Building Photo

A Family Tradition Creates World Explorers

Monday, July 25, 2016

For nearly 10 years, one of the greatest supporters of education abroad at the Carlson School has been the Supporting Organization of the Carlson Family Foundation. Since 2007, the foundation has annually committed $50,000, which has yielded a corresponding $50,000 President’s Match each year, to provide scholarships for students studying outside the country. 

The impetus to support education abroad is simple. It’s in the very blood of the organization, personified in its patriarch, Curtis Carlson, and passed down through the generations. “Growing up inside this family, driven by my grandfather, there was a great deal of emphasis put on travel,” says Rick Gage, a trustee of the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation and member of its Supporting Organization. “Part of that certainly is having been in businesses that were travel related, but part of it was an innate understanding of what it did to broaden a person.” Indeed, Curtis Carlson’s motto, “All the world is your territory, knowledge your compass,” is physically engraved on a wall in the dean’s suite at the school.

Carlson Holdings Co-Chair and Co-CEO Scott Gage, a trustee emeritus, says he feels fortunate to have a grandfather like Carlson who took the family all over the world to experience new places and cultures. “One of his favorite things was always after dinner at the hotel, saying to go out and just walk the streets and see what the culture was doing, see what the people were doing, see how they lived,” he says.

Duane Kullberg, a former CEO of Arthur Andersen and trustee emeritus, agrees with the Gages’ sentiments. “Students are missing something if they do not have an experience outside of their own country,” he says. “It advances their attitudes and skill level and helps them learn the challenges of another culture.”

And it’s these skills and attitudes that gives students a leg up on their peers. “I think our job was really to help our young people get better jobs," says Skip Gage, former CEO of Carlson and former Carlson Board of Overseers Chair (2004-07). “This bullet point of international experience—both for people looking to get hired and for people inside a company looking to get promoted—that experience point should significantly help in both cases.”

Despite the great advantages education abroad brings to students, there is one downside—it is expensive. But, as the Carlson family knew firsthand the benefits of international experience, they decided they had to help. “When this opportunity came along, I think it was a no-brainer,” Scott Gage says. “I thought that this would be a perfect place for some of that supporting organization money to go to. I think that there are so many different things to gain from that experience and it was right there in our wheelhouse.” 

"All the world is your territory, knowledge your compass." -Curtis L. Carlson

Since the Foundation made its original commitment, it has awarded nearly 650 scholarships to Carlson School students. “There’s nothing more satisfying or enjoyable than getting letters from the students who participated in
some of these programs,” says Skip Gage. “It almost doesn’t matter where they’ve gone and what program they’ve been in. Just the exposure to that theme is beneficial.”

One such student is Elizabeth Ward, ’16 MBA, who was the first graduate-level student to take classes at the KEDGE Business School in France. “One of my long-term goals is to be a professor or lecturer in a business program, so this experience was great to have as a benchmark of international studies if I end up at a university with a large international emphasis, or even teaching abroad,” she says.

Joshua Osborne, ’09 BSB and now an IT product owner at Best Buy, took part in an HRIR program in Australia and says the experience has prepared him for a future career of working with partners, vendors, and customers on a global scale. “My experience in Australia helped me to break out of my comfort zone and view business through an international lens,” he says. “I saw first-hand the impact that location and, more importantly, culture have on decision- making in the workplace.”

Although Ward and Osborne had a prior interest in France and Australia, sometimes you can find yourself somewhere you hadn’t even considered. Annette Betting-Fuentes, a senior marketing major and this year’s winner of the school’s prestigious Tomato Can Loving Cup Award, was part of a class that visited Cuba last spring to learn about its business community. “While Cuba was never a place I considered visiting, it was definitely a place that intrigued me,” she says, adding that the experience was not merely about seeing the country and leaving. “It was about visiting with people, trying to understand them, and continually process what we saw. The experience, thanks to my classmates and those running the program, has strengthened my ability to communicate through cultural differences and have the courage to jump head first into the unknown of the world.”

Sentiments like these tell the foundation it is succeeding in what it has set out to do. “To talk to some of the students and see what the support has meant to them has been a really great aspect and rewarding from my point of view as a trustee and somebody trying to extend and keep in the forefront my grandfather’s intent and legacy,” Rick Gage says.