Helping Our Students Soar: Pilar's Story

Landscape in Iceland

How a UTM management student took the first step toward becoming a global citizen for a global world.

Pilar Allier Ortiz
Pilar Allier Ortiz

UTM management student Pilar Allier Ortiz stood in front of her Managing Global Organizations class last fall searching for the words to tell her fellow student that her work wasn’t meeting expectation. 

A real-life moment? Not at all. Ortiz and her classmates were role-playing – practicing how to cope with the challenges Western managers sometimes face when managing across and working with diverse cultures. The lesson was a cornerstone of the fourth-year course that weaves together theory and behaviour to ready students for life and career on the global stage. 

“It was a very hands-on class. In no other course did I have the opportunity to role play conflict management through a cultural lens,” Ortiz says. 

She remembers leaving the class feeling like she had a solid grasp on the lesson – until several weeks later, that is, when she stood in the corporate office of a fish processing facility in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Ortiz was participating in UTM Abroad, an international learning experience that challenges undergraduate students to think critically about their subject matter while immersed in unique cultural landscapes. Each week-long Reading Week trip is tied to a specific curriculum and led by the course professor. Participation is not required for credit. 

“We got to see and experience the working culture of Iceland,” Ortiz says of her trip to the land of fire and ice in October 2022. UTM management professor Soo Min Toh guided the Managing Global Organizations students through meetings with corporate leaders and social entrepreneurs. The students witnessed firsthand how the country’s approach to business differs from North American practices. 

“Icelanders prioritize relationships first. When doing business, it’s important to build rapport, to get to know your prospective partners on a personal level before negotiating,” explains Ortiz. 

It’s a transformative lesson best learned in person, she says, adding that the experience didn’t just impact her management studies; it taught her that she has the courage and confidence to adapt to challenges and “it reinforced my goal to work abroad.” 

But Ortiz also appreciates that UTM Abroad isn’t possible for everyone. In fact, she was only able to attend thanks to a donor-funded award, which she supplemented with savings from her part-time-job. 

“It was an opportunity to gain a unique global experience that will prepare me for my finance internship this summer and a career in accounting,” she says. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”