An international impact

July 12, 2018

Gift, experience enhance student’s personal and professional outlook

Michael and Vana Surmanian Family Scholarship
Michael and Vana Surmanian Family Scholarship
College of Business alumnus Michael Surmanian (’76 M.M.) talks with scholarship recipient Robert Gaines during a study abroad trip to Italy

Having the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes is something that College of Business junior Robert Gaines had the chance to experience—due in part to the generosity of a UM-Dearborn alumnus.

Gaines thought adding an international experience would help him better understand relationships—which is especially important to Gaines since he wants to go into a management field—and would be beneficial to his education.

But Gaines—a 22-year-old who works fulltime to pay for his education and living expenses—didn’t realize how it would come together.

When he learned about COB’s 2018 summer study abroad program in Italy and about the Michael and Vana Surmanian Family Scholarship, he knew it was the right opportunity.

“I applied for the scholarship right away,” said Gaines, the endowed scholarship’s first recipient. “I was going to do whatever I could to get to Italy. I am very grateful for the help that the Surmanians gave to me.”

College of Business alumnus Michael Surmanian (’76 M.M.) didn’t have the opportunity to do a study abroad experience as a college student. But through his work experiences, he has seen first-hand the importance of building international partnerships.

“Business is worldwide now—U.S. companies who don’t have a worldwide perspective will not be as successful as those who have that perspective,” he said. “By learning about a different culture during their college years, students are that much better prepared to help lead their companies to compete globally for the future.”

A Detroit native whose career led him to balance his interests in engineering, healthcare and business, Surmanian now co-owns Diagnostic Consulting Network in Carlsbad, Calif. He has traveled to Asia and Europe extensively and has a special fondness for Italy.

“I wish I would have studied abroad when I was a college student,” he said. “Vana and I felt it was very important to help students have access to an international education.”

Surmanian not only helped provide Gaines with that international experience, they were able to share it together. Surmanian was travelling in Italy this summer and made a point to spend some time in Padua when the COB students were there.

He and Gaines had an immediate connection.

“Mr. Surmanian’s words were very motivating to me. He’s been where I am,” said Gaines. “As a first-generation college student, I had some difficulty navigating college and focusing at first. Mr. Surmanian told me that he had some struggles when first coming to college and getting adjusted too. He told me the important thing is to finish strong."

“He obviously knows what he is talking about,” added Gaines, who is considering a graduate degree in healthcare management and said the two will keep in touch. “And, like he did, I’m going to finish strong.”

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