Lee Iacocca Creates an International Internship Program to Encourage Students to Work Abroad

Recognizing that global experience is essential to success

“… The new program will enable students to work full-time in companies across the globe, regardless of financial circumstances.”

“… will combine global education with practical real-world internships…”
Recognizing that global experience is essential to success in the job market, Lee Iacocca is ensuring Lehigh University (http://www.lehigh.edu) students have expanded opportunities to work abroad through the formation of the Lee Iacocca International Internships program. The new program will enable students to work full-time in companies across the globe, regardless of financial circumstances.

Iacocca noted that “the idea for the Iacocca International Internships emerged from the questions:

How do you go about building global leadership?

How do you demonstrate to people from different worlds that their commonalities are greater than their differences?

By putting together cross-cultural teams, students are under pressure to perform by working through their cultural differences. They say yes to globalization, yes to cooperation. The student’s enthusiasm is infectious and I would like to think it will infect the world.”

Noting that global leadership is a hallmark of a Lehigh education, President Alice P. Gast said that the new Iacocca internships will combine global education with practical real-world internships. “Through Lee’s vision and generosity, this gift will provide opportunities for our students to gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that exist in an interdependent and highly connected global society,” she said.

Iacocca, a legendary business leader known for engineering a revival at Chrysler, has long recognized the need for students and organizations to have global experience to remain competitive in the marketplace. In the 1980s, he founded the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh University, which spawned the Lehigh Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship.

Since its inception in 1997, more than 1,300 youth leaders representing 121 countries and territories in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, North and South America, and Europe have attended Global Village.

With this new initiative, Iacocca will provide up to $5 million to support a group of international interns each academic year. Structured as a challenge gift, Iacocca is seeding this initiative with an initial contribution of $1 million. For each additional $1 million raised from alumni and other donors, Iacocca will contribute another $1 million for a total funding of $10 million.

“More effective than a traditional study abroad experience, the immersion experienced in a work or service internship truly teaches students the way the world works,” said Mohamed El-Aasser, vice president for international affairs. “These experiences can provide the student interns with a significant competitive advantage.”

Richard Brandt, director of the Iacocca Institute, said the Iacocca interns will be selected through a campus-wide competitive process to participate in organized international internships over the summer or through one semester with a foreign company, university, non-governmental organization, or government agency.

Iacocca earned a degree in industrial engineering from Lehigh in 1945, and later studied politics and plastics at Princeton University. He is an honorary member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees and, in 2010, was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by Lehigh’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

In 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. He continues to serve on the board of the foundation. Iacocca has co-authored (with William Novak) his best-selling autobiography titled Iacocca: An Autobiography, and has written… Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, which also earned best-seller status.

Following the death of his wife from diabetes, Iacocca has been an active supporter of research to find a cure for the disease, and has been a main patron of the innovative diabetes research of Denise Faustman at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2004, Iacocca launched Join Lee Now, a national grassroots campaign that brought Faustman’s research to human clinical trials. In 2000, Iacocca founded Olivio Premium Products, which donates all profits from the company to diabetes research.

Iacocca is currently chairman of Nourish the Children, which provides nutrition-dense meal packets called VitaMeal to malnourished children throughout the world. To date, more than 70 million meals have been distributed to help end child hunger.

For 146 years, Lehigh University (www.lehigh.edu) has combined outstanding academic and learning opportunities with leadership in fostering innovative research. The institution is among the nation’s most selective, highly ranked private research universities. Lehigh’s four colleges – College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Economics, College of Education and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science – provide opportunities to 7,000 students to discover and grow in a learning community that promotes interdisciplinary programs with real-world experience.