In 2011, Lee Iacocca ’45 challenged Lehigh alumni and friends to match a $5 million endowment grant that he provided for students to gain life-changing international internship experiences.
Since then, 43 donors have been inspired to “answer the call” and have collectively doubled the fund that will ensure opportunities of real-world global learning for students in perpetuity.
“After this summer, more than 200 students will have enhanced their global leadership skills as a result of our collective philanthropy over the past four years. They will have conducted research, developed sustainability projects, and initiated engineering solutions in international destinations like China, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan and Macedonia,” said Iacocca, whose advocacy in students gaining an international working experience will provide them with a serious competitive edge in the job market.
International internships have become one of the most important components of a 21st century education. Employers are relying more and more on graduates with an international skill set who can work and lead in a collaborative world. Internships provide students with the experiences needed to meet this increasing demand.
“Today, 40 percent of Lehigh students participate in a study abroad or international internship program,” said Interim President Kevin Clayton ’84 ’13P. “The generosity of Lee Iacocca and others has positioned Lehigh to stay in the forefront of preparing students to lead in global careers.”
A range of projects and countries
Interns build know-how in a wide range of projects at a variety of companies, corporations, research universities, government organizations and NGOs. They have traveled to countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Mathematics major Kevin Basek ’15 worked last summer for an NGO called Romea in the Czech Republic, where he focused on improving the sustainability of the non-profit organization.
“Living and working abroad opens doors to many situations that simply are not possible in the United States. This internship provided me with the opportunity to build a broader perspective and learn to enter new situations with a more open-minded approach,” Basek said.
Interns are selected through a highly competitive campus-wide application process. Preference is given to those who demonstrate financial need or who have only traveled within the United States. Iacocca’s initial gift enabled ten interns to work abroad in 2012. Because of the increase in funding from other donors, 68 interns travelled to 23 countries in 2014 to immerse themselves in the culture, language, and customs of their destination. As of this summer, the endowment fund will now allow 85 students to participate annually.
“When students learn across borders they are able to harness bright ideas from around the world. International internships help students to think differently about learning, living, and working in foreign countries. They in turn, become the well-rounded, global employees that we need in today’s marketplace,” said Iacocca challenge donor Jefferson Allen ’67.
Arthur C. Tauck Jr. ’53 ’79P is another of the generous donors who contributed to Iacocca’s challenge. Tauck also created his own fund—the Tauck Scholars Fund, which provides support for students’ international internship experiences.
“International internships offer students two very important facets—a challenge and an opportunity, both of which I have never been able to resist,” said Tauck. “The challenge to live and work away from home, communicate in a different language, and navigate on foreign soil prepares students to take risks.
“I am thrilled to provide students with the wonderful opportunity to develop global competencies through these enriching experiences.”
To date, more than $10 million has been secured to provide additional international work opportunities to Lehigh students. For more information on making an impact by supporting international internships, contact Dionne Jackson at 610-759-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Lee Iacocca ’45, an honorary member of the Lehigh Board of Trustees, recently received the Lehigh Alumni Award, the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus, for his many years of service, loyalty and dedication to the university.
Iacocca earned his B.S. in industrial engineering from Lehigh and was awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering degree from the university in 1969.
In 1985, he led the fundraising effort to obtain what would become the 742-acre Mountaintop Campus from Bethlehem Steel. In 1997, he founded the Iacocca Institute at the university that is dedicated to increasing the global competitiveness of American organizations.
In 2010, Iacocca was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by Lehigh’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.