. We would be able to exchange students and have seminars and lecture series that could take advantage of our growing relationship with the Indian community,” says Parkerson, who finds that Clayton State’s proximity to the Martin Luther King and Carter Centers makes the University a logical host for the Gandhian center.
For more information, contact Parkerson at (678) 466-4091 or JohnParkerson@Clayton.edu.