UNO program trains people for the world of international business


By Carrie Zaayer

UNO students have the opportunity to participate in one of the few international business training programs at universities around the United States.

The university is home to the International Professional Development program, a certificate program for international business people with seven to 10 years of professional experience who come to Omaha to improve their business and communication skills.

Part of the program is a discussion class every Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon in Roskens Hall, room 123, and is open to anyone.

International Professional Development trainees from various countries meet in pairs or small groups with volunteers from UNO and the community to discuss different topics relating to culture and life around the world.

Discussion topics range from religion to entertainment and are designed to give the trainees a chance to improve their English skills and develop relationships with Americans and other international students.

“It gives them the rare opportunity to communicate with native English speakers casually and informally,” said Steve Hoiberg, advisor for program.

He said the discussion class has a lively atmosphere that the participants enjoy.

“I would say that for someone that’s interested in different countries and they like to learn, it’s a great place to do that,” Hoiberg said. “There’s a lot of intercultural information exchanged, not by specific points in the conversation, but just naturally.”

But the class is only a portion of the trainees’ 30-hour school week. In addition to the discussion class, areas of study in the program include business reading and writing, management, and global communication.

The program, which is in its 14th year at UNO, holds five eight-week sessions each year. Hoiberg said that on average, the trainees stay for one semester, although some stay through the entire year and do an internship in Omaha.

Gary Duff, program coordinator, said even though International Professional Development is a certificate program, there is a growing number of participants who stay to attend graduate school.

There are currently 20 participants from five countries in the program. Duff said the average number of trainees in a session has been around 22. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number dropped drastically, but has begun to rise again.

Requirements for the program include a degree, an intermediate-to -advanced English proficiency level and professional experience. Duff said most of the trainees are from Japan and Korea, and are sent by the companies they work for.

“Our main goal is that when they go back to do business, they are confident that they can communicate effectively,” Duff said. “And that’s what the company sent them for.”

The trainees usually live with host families and go on a number of cultural excursions while they are here, such as visits to corporations, schools, rodeos and prisons.

The benefit of these programs for Omaha is that the city is becoming fairly well known throughout the world for the things that are done here, Hoiberg said. Alumni of the program currently work in several different countries.

“It’s kind of neat to see that when alumni contact you or you contact alumni, to find out not only are they back in their own country, but they’re all over the place,” Hoiberg said. “So they are realizing the objective of this program, and that’s to become better international business people.”

The program is currently seeking discussion partners for the Thursday classes. Interested students can simply drop by or contact Hoiberg at 554-2293 or