Global Spotlight: Driessen-Knittle’s Global Upbringing Offers Global Insight

Posted: Tuesday, January 20th 2015 at 10:26 AM

Pia Driessen-Knittle, academic advisor, sr. in the Office of Academic Services in The W.A. Franke College of Business, is German-born and raised. She grew up outside of Frankfurt where she went to the Goethe University in Frankfurt. She returns to Germany on a regular basis to visit her family but now calls Flagstaff, Arizona “home.”

After an experience as an exchange student at U of A where she met her future husband, an American, she returned to Germany to complete her Master’s degree in Historical Ethnology, a subsection of Anthropology. She thought of working in museums, or perhaps being part of the diplomatic core, but for women in Germany 30 years ago, it wasn't an easy field to break into.

Her husband followed her to Germany where he taught U.S. soldiers. They returned to the U.S. in 1989 for him to pursue his graduate degree. They never returned to live in Europe.

After living in Flagstaff and Tucson, they moved to New Hampshire for four years and returned to Flagstaff 18 years ago. They have two children, a son and a daughter.

After staying at home with her small children, she returned to work with the Flagstaff Unified School District. First, she taught computer skills to K-6 grade students at Sechrist Elementary where she worked for eight years. She created the curriculum and, during that time, helped to develop the lab based on Apple IIe computers into a full-fledged computer lab.

From there, she became the counseling secretary in the counseling office at Coconino High School, a position she held for four years.  While it was an administrative position, she often did the “triage” in the office, assessing the level of crisis and then organizing counselors and other resources to handle the situation. She also coordinated the college recruiter visits.

She joined the NAU-The W. A. Franke College of Business’ Office of Academic Services to serve as academic advisor in the business division four and a half years ago. She advises all the undergraduate accounting students.

With all of this experience behind her, including her international upbringing, what does Driessen-Knittle bring to the students she advises? “I think when you have that international experience, you realize you’re part of a big picture as opposed to just one country's. You see things with different eyes because you have different experiences that form your decisions and your understanding of what is happening.

“Globalization is requiring students to have an understanding of what is happening outside of their immediate surroundings, and I think that in order to really understand it, you have to be curious about what is happening. You have to want to know why something is happening here because we are all connected, one big system. We are not just individual countries anymore. So I think for me to work with students, what is important is to get them to be curious about what else is out there.

“So my big thing is to encourage students to study abroad. I think that is so valuable, in so many different ways. Not just in learning a business system in Italy, for example, but more to learn about yourself and how you function in a different environment, and how you can learn and how you can incorporate ideas from a different culture into your value system and then use that as you move into the business world. I think that makes all the difference.

“You can tell if people have had any experience outside of their home country and not just American students. You find the same thing with German students. German students that haven't been outside of their country have very limited experience. You see the same tunnel vision,” she shared.

On the question of how students can find the resources to pay for international study abroad programs, Driessen-Knittle said, “I think that NAU has a phenomenal program. There is scholarship money available. And for a lot of programs, depending on which one a student chooses, [the student] ends up paying in-state tuition, the same amount of tuition as they would pay here. The extra cost would be the ticket there and some spending money. It's really much more doable than what people think.”

That is also why she believes the new Global Business Program is “awesome.” “That's the direction things are moving in,” she concluded.

This article is part of a series on FCB Business Division and SHRM faculty to highlight the international experience within the college and to promote our globalization initiatives, including the launch of the Global Business Program (GBP). Information on this program can be found HERE.

Categories: pia driessen-knittle global spotlight global business program