COBA Students Travel the Globe in 2019

COBA sends students and professors across the world every summer. It’s an initiative that ACU and the College of Business feel strongly about and one that always leaves the professor and the student changed. During the summer of 2019, COBA had two student groups in Asia and Oxford. While the classes offered and excursions were different, one thing is the same. Students unanimously endorse studying abroad.

MGMT 419: Global Entrepreneur was the two-week class that sent eight students to Asia – specifically China, Thailand, and Hong Kong SAR – and was led by professors Andy Little and Jim Litton. To make the most of the group’s short time on the continent, classes were held on campus during the spring semester, with some of the work being completed ahead of time online. While in Asia, students and faculty gathered for several academic class discussion sessions. The trip also included a day spent in the Thai mountains visiting coffee farms and a visit with a group of “digital nomads” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Among the unique experiences that students had in Asia, they climbed the Great Wall of China, spent two days in the mountains of Thailand visiting Karen hill tribe villages and hiking through the jungle, had a fun session learning about Muay Thai (Thai boxing), explored Hong Kong, and visited numerous religious sites in Thailand and Hong Kong.

Litton and Little are not strangers to China but no matter how many times they go abroad; they learn something new during each trip as well. Dr. Little said, “I learned a lot about eight great students and four distinct cultures (traditional Chinese, Thai, Karen hill tribe, and Hong Kong).  It was interesting to compare and contrast the Confucian values and culture of China with the predominantly Buddhist values and culture of Thailand.”

Emily Goulet, junior accounting major from Austin, Texas reflected on the trip. “Assessing this program in the literal sense is something that I have found hard to do because the benefits and knowledge that this trip has allowed for me to gain have an immeasurable value that doesn’t align with any quantitative scale in my mind.  Travel allows for a certain intrinsic value to be added to one’s knowledge and perspective and these are how we end up having a new shape to our worldview.  One way that I feel able to begin to understand and measure the impact of this program is within the amount of time I have spent in reflection after I returned home from the trip.”

Katie Norris, sophomore marketing major from Texas City, Texas said that Study Abroad gave her an opportunity to get to know her professors in a different setting. “It was really cool to have professors that I have not yet had in a traditional setting believe in me. I was the youngest one on the trip, but the professors did not make me feel like I was any less knowledgeable. I was also glad to pick their brain a bit about their journey and what they learned on their way to their current position in life.”

One of Katie’s favorite experiences was traveling to a small village in the Thailand mountains where students were greeted and taught to roast their own coffee. “This experience showed us how simple life could be when separated from the consumerism food chain. It also showed us the simple and pure joy that comes from creating something you are passionate about with your own hands and how important that is to take into a successful business as an entrepreneur.” She advises any student thinking about studying abroad to, “Choose a trip that is a culture you would be least likely to visit in the future.”

Professors Phil Vardiman and David Perkins took 27 students to Oxford, England with a side trip to Leipzig and Berlin, Germany. Students were able to earn up to 6 hours of course credit in International Business and a choice between Operations Management or Leadership in Organizations.

As part of the Operations Management course, the group visited the BMW and Porsche production plants in Leipzig, Germany. They learned about the automation innovations that have taken place at BMW and the craftsmanship approach that Porsche boasts in the assembly line at their facility. The group also visited Oxford Analytica. Oxford Analytica helps their clients “actively manage the impact of geopolitical, macroeconomic and global social factors on their performance.” One of the highlights of the trip for all involved was a project that the students completed with Asda, a British supermarket retailer whose parent company is Walmart. Students visited an Asda superstore and an Asda dark store as part of the International Business course to see first-hand the technological revolution happening overseas in the grocery industry. Students were asked to analyze Asda after visiting different store locations, give feedback about what they saw, and provide ideas for improvement in various areas. Near the end of the trip, student teams then gave professional presentations and recommendations to some of the corporate managers at Asda’s corporate auditorium.

Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman were impressed with the students’ presentations and extremely proud of the way in which they represented COBA. They said that many of the recommendations were things that Asda was beginning to consider or would now look into considering because of the students’ findings. Vardiman also said that many of the Asda corporate managers encouraged the students to connect with them on LinkedIn and reflected, “You never know what kind of doors these presentations have opened for you and your career.”

Ben Fridge, sophomore financial management major from Sugar Land, Texas, enjoyed the experience that the Asda presentation gave to him. “Asda allowed us to visit some stores and examine the production and check-out systems they had. Towards the end of the month, after weeks of preparation, we came back together for a “Ted Talk-esque” presentation of innovations and plans that we had developed since visiting the store.” Ben said that the most unique experience of the trip involved the time spent at Asda. “Being courted by the division heads at Asda Superstores was an experience that I was beyond blessed to encounter as we were ushered into their facilities to tell them what we saw that could be improved in their stores. They allowed us to consult for them and offer multiple paradigm shifts that could benefit their company as a whole. The experience was nearly surreal as a group of (some still teen) college students offered ideas and innovations that were seriously considered and discussed by adults in executive positions.”

Allie Sorrells, junior management major from Waco, Texas said, “I think the Asda project was probably one of the most beneficial learning experiences I have ever had. We had to work together with our teams to come up with some really solid and creative ideas and learn how to professionally relay those to the managers at Asda. The presentation was very nerve-racking for me, but it was an excellent opportunity to grow in that area and learn how to express to others the ideas that our group worked so hard on. The Asda employees were so helpful and encouraging throughout the entire process and provided a lot of helpful feedback on our presentations. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.”

Along with gaining real world work experience, Allie and Ben grew as individuals and made life-long friends. Ben loved getting to know his professors outside of the classroom. He said, “I loved the ways our professors poured into us through intimate conversations about our plans and big vision items, encouraging us through what they had seen thus far on the trip. Two on ones (the two professors sitting down with each student individually) were incorporated at least once during the experience to dig deep into the things we’d seen, plans we had coming home and reflections on our growth and team bonding.”

Allie really appreciated the time and attention that Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman gave to each student. “I really enjoyed that they were dedicated to spending time with the students outside of the classroom. Those 2-on-1 conversations allowed for the professors and students to learn more about each other and provide encouragement to each other. It was a favorite memory for me as well as for lot of other students. Their wives were also so great and kind and made an effort to get to know the students and provide encouragement for us whether that be in the form of homemade pastries one morning or endlessly praying for us as we took tests and embarked on journeys in smaller groups.”

Allie would encourage other students to study abroad. “DO IT! You won’t regret it. There are so many opportunities abroad for growth intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Even if you don’t know anyone else going, just go for it. It is so easy to make friends abroad because you are all going through the same culture shock and newness. You will make so many memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life, and you will get to see so many places you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. So yes, 100% do it!”

Ben is also a big proponent of Study Abroad. “Absolutely take on this journey. You will grow in obvious and non-obvious ways due to the cultural, environmental, social and academic ways that you are tested. I cannot recommend seeing the world in this way enough. I would recommend, for the bold, jumping into Study Abroad not knowing anyone or bringing close friends along, as I did. Going in, I planned to make connections that will last with every member of my team by the time we had finished. Coming out of the experience, I have twenty-six new best friends who I have crossed the globe with and made specific, diverse memories with that I will hold onto for longer than just these next few years in school.”

Students Participate in Social Enterprise Consulting in Costa Rica

Over spring break, a group of students led by Dr. Laura Phillips and Dr. Sarah Easter traveled to Costa Rica for the first ever Social Enterprise Consulting (MGMT 440) class. This project-based course is designed to give students hands-on experience dealing with a real and substantial issue faced by a socially-minded organization. Students spent six weeks prior to spring break learning about the basics of consulting and learning about the cultural context of the country and organizations they would visit. They were challenged to complete research on the industry and market and received training from the Rotary International campus in Denton, who were also training the entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. “We wanted the students to be prepared in diverse capacities,” said Dr. Easter “That way, when we traveled to Costa Rica, they were as effective as possible in the one-week in-country visit.”

In Costa Rica, the class worked with the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), which is a regional center in Costa Rica dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. In collaboration with CATIE, Red de Emprendedoras del Turismo Sostenible de Turrialba (RETUS) is a network of female entrepreneurs focused on experiential rural tourism offerings as a means to help provide sustainable livelihoods to the three involved communities in Central Costa Rica – Santa Cruz, Guavabo and Mollejones. CATIE and RETUS are interested in better understanding the US market for sustainable rural tourism in Costa Rica as well as the development of a promotional marketing plan to successfully reach identified markets in order to grow and develop RETUS further. The class stayed in a small town called Turrialba on the CATIE campus. Over the course of three days, they visited the three communities and observed experiential tourism offerings in each location.

The consulting nature of the course was focused on students engaging with the women entrepreneurs in terms of ecotourism, which means that tourists engage in local culture when on vacation rather than staying within the confines of a resort or hotel for the duration of their stay. Students evaluated the offerings of each entrepreneur from a US – and specifically Texas – tourist perspective. They spent time in each community taking detailed field notes and giving preliminary recommendations and then spent a full day with the class debriefing and identifying weaknesses and opportunities of the offerings in consideration of US customers.

With the focus on ecotourism consulting, the students got to experience Costa Rica in special ways that emphasized interactions with the local culture. “The most eye-opening thing about this trip was the cultural immersion. To actively participate in activities with the locals gave me a unique perspective into who they are,” said Luke Stevens, a junior marketing major from Montgomery, TX. “Instead of feeling like an outsider looking in, I felt more like I was a part of them. Overall, I think I got more out of this trip because it had a focus and purpose as opposed to a regular spring break trip. I would rather have that type of experience than a relaxing week on the beach.”  Among other things, the class toured the remains of a Pre-Colombian ruin, visited a butterfly farm, and even learned how to salsa dance. On their final day, they got to go zip lining through the jungle and rappel down waterfalls. “Since I come from a Central American country, I was really impressed by the ‘Tico culture,’ which is what Costa Ricans often call themselves, and how important it is to them that they grow as a community instead of as individuals,” noted Mafer Hernandez, a junior finance major from Guatemala City, Guatemala. They were also really invested in reducing contamination, their roads were clean and they also had several recycle bins.”

Now that they have returned from Costa Rica, students are working on a full report and marketing assessment that gives promotional and placement considerations for the women entrepreneurs. The project-based experience has been invaluable for students as they have gotten a chance to apply what they have been learning in class to real life – and in a meaningful, purpose-driven way. Dr. Easter’s favorite part of the trip was twofold; “I loved watching how passionate the women entrepreneurs are about their businesses and communities and how driven they were in their desire to share that passion with outsiders,” she said. “I also enjoyed watching the students in that international setting. It was neat seeing them interact with people in the community and dive into the experience fully. Traveling with students and watching how much they learn and grow in a short time frame is always incredible”

A grant from Southwest Airlines for plane tickets and scholarships from COBA, as well as the partnerships with Rotary International, CATIE, and RETUS made this trip possible and effective for the students and faculty that attended. We are extremely proud of our students for choosing to spend their spring break applying their business skills to serve others in a global context. We look forward to watching how this class grows in the future and other opportunities our students will have to affect change.

 

Tales from Abroad: COBA goes to Australia and New Zealand

Our last installment in our COBA Study Abroad series highlights the MAcc (Master in Accountancy) trip to Australia and New Zealand, led by Dr. Curtis Clements and Dr. Kyle Tippens. MAcc students received credit for International Accounting and Financial Reporting and International Financial Markets. We can’t think of a better way to learn about global business than being immersed in it! We asked Dr. Clements to tell us what it’s like to learn in the land down under.

 

What made your destination a unique place to study?

We didn’t really have a home city.  Instead, we traveled to three cities:  Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and Auckland in New Zealand.  We chose Australia and New Zealand because we had business contacts there and for their diverse cultures.

 

What businesses were you able to visit? 

We visited a number of companies and organizations.  These include PWC, KPMG, EY, the Sydney Wool Exchange, The Australian Accounting Standards Board, The Australian Auditing Standards Board, ANZ Bank, Australia-New Zealand Chartered Accountants, and Xerox.

 

Did you take the students on any sight seeing tours? 

In Sydney we went to Taronga Zoo.  Taronga is a world-class zoo with many different animals from around the world.  We also took a nighttime harbor cruise during the Vivid Sydney festival, which was outstanding.  In Melbourne, we took a trip outside the city on a train powered by a steam engine.  In New Zealand, we toured Hobbiton where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed as well as the Hobbit movies.  We also went to the Te Puia Maori Village‎ cultural center in Rotorua.  On their own, the students also traveled to the Blue Mountains, Manly Beach, and Bondi Beach in Sydney.  They attended an Aussie Rules football game, went to Brighton Beach, and watched the penguins come ashore in Melbourne.  In New Zealand, the students traveled to several locations outside of Auckland.

 

What is it like to be able to spend so much time with students in another country? How does it differ than being in a classroom setting in Abilene?

The experience was outstanding!  You get to know the students so well and they get to know you beyond what they see in the classroom.  It allows you to speak into their lives on a much deeper level.  We learned so much about the students and, hopefully, they know us and our families better.

 

What were your favorite moments/experiences of the trip?

Two things stood out for me.  First, my wife and I were able to renew friendships with people we haven’t seen in 27 years.  As far as the academic part of the trip, there are so many things that were enjoyable and informative.  I don’t think we had a bad visit and it is really hard to point to one thing.  It was interesting as I was reading the students’ journals as they would say, “This is the best thing on the trip!”  And then just a day or two later, they would say the same thing!  As far as the sightseeing, I would have to say the trip to Hobbiton was the best thing we did.

 

If students could only learn one thing, what do you hope they learned?

That we live in an interconnected world.  This is especially true in business. As an aside, I also hope they learned that what we teach and tell them in class really matters!

 

Anything else I’ve forgotten to mention that you would like to talk about?

We have some outstanding students!

Tales from Abroad: COBA goes to Central America

COBA professors and students were world travelers this summer, as we have covered in parts 1 and 2 of our blog series on our study abroad trips. This July, professors Laura and Mark Phillips took students to Central America where they received course credit in MGMT 419 (Global Entrepreneurship) and MGMT 340 (Fundamentals of Life Design). We asked Dr. Laura Phillips to tell us about their experience. We hope you enjoy the third installment of our four part blog series on the 2018 travels of the COBA Study Abroad program.

 

 

What made Central America a unique place to study? 

Central America is a unique place to study Global Entrepreneurship because while the culture, laws, and economic environment are different from the United States, Central America is a place with lots of start-up businesses. Also, the people are very hospitable which makes visiting start-ups easier. In addition, Central America is small geographically but the different countries are unique. Some of the challenges of starting a business in Costa Rica are different from the challenges of starting a business in Honduras. Finally, we were able to see first hand how the government can drastically alter the business environment; the recent unrest in Nicaragua is an unfortunate example of the instability inherent in emerging economies.

 

 

What businesses were you able to visit?

I’m not even sure where to start here. I guess I’ll just make a list.

San Jose, Costa Rica

  • Yuxta Energy–solar energy
  • e.e.d.–legal services for social ventures
  • VivaIdea–a think tank for increasing the impact of entrepreneurship in Latin America

Guanacaste region

  • Vida Adventura–adventure camp
  • Hotel Las Tortugas–small private hotel in Playa Grande
  • Taco Star–taco shop on the beach

Sarapiqui region

  • Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat

Turrialba region

  • CATIE University and the Sustainability House
  • butterfly farm
  • dairy/cheese making business
  • beneficial plants business (medicinal, herbs, etc.)
  • pueblo tourism business

Honduras

  • Mission Lazarus–here we also
    • made organic fertilizer
    • conducted a half day training session for the students and teachers at the vocational schools on basic business topics
  • hardware store
  • bootmaker
  • trash collector/recycler
  • restaurant owner
  • coffee farm/barber shop/tienda owner

For the most part we visited with the entrepreneur (or an employee for the larger organizations) to learn about what they do, what the biggest challenges are, how/if they plan to grow, etc.

 

 

Did you take the students on any sight seeing tours?  

  • Walking tour of San Jose
  • Ziplining at Vida Adventura
  • Horseback riding at Vida Adventura
  • Surfing lessons at Playa Grande or
  • Canoeing on the estuary at Playa Grande
  • Birdfinding nature walk
  • Hike to waterfall and swimming
  • Cultural scavenger hunt (milking cows, Latin dancing, making tortillas, etc.
  • Archaeological tour

The students enjoyed the sightseeing activities. They were a lot of fun.

 

 

What is it like to be able to spend so much time with students in another country? How does it differ than being in a classroom setting in Abilene?

This particular study abroad is different from going to Oxford or Leipzig because we really are all together most of the time. There were even a couple of places where we stayed in one big house. It’s very different because in Abilene you are with your students in class and then they do their own thing the rest of the time. On this study abroad we usually eat together, we travel together, we spend much of our free time together, plus we have class together. You really get to know each other and, as the students said, you become more like family.

 

 

What were your favorite moments/experiences of the trip?

Well, I love the fact that we are outside so much and that even when you are “inside” you are usually outside. In many ways life is harder but in many ways it’s simpler. The pace of life is slower and the people put more emphasis on relationships than on to-do lists. Most of our students found the Latin pace therapeutic. There were many great experiences but one of my favorites was going in the butterfly house. The house was full of flowers and the butterflies seemed like flying flowers. It was beautiful.

I also loved watching our students conduct the business training for the people at Mission Lazarus. That activity was a real challenge and stretch for our students, especially since we were having to work through a translator. They students rose to the challenge and did a fantastic job!

 

If students could only learn one thing, what do you hope they learned? 

I would want our students to learn that people are people everywhere; we are more similar than we are different. I would want them to learn that there are business opportunities everywhere but that to be successful you MUST know the culture and context of the place in which you are operating. I would want them to know that the fast-paced, individualistic, climb to the top American business style is not the only way to live. I would want them to know that being happy and being successful are not directly tied to a salary amount or prestige. (So…that’s four things, but they are kind of related.)

Tales from Abroad: COBA goes to Leipzig

This July, the COBA classroom moved around the world to Leipzig, Germany with professors Don Pope and Dennis Marquardt leading the way. Students received course credit in Cross Cultural Organizational Behavior and Global Operations Management. We asked Dr. Pope to tell us an overview of their trip. We hope you enjoy the second installment of our four part blog series on the 2018 travels of the COBA Study Abroad program.

The group poses in front of their home away from home in Leipzig

 

What made Leipzig a unique place to study?

Leipzig is a mid-sized German city with a long and proud history.  It is not a tourist destination.  You would have to search for a souvenir shop.  It is historically important because it was the home of Bach, among other well known German musicians and writers.  Martin Luther lived in the nearby town of Wittenberg.  Leipzig was the center of the ‘quiet revolution’ uprising that brought down the iron curtain in 1989.  The German language adds a dimension to a study abroad experience that an English-speaking location cannot provide.  But, enough English is spoken to allow one to get around without great difficulty.

 

Were you able to visit any companies or work on projects with companies in other countries?

At the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

We toured the BMW assembly plant in Leipzig which is very modern, is automated, and operated with great German efficiency and attention to sustainability.

 

Did you take the students on any sight seeing tours? 

We took the students to visit Wittenberg where Martin Luther nailed his statement of protest to the church door 501 years ago, at great personal risk to his life.  We also did a group tour of Berlin and many of the sites there, including the Berlin wall and memorial museum for Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust.  We traveled to Weimar and the nearby site of the World War II Nazi concentration camp, Buchenwald.  We saw a place of great horrors and felt the weight of the suffering that occurred there.  We saw the ovens that burned the bodies of those killed, the hooks on the walls where people were hung, the shoes of the victims, many of them children.  We saw the memorial to the living – those who survived.  The memorial plaque is simple in design, and heated to a living temperature of 98.6 all through the cold winters.

 

Visiting the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial

What is it like to be able to spend so much time with students in another country? How does it differ than being in a classroom setting in Abilene? 

Spending time in other countries helps to open your mind, eyes and heart to the world and appreciate the lesson that God tried to each Jonah long ago – that He loves and cares for all people everywhere.

 

What were your favorite moments/experiences of the trip? 

The trips mentioned above, and getting to hang out with the students and get to know them better.

 

If students could only learn one thing, what do you hope they learned? 

That the world is a much bigger place than the little bubble that most of us live in, and that we need to learn to live and function in a global community.

Tales from Abroad: COBA Goes to Oxford

This summer, COBA students and professors traveled the globe learning more about how globally connected we are through business and about the people and cultures on the other side of the world. This is the first of a three part blog series on the 2018 travels of the COBA Study Abroad program. We hope you enjoy living vicariously through these stories as much as we have!

In June, professors Sarah Easter and Mark Phillips led a group of students to Oxford, England offering course credit in International Business and Professional Development and  Life Design. We asked Dr. Easter and Dr. Phillips a few questions to learn more about this fantastic experience and why other students should sign up to go in the future.

 

 

What made Oxford a unique place to study? 

Oxford is a beautiful city, rich with stunning architecture, history and culture. As the home to Oxford University and its many colleges, there are lots of different university buildings, churches and museums to visit as well as numerous green spaces and parks. Plus, it’s very walkable and a short train ride to London and beyond.

 

Were you able to visit any companies or work on projects with companies in other countries?  

In the Oxford area, we took a tour of the MINI Cooper plant and Oxfam International, a leading UK-based charity, to learn about their international operations. We also took a day trip to London to learn about Sodexo’s corporate social responsibility initiatives as a global catering service provider; experience Siemen’s The Crystal, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings; and have lunch with an alum based in London to learn about her experiences living and working abroad.

Our highlight excursion was a four-day trip to Slovenia where we met with the director for environmental protection for the city of Ljubjlana. She shared the city’s many initiatives focused on environmental sustainability including making the main city center largely car free; Ljubljana won the Green City Capital award for 2016 from the European Commission. We also met with professors at the University of Maribor to learn about the Slovenian economy, and with a leader for a faith-based organization focused on youth outreach in Slovenia to learn about enacting faith in a largely secular culture. It was a fantastic trip in a beautiful and friendly country!

 

Did you take the students on any sight seeing tours? 

We wanted students to experience local culture in Oxford as much as possible during our short time there. So, we incorporated some local activities into our agenda, including punting on the River Cherwell (http://cherwellboathouse.co.uk/punting/) and going to an evensong service (a choral-based church service) at Christ Church. While in Slovenia, we took a city walking tour of the capital, Ljubjlana, as well as a day trip to the popular Lake Bled to experience the emerald blue lake and visit the Bled castle.

 

What is it like to be able to spend so much time with students in another country? How does it differ than being in a classroom setting in Abilene?

We really enjoyed getting to know the students in a much more personal manner than is typically possible in a classroom setting in Abilene. Not only did we interact with students in the classroom on a daily basis, but we also had the opportunity to live with and hang out with students as well. The Phillips had the students over to their apartment in smaller groups for dinner and I (Sarah) organized dessert outings around Oxford with them, which really contributed to us building relationships with them in a more relaxed (and hopefully fun) format.

 

What were your favorite moments/experiences of the trip?

Sarah: There are too many to name but a few of my favorite experiences include: getting to know the students via yummy dessert outings around Oxford; going punting as a group on the River Cherwell; and our excursion trip to Slovenia.

Mark: Working with our students on their Life Design plans. They have so many opportunities and it was wonderful to watch as they wrestle with their options.

 

 

 

 

If students could only learn one thing from this experience, what do you hope that would be?

Sarah: My hope for students is that studying abroad will instill a true appreciation for other national cultures (and how complex and varied they are) as well as to spark a desire to seek and serve others throughout the world – wherever God calls them to be in the future.

Mark: Texas and even the United States make up a tiny fraction of the world. As much as we love it here, I hope they began to get a glimmer of the amazing possibilities out there.

We would strongly encourage students even thinking about study abroad to apply (there are scholarship opportunities available!). It is truly a life changing experience that will not only provide students with much more of a global mindset that today’s employers are looking for, but it will also affect them personally and provide them with a more well-rounded view of the world in which they live.

Students can learn about upcoming trips for the summer of 2019 at fall study abroad interest meetings. Check your COBA newsletter for dates!