Between visits to Robben Island, site of the prison that housed Nelson Mandela, and a tour of the Soweto Apartheid Museum, four Misericordia University students gained firsthand insights into business operations from an international perspective during an eight-day study abroad program to South Africa.
Exposed to a multitude of languages, and artistic and culinary experiences, the students observed differences in African business practices, comparing them with business counterparts in the United States. In addition, they witnessed the manifestation of entrepreneurship in emerging markets, where high rates of unemployment "force" residents to fend for themselves and address their circumstances by "any means necessary, without resorting to crime," according to Charles Richardson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business at Misericordia University, who accompanied the students with Kevin Feifer, director of Service-Learning at Misericordia University, and American Council on Education Fellow Doria "Kathy" Stitts, Ph.D., associate provost and dean of Winston-Salem State University.
"This cross-cultural experience is part of a larger partnership project underway between the Misericordia University Business Department and university partners in South Africa," said Dr. Richardson. "The long-term goal is to examine emerging markets with the focus on one key factor of business and municipality growth and maturation: customer service practices."
Gardyney Deshommes of Blandon, a student in the Government, Law and National Security Program; Jose Gonzalez of Mount Pocono, an accounting major with a specialization in forensic accounting, and business administration majors Jayme DeMedio of Collegeville, and Edward Okeke of New City, New York, split their time between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
"Not only did the trip increase the cultural intelligence of our students by exposing them to international travel and cross-cultural experiences, it provided the opportunity for them to interact with peer students in other countries," adds Feifer, a resident of Mountain Top.
The itinerary included a tour of the Wits Business School at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where Mzukisi Qobo, Ph.D., associate professor of international business and strategy, discussed the history and economy of South Africa. They also visited Amatuli, a Johannesburg business that works with African tribes and local artisans to produce traditional African artifacts and crafts.
In addition, The Misericordia team met with the founder and officers the marketing business, Valoria, to discuss a potential partnership in producing a strategic plan for the company. The trip wrapped up with a visit to the University of the Western Cape, where they met with business faculty and students to discuss research and educational partnerships.
In a reflection paper, Gonzalez summed up his experience in one sentence, "One of the most inspirational words I learned while in South Africa was Ubuntu, meaning 'I am because we are.'"
For more information about the College of Business at Misericordia University, please call 570-674-6400 or visit www.misericordia.edu/cob.
Misericordia University students and administrators toured the Wits Business School at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Participating in the study abroad program, from left, are Jose Gonzalez Mount Pocono, Pa.; Dean Charles Richardson, Ph.D., College of Business; Jayme DeMedio, Collegeville, Pa.; Gardyney Deshommes, Blandon, Pa.; Edward Okeke, New City, N.Y.; Doria 'Kathy' Stitts, Ph.D., ACE Fellow, and Kevin Feifer, director, Office of Service-Learning at Misericordia University.