International students in the full-time Master of Science in Finance (MSF) Program at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School are faced with certain challenges when they arrive in the United States: cultural acclimation, adjustment to the U.S. education system, and language competency to name a few. MSF students have a particularly difficult time adjusting to the U.S. classroom environment where they are required to participate in discussions, ask their professors questions, and show familiarity with the U.S. financial world.
Recognizing the challenges students face, Professor Kwang Soo Cheong decided to take action. He spoke to students in his class and provided the idea of building an environment where students could casually have an intellectual discussion. As a result, the Friday Discussion Group was born. Its goals are to 1) encourage students to follow what is happening in the world and in their future professional domains and 2) provide a venue for discussions where they will be comfortable to talk about any topics related to the finance industry.
Currently, the Friday Discussion Group is not just for the students in Professor Cheong’s class but for all students in the MSF program. We’ve even had a couple from other programs join discussions!
Friday Discussion Group Structure
The Friday Discussion Group is led by students while a faculty member serves as subject matter expert. Students can volunteer to lead the discussion either individually or in pairs, and leaders prepare a short presentation on the topic of choice. Two staff members, the MSF Academic Advisor and a Career Coach, also serve to provide feedback on students’ presentation and communication skills.
Examples of covered topics include:
- The recent turmoil of China’s stock market and its influence on China’s economy
- Global impact on Yuan’s (元) devaluation and Yuan’s (元) future movement
- Open-source and Patent
- The effect of the influx of refugees to a country’s economy
In addition to the presentation, the leaders also prepare a few questions as catalysts for a discussion. It is the responsibility of the leader to create an interactive environment while the rest of the students contribute their opinions by answering questions in a small group setting. The Friday Discussion Group is designed in such a way that any benefit students receive is completely dependent upon their willingness to contribute to the discussion.
By taking ownership of a discussion, students not only gain insight on the subject of choice by researching and preparing for the presentation but they also acquire public speaking skills and leadership experience. Over the past three years, we have observed students becoming more informed about current events, acquiring a habit of reading financial news on a regular basis, learning how to effectively present and exchange ideas, and developing skills in leading intellectually stimulating discussions.
Beyond the Group Discussions
The Friday Discussion Group began as an informal event outside the classrooms where students can feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions on topics they are interested in. In the fall of 2015, we also incorporated an outdoor event for the students to mingle with staff and faculty members, participate in leadership games, and enjoy delicious Korean food.
Additionally, the Friday Discussion Group co-sponsored an “Alumni Panel” event with the Career Development Office where MSF alumni working in New York City visited the DC campus and shared their experiences and wisdom with our current MSF students.
As we continue to foster an open and welcoming environment, we hope to see the Friday Discussion Group become a permanent part of the Carey experience where students can gain a sense of accomplishment and graduate with fond memories.