An international, research collaboration

May 8, 2014

Image of the Devan and Yen sitting infront of flags.

UW-L senior Devan Johnson and UW-L junior Yen Trinh are the first students to have their research funded through the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Scholars Without Borders program.

When Yen Trinh came to study at UW-La Crosse from Vietnam, understanding American banking was a challenge. Big, American bank brands like Wells Fargo and Bank of America didn’t ring a bell. She had more questions than answers about the best bank for making international transactions and more.

Trinh, a junior, and UW-L senior Devan Johnson hope to improve an international students’ understanding of bank choices and financial literacy with a research project they’ll launch next fall with a UW-L Undergraduate Research and Creativity grant for $1,300. Both are finance and marketing majors working with their mentor on the project, Shane Van Dalsem, an associate professor of finance.

Their research is purposefully an international collaboration, involving an international student, Trinh, and domestic student, Johnson, from Appleton, Wis. Their grant is the first awarded through the URC’s Scholars without Borders program, an initiative to link international and domestic students in collaborative research, says Scott Cooper, UW-L director of undergraduate research.

Cooper is hopeful the program expands as more students become aware of this international, collaborative research opportunity. Scholars without Borders should be replicated throughout the U.S., says Jay Lokken, UW-L director of International Education.

“As the global market and international research collaborations continue to grow, our students will find themselves interacting in a global venue,” says Lokken. “The experience they receive as student researchers will increase their research and collaboration skill sets, and set them apart in the international research arena.”

Trinh, Johnson and  Van Dalsam are breaking new ground with the successful start of this program and their efforts should be commended and replicated, says Lokken.

“We have different backgrounds and perspectives so we can support each other,” says Trinh about her research partner.

Trinh and Johnson plan to send out an online survey fall semester to UW-L students as well as students from a few other colleges in hopes of understanding international student preferences in banking and measure their financial literacy. Trinh hypothesizes that factors such as physical location and international services will be important.

Ultimately, the two want to help the UW-L Office of International Education offer more programs to improve financial literacy, as well as offer more options for students to choose from when selecting a bank.

Collaborative research will help Johnson gain experience to pursue a future career in an international finance. Moreover, he says it will help international students.

“Financial literacy is a fundamental building block for a successful future,” he notes. “Especially for international students coming to La Crosse, it’s good that they have a strong foundation to build upon.”

Cooper, also a professor of biology, has watched international students work with domestic students in his lab on a joint undergraduate research grant. “When students work together on a common project, many of the cultural differences melt away,” he says.