St. Olaf College | News

New program helps students hone business skills abroad

St. Olaf students (from left) Sarah Branigan ’14, Becca Hanson ’14, Megan O’Connor ’15, and Emma Ritter ’15 took the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in international business through the Norway Innovation Scholars Program.

A new month-long internship program gives St. Olaf College students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the business world abroad.

The Norway Innovation Scholars Program, offered through the Piper Center for Vocation and Career, gives students the chance to work with a start-up biotechnology company in Bergen, Norway.

Modeled after the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, the Norway Innovation Scholars Program enables students to spend four weeks performing marketing analysis, evaluating intellectual property issues, and creating strategic development plans in an international business setting.

This year’s participants — Emma Ritter ‘15, Becca Hanson ‘14, Sarah Branigan ‘14, and Megan O’Connor ‘15 — come from a variety of academic backgrounds, including economics, nursing, and philosophy, but were brought together by a shared interest in the intersections of business and healthcare.

“The mix of majors really benefited our project,” says Branigan, a nursing major with an interest in the business side of medicine and pharmacology. “I learned so much from working with them daily and watching our different perspectives come together to create unique ideas and solutions.”

Taking part in the Norway Innovation Scholars Program is to take part in both a learning and living community: from sunrise to sundown — which, during a Norwegian winter, goes by quickly — the students collaborated at a private college in Bergen, analyzing the biotech company’s internal business affairs and serving as advisors for the firm’s future endeavors.

“It was really an extraordinary opportunity for me to practice what I would love to do post-graduation: work as a consultant in a global business setting,” says Ritter, whose previous experience interning as a business consultant over the summer sparked her interest in applying to the Norway Innovation Scholars Program.

Throughout the program, students were in regular contact with their on-campus advisors, Associate Professor of Biology Kevin Crisp and Associate Director of Entrepreneurship Roberto Zayas, over Skype to discuss the day’s work. They also met weekly with their Norwegian advisor, Professor Magne Supphellen of both the Norwegian School of Economics and the Hauge School of Management. As one of the leading brand management and marketing experts in Norway, Supphellen guides the students through the marketing and management aspects of their project.

They drew upon the expertise of St. Olaf alumni as well, particularly those with a medical background.

“Part of our project involved contacting physicians and asking their opinions regarding certain medical treatments,” says O’Connor, a biology major on the pre-med track. “The overwhelming support and encouragement from Ole physicians is so wonderful— it’s a reminder of how Oles really are everywhere, even in Norway.”

Being abroad comes with its unique set of benefits and challenges. The cultural differences provide the students with first-hand experience of potentially enriching, new mindsets.

“The Scandinavian countries offer an interesting case study on the role of economics and social welfare on the well-being of its citizens, especially since Norway is consistently ranked among the happiest nations in the world,” says Hanson, who participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program last year.

All four students agree they have gained invaluable experience from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“After being immersed in another culture, I feel this program has opened my eyes to a different side of the health care system,” says Branigan. “It’s truly been a wonderful experience.”