Business alumnus funds European experience for students

April 14, 2010

Indiana State University graduate Steve Whitman helped build a successful computer software company not in California's Silicon Valley but in Lexington.

Whitman wants today's students in Indiana State's Donald W. Scott College of Business to know that they, too, can be successful. The Evansville native is lending a helping hand by offering to take selected students abroad to help them better compete in the global economy.

The Whitman European Business Student Experience is intended to educate students about European business operations, connect them with potential internship or jobs in Europe and make them more familiar with international business practices.

"The world was different when I graduated in 1977," said Whitman, an Evansville native who holds a degree in business administration from Indiana State. "I'm not sure I could have imagined at that time the kind of career that I would have. Now, almost all businesses operate internationally in some fashion."

A fund Whitman and his wife Becky have established will cover 90 percent of the cost for up to 10 students and one faculty/staff member per trip, starting with the 2010-11 academic year. The fund will also cover development of marketing and educational materials for the recruitment and preparation of students.

"The Whitmans' generosity will extend our students' global business experiences by covering essential European operations. The Scott College of Business is excited to add this study trip to our offerings of trips to Asia and study abroad opportunities worldwide," said Nancy J. Merritt, dean of the college.

While the program will be open to any business major at Indiana State, it will especially target marketing and business administration majors. Students majoring in other business fields at Indiana State already have access to international experience opportunities.

The Whitmans aren't just funding the program; they will take an active role in the experience. They will accompany students on each of the trips and personally introduce them to business contacts and associates in such European cities as Prague, Barcelona, Budapest and St. Petersburg.

"For many students, there is a certain mystique about Europe that it should not have," Whitman said. "English is freely spoken and these trips will open the students' eyes that doing business there is not as difficult as they may believe."

Things are different than in the U.S., however, and students need to be exposed to those differences in culture, business practices and tax laws.

"The sooner you can get a feel for those differences the better and you can't get that feeling by reading about it. You have to visit and go to their offices and watch how they conduct business. You'll see that things are dramatically different than in the U.S.," he said.

Whitman is retired executive vice president of Exstream Software, which provides businesses with customer communication software. Exstream was purchased by Hewlett Packard in 2008. Prior to Exstream's sale to Hewlett Packard, Whitman was responsible for product distribution and international sales. With more than 25 years experience in software sales, he has held senior management, sales management and product marketing positions with such companies as Xerox, Digital Equipment Corp. and First Data.

Whitman credits much of his business success to the education and support he received at Indiana State and views the establishment of the European Business Student Experience Fund as a way to give back to his alma mater and its current students.

"We built a software company in Lexington that traditionally people would have built on one of the two coasts," he said. "People don't care where you're from, they just want to know what you can do and that you will give them your best."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/836087257_92uz3-L.jpg - Steve Whitman, a graduate of the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University, speaks to business students in this February 2009 photo. Whitman has announced plans to lead students on visits to eastern Europe to meet with business contacts he developed during a 25-year career in computer software sales.

Contact: Nancy J. Merritt, dean, Donald W. Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2000 or nancy.merritt@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu