Laurie Wolff, CGBP, has a lot of energy. She teaches in the Economics and Finance Department at the School of Business at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a four-year undergraduate program where most of the students are not preparing themselves specifically for a career in international trade.
In addition to teaching, Wolff also speaks and writes about international commerce issues for the business community, focusing mainly on small and medium sized businesses in the pet industry. She spoke last year to retailers at the largest U.S. – based trade show for the pet industry: Global Pet Expo. Wolff has published a series of trade articles for Alibaba’s business education website, globalbizcircle.com.
“I’m trying to bridge the gap between businesses, government services providers, and the educational institutions that prepare future workers,” according to Wolff, because all three have shared interests. Identifying those areas of intersection and connecting businesses with government assistance programs is part of what she does as she roams the trade show floor.
Wolff was first introduced to NASBITE International by a colleague who runs the local trade center. Her first NASBITE International conference was shortly thereafter in Nevada during the year that the CGBP was launched. She presented on international service learning projects for students, but remembers three primary things about that conference. First, everyone was so friendly and helpful. The networking and peer support found at the NASBITE International conferences is beyond anything Wolff has experienced elsewhere.
Second, Wolff learned she thought there was no way she could pass the CGBP exam. Since the CGBP exam was still in its formulation stages at that time and was not to be administered until the next Annual Conference, international trade professional Jim Foley led a session about the upcoming launch complete with sample exam questions.
“I was correct (about my assumption), I wasn’t teaching my students much that was practical for international business.” So, she made a vow: “I committed myself to getting more business experience, to learning more about marketing, management, and supply chains, so that I could be a CGBP and a better international trade teacher.” She went on to earn her CGBP five years later and has become a Certified Trainer for the NASBITE CGBP credential.
The last thing that stood out to Wolff at that conference was that “NASBITE International was going to need some help! The CGBP was a huge opportunity for U.S. global businesses to improve the practice of international trade. I looked at the leaders at the front of the room and decided I needed to be a part of what they were doing.”
Wolff returned to campus, updated her international economics curriculum, attended almost every trade training program in the Missouri and Southern Illinois area, and got to work assisting a pet supplement company to launch and grow its international business. She also led study abroad programs to Costa Rica, Mexico and China and returned to the NASBITE conference again as a presenter. Eventually, she was accepted to be on the Board of Governors of NASBITE International.
She served as a voting member of the Board of Governors until 2014, including two years as President. During her tenure as President, the CGBP Governance Council was created, which separates the administration of the exam and credential from the rest of NASBITE International operations. Best practice in professional credentialing says there has to be a wall between the training of candidates for a credential and the administering of the examinations for that credential.
While President, she represented NASBITE International at a special meeting of the Organization of the American States on workforce development and training programs. It was held in New Orleans just before the ASBDC conference. “Listening in three languages to labor ministers from across Latin America discuss the need for training to grow international business just further convinced me of the importance of the CGBP”, says Wolff.
As a past NASBITE President, Wolff still actively serves the Board of Governors as a Distinguished Fellow, volunteering in a variety of ways including planning the webinar series. “The webinars help CGBPs continuously learn and are a relatively easy way to earn CEUs towards recertification,” she reports.
She secures speakers on topics that cover the breadth of international trade. “I actually hope that not every webinar is interesting to every CGBP because we are all different and have unique needs. I want everyone at some point in the year to find something that really engages them or meets a need.”
Her passion in trade training is to help people understand foreign exchange markets, especially the risks exchange rate fluctuations bring. “Long before I found NASBITE International and became a CGBP, I wanted my students to understand what it really meant for the U.S. dollar to be strong or weak.” She’s been trying to explain this since the mid-1980s when she was a teaching assistance in the graduate economics program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “I was fresh out of journalism school and frustrated by the level of confusion reporting on foreign exchange markets created. People wanted the U.S. dollar to be strong, Japan not to be buying U.S. properties such as the Rockefeller Center, and to eliminate the trade deficit. They didn’t understand that some of these preferences were in direct conflict with others.”
Wolff lives in Missouri with husband and three sons, where she has been actively engaged in her community for 27 years. She actively serves NASBITE International. She chairs the Inclusion and Diversity Committee for her School of Business. She gets out in her community and talks with people, listening to their stories.