Illinois State senior Emma Byall’s recent excitement over landing a summer internship in Sydney was quickly met with some sticker shock: Airfare to Australia is really, really expensive.
Instead of delaying the trip and taking a step back in her international business studies, Byall was chosen to receive the Carson and Iris Varner International Experience Fund scholarship. That made it financially possible for her to travel to Australia, adding real-world international business experience to her resume.
This is hardly the first time that the Varners put the world within arm’s reach for an Illinois State student. The husband-and-wife College of Business faculty members created Illinois State’s international business major—still the only one of its kind at a public university in Illinois.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Byall, an international business major with a minor in German. “I’m really grateful. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is important, that it’s making a difference.”
Byall was one of many current and former international business students who gathered at Illinois State University on March 31–April 1 to celebrate their program’s 35th anniversary and recognize the Varners’ role in creating it.
The Varners brought with them a passion for global cultures when they joined Illinois State’s business faculty in 1975–76. Iris grew up in Germany, and Carson’s eyes were opened while studying abroad in England. They met in a “foreign student” club in England—Carson the American, Iris the German.
One step at a time, they created Illinois State’s international business major. They insisted it be interdisciplinary, bringing together traditional business education with foreign languages and history. The International Business Institute was established in the College of Business in 2008.
As Iris prepared to retire in 2009, the Varners knew they wanted to leave something else behind—something permanent. The Carson and Iris Varner International Experience Fund was born.
“Going abroad is not cheap,” Iris said. “We wanted to make sure there would be a legacy so that students have an opportunity to study abroad who otherwise might not go.”
This year, their scholarship helped two students, including Byall.
“There’s a great deal of pride for us,” Carson said. “This is an extension of what we’ve done for the past 40 years. … “There’s really that sense of making the world a better place.”
Learn more about the Varners and the impact of private giving in the video above.
Contact the STATEside editor at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.