Tuesday, November 12, 2013
In September, Grad Business launched its first-ever Business Practicum to Brazil. We started our trip at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Iguacu Falls, and then proceeded to a week-long visit with five companies in Sao Paulo state, including Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Mars Candy & Food, Rockwell-Collins, and Embraer. After all of our business visits, we proceeded to Rio de Janeiro to learn more about the Brazilian culture. In Rio, we visited a Favela (a slum area now called a “Communidad”), the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain and, of course, the beautiful Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio.
You never know in advance how a visit like this will affect you and others, but your hope is that the experience will impact how students view the world, how they view business in one of the fastest growing countries in the world, and maybe touch lives by meeting the wonderful people in the country.
This summer, 13 graduate students made the journey to Brazil, and the class fully engaged the country, culture and business experiences throughout the 10-day trip.
There were so many amazing moments on this trip that even after more than 40 visits to Brazil in my lifetime, my trip with this great class was truly special. Some highlights of the trip for me were:
- How God touched us all on this trip and helped make this – from day one – a close-knit group of students who truly became friends.
- The positive impact of having the president of Walmart-Brazil spend two hours with us talking about life and doing business in Brazil.
- Seeing a group of students present for two hours to the senior leadership team at Mars, and experience the top two leaders saying, "This was so impactful. Let's do this again next year!"
- Learning how a small, unprofitable airplane manufacturer (Embraer) turned their business around to become the third largest and fastest growing aircraft company in the world (seeing the planes being made was impressive)!
- Learning how over half of the population lives in Brazil, including visiting one of their homes.
Each of our students completed a journal of their experiences, and for me as their leader, it was a pleasure to read how the trip impacted their lives. Each student had wonderful quotes from the trip, but one student captured it all with this quote: “Never in my academic career have I taken a course that has impacted me on such a personal level. The International Business Practicum – Brazil changed not only the way I view my own life and career, but the way I view the world. I am greatly rewarded by having been exposed to religion, culture, politics, and business much different than my own.”
There was one other key learning for me on this trip: it takes a great team to make a visit like Brazil impact students’ lives. It took the leadership and support of Carine Netto (JBU grad, born in Brazil) to help us truly understand the country. It took faculty support from Eva Fast to help create the partnership approach with Mars. And it took support back in Siloam Springs from Gail Edwards and Meredith Stricker to make the logistics work. Great team, great students, great country, great experiences – God is good!
Professor of Business
Executive in Residence, Soderquist Business for Leadership and Ethics