Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Profiles in Passion: Act Locally, Think Globally

Most everyone’s bucket list includes some aspect of world travel. For Brad Bodenhausen, Executive Vice President, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, a Rotary International  trip to Sweden was the catalyst for career opportunities he had never before considered. Brad is responsible for spearheading the international program at the Chamber in addition to his regular VP duties.

After just three years working at the Chamber, Brad was approached by his boss, President Jim Anderson, about a Rotary group study exchange program to Sweden. “It was a life-changing experience,” says Brad. “I spent five weeks in Sweden with a group of four others from neighboring Rotary clubs serving as ambassadors for our state.”

“The experience offered connections to people that I have kept in touch with over the years and sparked my interest in the international field. I’ve followed that path ever since with my masters degree program, with Rotary and professionally with the Chamber,” explains Brad.

Since  the time of his first overseas trip with the exchange, the Chamber began considering ways to help its community with global connectivity. It wanted to offer new opportunities and resources for businesses already doing business worldwide and to expand the resources for those interested in a global market. In 2004, the Chamber launched its international program and three years later, organized the International Business Council, a panel of 60  of internationally-minded businesspersons.

“There are many more companies in Springfield doing international business than those currently involved in the program,” explains Brad. “We’re always looking for more businesses to participate. We put together programs highlighting things going on in the world, and keep our Chamber members abreast of current international trends and business opportunities.”

Brad feels strongly about international connections and sharing those connections with organizations that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to make them on their own. “My most fulfilling contribution is to understand people in other cultures for who they are, and to take the opportunity to share the true Midwest as it is, dispelling preconceived notions others may have.”

Though it’s grown to something much more, Brad still attributes his international career opportunities to his first overseas trip. The Rotary Group Study Exchange is always in search of young professionals whose employers would support their international professional development. The program offers professionals an opportunity to learn about their vocation as it is practiced in other parts of the world.

“Jim encouraged me and gave me the opportunity 14 years ago to gain an international perspective,” expressed Brad. “What’s neat is years later, I’ve been able to do the same for another co-worker (Emily Denniston)within our organization. These days we’re so interconnected. The opportunity to learn from other cultures and countries is huge.”

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