Howard Patton and Brandon Smith

In 2010, Howard Patton and Brandon Smith took advantage of a global program offered at Fisher to experience how life and business were conducted internationally.

Ten years later, Smith (BSBA ’11) leads the New Products Team at Facebook, and Patton (BSBA ’12) is a senior finance manager at Procter & Gamble. The former classmates and lifelong friends reflect on the value that their global experience has provided them and why giving back to support opportunities for others is so important.  

How did your global experience shape your growth as a leader in corporate America?  

Howard Patton
Howard Patton (BSBA '12)

Howard: I’ve purposefully made a habit of working for large multinational corporations like P&G, JPMorgan Chase and EY and have never felt out-of-place conversing with my colleagues from Geneva, Costa Rica, London and elsewhere. I attribute this largely to the global mindset I gained through my experience in Panama while at Ohio State.  

Brandon: Thanks to the Panama trip, I was prepped to be a better global organizational leader and people manager years in advance. The coursework behind the experience gave us practical knowledge in functional disciplines necessary to lead global businesses. These included economics, public policy, history, operations, product innovation, marketing and communications, negotiations and public speaking. Additionally, because we were physically immersed in a different culture, the global experience gave me an emotional intelligence required to lead global teams.  

I am fortunate to lead a culturally diverse team at Facebook that spans the U.S. and Europe. Study abroad equipped me with a cultural curiosity, which makes for deeper connections with my teammates, offers moments of shared interests and connections (like travel, food and culture), and creates a circle of safety for my team to learn more about each other and bring their whole selves to work.   

When did you begin to see value from your global experience? What did that value look like?  

Howard: I found it to be a huge help while interviewing with large corporations soon after graduation. If you’re an alumnus who wants to give back, this is one of the biggest reasons I believe study abroad is worth investing in. We have to help create the next generation of global leaders.  

Brandon Smith
Brandon Smith (BSBA '11)

Brandon: Immediately! Previously I had only imagined my career in domestic terms. However, after a discussion with a vice president at Copa Airlines, I realized I was short-changing my career by not thinking about a global journey in marketing. While looking at billboards in Panama, I developed a deep curiosity on localization — or how businesses create and advertise products based on the location of the consumer. We know Victoria’s Secret is a category leader in women’s intimate apparel in the U.S., where  feminine expression drive marketing in many industries like music, entertainment and beauty. However, how does Victoria’s Secret advertise in countries where feminine expression isn’t publicized — or even prohibited? How do women in these countries want to be talked to? What types of products do they want? I imagined that would take a stellar company and business leader to tailor a strategy based on the philosophy of their consumer and where they live. Those daydreams inspired me to take my learnings back home to my mentor and change the focus of my career goals from domestic to global. Looking back on it now, that trip was a true catalyst to the development of my career.    

How has that experience continued to benefit you now...10 years after the experience?  

Howard: Brandon and I felt so strongly about the trip that we started the Smith+Patton Study Abroad Scholarship at Ohio State, and it feels really good to contribute to others’ international experiences. We wanted the scholarship to be an easy conduit for alums who had the same vision and were willing to donate funds for students in need. The experience also gave me the insatiable appetite to continue traveling to as many places as possible for as long as I can do it — some of my favorites have been Amsterdam, Tahiti and Florence!  

Brandon: When you hear people say study abroad gives you a sort of “travel bug,” we can attest that is true! Since the Panama trip, I’ve doubled down on my passion for travel — interacting with the wildlife in Bali, sitting between the massive Gros Piton mountains in St. Lucia, and completing a personal dream to visit the bespoke suit shops on Savile Row in London. The rest of the world seems so much more accessible once you spend time away from your home country. Current pandemic notwithstanding, going global provides you with a deeper desire to see past the videos and pictures on Instagram and inspires you to create real memories of your own.   

Brandon Smith and Howard Patton Panama 1
Brandon Smith and Howard Patton display an O-H-I-O during a global experience at the Panama Canal in 2010.


How do your companies value a global outlook?  

Howard: Procter & Gamble has major operations all over the globe, and it is not uncommon for senior leaders to accept expat roles which can help them advance in the company. You cannot expect to make it to great heights in a global company without first becoming a global citizen; unfortunately, many less-fortunate students don’t get that chance early enough in life.  

Brandon: Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. We deliver that mission to the world — operating in over 35 countries. However, the delivery of our mission is localized based on the country where we are present. So a global outlook is highly valuable to many of the teams within our company.  

What was your reasoning for wanting to give back in support of global experiences? What is your goal for doing so?  

Howard and Brandon: We were very intentional about the crafting of our scholarship’s tagline: “For the Road Ahead.” We know the bar is rising for all students entering college, let alone those who are securing jobs after graduation and finding their purpose. While our global experience happened in 2010, the trip changed our lives forever and continues to provide value. However, one significant barrier continues to exist for underrepresented students interested in gaining these global perspectives: funding.  

We surveyed underrepresented students in the research and development phase of our scholarship to verify that there was a need for a scholarship, and the numbers were alarming: 70% of students who chose not to study abroad did so because they didn’t have the money. Howard and I knew this story all too well. In fact, without scholarships from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) and donations from our friends and family, we would not have been able to afford our Panama trip. The surveys, combined with our personal experiences, proved to us that the financial barrier to studying abroad is real, and we have since committed to leveling the playing field for underrepresented students at Ohio State.  

We applied our business knowledge from Fisher and, in partnership with ODI and University Development, created the Smith+Patton Study Abroad Scholarship in 2014. In becoming two of the youngest living alumni of Ohio State with an active, self-named scholarship, we have raised over $16,000 to send underrepresented students to 10 different countries around the world, including France, Germany, Costa Rica, Senegal and Australia. We set a goal to support a minimum of five students per year, and we see the impact of the scholarship in the stories we hear back from students post-excursion. Their stories invigorate us and the other donors to the fund while also serving as a reminder that there is more work to be done. Our mission will continue until all underrepresented students at Ohio State have the financial access to see the world.   

Complete the sentence: “Global experiences are… 

Howard: “an inside joke only known to those who have experienced the same.” Many people do not feel the need to travel abroad until they have done just that. It’s a lot like putting on glasses for the first time — you’re shocked at how big and bright the world is, and every time after just feels like a natural impulse.  

Brandon: “essential to the human experience.” Study abroad reveals that we all have different truths. After being immersed in a different country, you smell a different air, taste different food and see the manifestation of a different history than that of the country you are from. This teaches you that there is more than one way to live and, if you are humble enough, you now have a chance to understand the world around you in a different way. 

What have the last six months taught you about global experiences/perspectives?  

Howard and Brandon: From the global pandemic, to police brutality of African-Americans in the U.S., to the explosion in Beirut, the world is truly facing challenging times. Given that COVID-19 has inhibited both personal and business travel, we’ve gotten resourceful and leaned heavily on the power of technology (stock market apps, news and online blogs) to stay abreast of global current events. While nothing can truly replace an in-person immersion in another country, technology allows us to keep close contact with market dynamics in a continuously evolving world.   

Brandon Smith and Howard Patton Panama 2
Alumni Howard Patton and Brandon Smith touch part of the Panama Canal in 2010. The pair have created a fund at Ohio State to help underrepresented students access the global experiences they credit for shaping their personal and professional development. 


 Looking back on it now, that trip was a true catalyst to the development of my career. 

Brandon Smith (BSBA '11)New Products Team Lead, Facebook