Kirk Gibson

Upon graduating, I took my ROTC commission into the Army.  I was quickly shuffled off to Germany, where I would live for the next four years.  Europe came alive to me as I met friends in many countries, learned languages, and followed an entirely new spectrum of news and politics.  Through my IR education, I had such a fantastic lens through which to both see and understand what makes all of our societies so unique.  Moreover, I had a lexicon with which to articulate the differences to my friends and family who asked about my experiences there.  
During my time as a junior Officer, I had tours through Kosovo and later, Iraq.  To see the war-torn Baltics and be there as a nation builder was amazing.  I saw the image of America from the outside in an amazingly powerful light.  I realized how far reaching the American dream truly was.  One of my most cherished memories was of school children in the broken and frigid villages talking to me about where they'd like to go in America and who they'd like to meet.  One girl had her children's English language dictionary with her and furiously paged through pictures to find the words to talk to me.  I drew a map of the US on a napkin I had and she asked where all the big cities were and which famous people lived where.  Watching her add color and reality to her dreams was amazing.  As I was leaving, I cut the American flag patch off my uniform and gave it to her.  Her eyes lit up at her new souvenir.  The Army put me there.  Being able to make the most of that experience was because of what I learned from you (Raj Menon) and your department.  I had similar experiences in Iraq and again, a toolkit to understand them and the people within them.  From battlefields and military theatres to weekend road trips around Europe, that toolkit stayed with me and made those places more than just spots to send a postcard from.  They had history and conventional-wisdoms and rationales and reasons for not liking American style chocolate, or thinking pick-up trucks were odd vehicles. (amongst other things...) "Because I was able to understand the place, I was better able to understand and enjoy the people".  I think that's where the real value in an IR education is.  The return on that has been many-fold over the years.  I left the Army in early 2004 and elected to try the business world again.  To make that transition, I sought an MBA.  I so loved the hands-on learning through travel that I did my search for an International-MBA program.  I attended the University of South Carolina's I-MBA program and continued the International Relations education I'd started with you several years prior.  I took a Spanish track they had and spent about half the two-year program in Latin America.  It included an immersion Spanish course and I quickly learned the language, or at least a good part of it!  I studied alongside students from all over the world and together we traveled, learned, and absorbed the world around us.  Again, my IR education came into play as we poured through.cas2. studies of McDonalds starting in Moscow, a Brazilian CEO of Nissan Motors in Japan, etc...  Ironically, immediately after business school I moved back to central Pennsylvania!  I quickly fell in love with a wonderful woman and with her two kids. We married and became a family.  We recently added one more to the group!  When we watch the news together I can explain to a teenage daughter what's going on in the world.  I can tell our second grader why it's important to learn another language.  Lindsay and I daydream about traveling with them or even moving abroad for a while to see more than our hometown.  So the best part of an IR education, I love that I am able to be interesting to my wife and kids!   I now work for a performance coaching consulting company called RLG International.  My current client is Conoco Phillips in our Oil and Gas business unit.  I work two weeks at a time in Alaska supporting the oilfield operations and coaching their field leaders on how to identify efficiency issues, run meetings, communicate better, etc...  It's fantastic work and focuses on the many colorful and interesting people that work in the oilfield.  I learned very quickly to adapt to what has every feeling of a foreign land.  I work many days in an oilfield camp site over 150 miles within the Arctic circle.  Just recently I was approached with the potential chance to work in Peru, where I spent time studying during my IMBA.   So that's my IR story!  I'm sorry if it was a long note, but I wanted to add some details around my "thank you".  It was because of you (Raj Menon) that I trusted the field of study I went into.  It was furthermore because of you and your department that I found a way to enjoy the learning process.  Grades and classroom learning has always been a struggle for me, but the IR lectures always came alive.  So in closing, thank you so much for your commitments to the learning process for all of your students.  I'd like to think we're all now better equipped to make the world a better place!
International Relations