Going international with Vanessa Brancatisano and RMIT University

RMIT University is a recognized leader in experiential learning committed to not just providing their students with work-integrated learning opportunities but also international work experience. One instructor bringing global experiences into the classroom is Vanessa Brancatisano. We sat down with Vanessa to learn more about her experience and the power of an international experiential learning experience.
December 2, 2020
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RMIT University is a recognized leader in experiential learning committed to not just providing their students with work-integrated learning opportunities but also international work experience. Every engagement for their students on the Riipen platform works with an international industry partner. 

One instructor bringing global experiences into the classroom is Vanessa Brancatisano. We sat down with Vanessa to learn more about her experience and the power of an international experiential learning experience.

Sitting down with Vanessa

Vanessa Brancatisano is the coordinator and teacher for a course in buyer/consumer behaviour for RMIT’s Associate Degree in Business with their School of Vocational Education. The school is based onshore in Melbourne, Australia, and offshore in Shanghai, China. In addition to this course, Vanessa also instructs in several other areas such as Design for Business, Marketing Principles, and International Business though her core interests relate to consumer ethnography and psychology.

The value of experiential education

Vanessa states that experiential is, “absolutely crucial when creating autonomous learners to further their application of the sometimes complex themes and concepts of a course in unexplored contexts.” She believes that ensuring graduates are career-ready means to, “move beyond mere intellectual play and build confidence in [the] application of the course learnings and outcomes to varied scenarios and situations.”

Even prior to using Riipen, the Buyer Behavior course was the designated Work-Integrated Learning course within RMIT’s Associate Degree in Business. Throughout her duration as coordinator, Vanessa has always built projects that infused real-world complexities into the course content by embedding organizational challenges or parameters into assessment deliverables.

Why Riipen?

Though experiential learning has always been a part of the course curriculum, Vanessa felt limited by her ability to successfully source industry partners through her own network and initiatives. Through her travels to China, she was not having any success in sourcing an industry partner that would be happy to work with a non-local project partner for her Shanghai-based students. Her program manager suggested taking a look into Riipen and the rest is history! 


International experience for students 

Though working with an international industry partner does come with some challenges, such as communication, Vanessa believes that the benefits have certainly outweighed any difficulties. Students now have access to a multinational organization, within a saturated market, that is open to innovation and exploring evidence-based recommendations based on students’ own research. She says that “the industry partner’s natural demeanor is encouraging and approachable, underpinned by his professionalism and willingness to assist, which ensures all students foster a strong understanding and connection to his organization’s vision while energizing them to deliver their best work.”

Overall, feedback collected directly from the students has been overwhelmingly positive where they have stated that they are grateful for this opportunity. Additionally, from an educator’s perspective, Vanessa says that they have increased community dialogue, retention, knowledge exchange, and this experiential learning project becomes a catalyst in developing autonomous learners.

Student and employer response

As an educator, Vanessa had a great experience using Riipen as she found a multitude of new opportunities to connect with potential project partners. She had several organizations express interest in collaborating and was then able to select the organization that best aligned with her course learning outcomes whilst providing her students with a challenge in their thematic and conceptual application of consumer psychology.

Vanessa would consider the project overwhelmingly successful as the students’ first assessment mean grade achievement was a “Distinction”, 70% or above. When asked about student response to the Riipen project she says, “I’ve noticed an exponential increase in their motivation, efforts, and willingness to meet the project criteria and exceed the deliverables based on having such an exciting, relevant, and creative product and organization to partner with.”

Though the final task is still underway, Vanessa has received nothing but positive feedback from her industry partner on the excellent quality of student work, research, and execution. Students have also been said to inject their personality and creativity into their product concepts furthering Vanessa’s belief that a project of this kind has enabled the students’ entrepreneurial spirits to shine.

Advice for new users

When asked if she would do anything differently in future courses, Vanessa said there was nothing she would change but she did have a suggestion for any new users.

Vanessa activated her Riipen account and had her project page written up by March in order to source a partner for August/September. She felt that this was a good timeline to adhere to, but the real key to the process is to remain organized in order to select the best industry partner whose interests align with yours.

Riipen also has a wonderful customer success team to support you throughout your project. Vanessa said that, “Riipen’s client representatives are so helpful! It’s refreshing to know that the platform has other avenues of assistance to ensure you meet your course/WIL objectives!”


A huge thank you to Vanessa for speaking with us and sharing your experience. To learn more about Riipen and how to get started with experiential learning, visit our website and keep up with Riipen on Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and Facebook.

About the author:

Michelle Wong is a Toronto-based marketing and communications professional leading content marketing efforts at Riipen. She is a technology, social media, and marketing enthusiast with a passion for making connections and building community. She is an advocate for personal development and can often be found searching for new music, binge watching K-Dramas, or reading a good book.

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