Internship, Global Study Allow Business Student to Align Coursework with Real-World Experiences

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Shawna Ma’s Dominican experience includes an internship aligned with her career goals, a student government leadership role, and overseas connections made while studying abroad. Her experience has been so rewarding that Shawna plans to study for her MBA in the Barowsky School of Business (BSB) after earning her bachelor’s degree this spring.

Shawna, who transferred to Dominican as a junior, is studying business administration with a concentration in global business and a minor in global innovation and entrepreneurship (GIE). Shawna’s interest in international business and entrepreneurship was inspired by her mom who ran an export company while Shawna was growing up in Napa County.

“Ever since high school I was sure that I wanted to study business,” Shawna says. “I grew up watching mom be her own boss – she was “girl bossing” it. I knew that when I was older, I would want to be just like her.”

After spending her first two years of college life sheltering from the pandemic and attending Zoom classes at Napa Valley College, Shawna was delighted to find a welcoming and collaborative environment when she transferred to Dominican.

“When I came to Dominican, I lived on campus my first year and had an amazing roommate who had also just transferred here. We got along with each other immediately. And I was so happy to finally attend college classes in person. It is so much better to be in a classroom with a professor than it is to stare at a box on a computer screen.”

While searching for a four-year school, Shawna wanted a strong business program, a safe location close to her family in Napa, and opportunities to study abroad. However, it was a high school memory that led her to Dominican.

“Just before they graduate, the seniors at my high school either put up the flag representing their college or write the name of their college on a board outside the counselor’s office,” she recalls.

“Dominican’s bright yellow really stood out – and it has just always stuck in my mind. So, when I was preparing to transfer, I remembered that image and looked closer at Dominican.”

The transfer to Dominican was seamless, and before too long Shawna was fully engaged in her coursework. She added the GIE minor to better understand the field of entrepreneurship. Housed in the Françoise O. Lepage Center for Global Innovation, much of the coursework  is grounded in innovation and entrepreneurship using human-centered design thinking.

Shawna particularly enjoyed the use of case studies in her GIE practicum class. This hands-on format blended well with her preferred learning style.

“I really like case studies and learning by doing,” she says. “Reading the studies and then presenting my work was helpful. Information stuck in my head even when I was doing assignments in other courses – I was able to bring what I had learned in the practicum into different courses. It has been so helpful.”

The minor’s focus on entrepreneurship – the process of developing new ideas and bringing together and managing resources, people, and capital to bring innovation successfully to the marketplace – also appeals to Shawna.

Indeed, it was Courtney Budesa, director of internships and professional development, who suggested that Shawna’s interests would make her a perfect candidate for an internship with the Marin Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The Marin SBDC provides business advising to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Since 2017, the Marin SBDC has been located at Dominican to give business students access to work with local entrepreneurs and organizations. The Marin SBDC is one of 16 such centers in Northern California that are partially funded by the Small Business Administration.

Shawna started her SBDC internship last fall and is continuing her work this year. Her key project is working on the center’s annual economic impact report, which outlines all the businesses that have received SBDC services. She also assists the center’s director with marketing and promoting workshops for local business owners.

Shawna also served last year as the ASDU business school representative, gaining valuable insight and networking opportunities. Her duties included representing the student voice to BSB administration while attending board meetings and other events organized by the school.

“I had never been to meetings like those, so it was so interesting to see what everyone does and to learn how the school is run.”

While staying close to home was important to Shawna when choosing a college, she was eager to travel once she arrived at Dominican.

The GIE minor features an intense, immersive, international experience. Shawna spent fall 2024 studying international business at the American College of Greece in Athens. After briefly feeling homesick her first day there, she quickly adapted to her new roommates and new culture. By the end of the semester, she said her roommates had become almost like family. Together they toured numerous Greek islands and spend their weekends visiting other European countries.

“The experience really opened my eyes. I got to travel to many different countries and meet people from different places and different backgrounds,” she says. “Now that I have this experience under my belt, I have the motivation to keep on making these types of experiences happen.”

That next step begins with enrolling in Dominican’s one-year MBA program. Shawna plans to focus on global business to pursue that long-time goal of a career in import/export shipping.

“I am very grateful that I decided to come here, and that Dominican gave me the experience to study abroad,” she says. “The school and the experiences are truly a dream come true.”

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