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Destination Brazil: Department of Business strengthens international business curriculum

August 26, 2009
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By Dr. Isaac Agboola

The Department of Business completed a study tour of Brazil this summer as part of the Business and International Education (BIE) project. The primary purpose of the BIE project, which is funded partly through a U.S. Department of Education grant, is to strengthen and expand the Business Department’s international business curriculum by providing participating faculty with opportunities to acquire first-hand knowledge about the business, economic, and social environments in selected countries.

The business faculty members who participated in the Brazil study tour were: Dr. Isaac Agboola, Emilia Chukwuma, Reed Gershwind, and Dr. Qi Wang. In addition, Dr. Amy Wilson and Dr. Barbara Gerner De Garcia, faculty members from the Department of Educational Foundations and Research who have lived in Brazil and are familiar with Brazilian Portuguese, traveled with the group to help facilitate the tour.

The Brazil study tour, which began July 1 and ended July 11, was the last in a series of international study tours that included India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina. This summer’s tour was originally planned to include Argentina, but this segment had to be cancelled due to reports of an outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) in parts of the country.

Brazil was included among the countries studied because it is an emerging economy with enormous potential beyond South America. Brazil is the fourth largest democracy in the world and the fifth largest country both in population and geographical area. After many years under military rule, the country is stabilizing politically and is poised to challenge other emerging economies such as India and China for prominence in international commerce.

The first city on the itinerary was Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco. The city is also the largest metropolitan area in northeastern Brazil and the most important industrial center in Pernambuco. Over the course of three days, the faculty toured selected business and industrial sites in the city and nearby towns, including: the Suape Port and Industrial Complex, a large port under development; Alto Do Moura, the largest center for figurative arts in the Americas; the vast sugarcane plantations that provide raw materials for Brazil’s ethanol industry; and several small business firms. The group also spent an evening with the FENIS (Federation of Education and Integration of the Deaf) in Recife, which provided a lively presentation of its community development projects.

The group traveled next to Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in Brazil and widely regarded as the cultural capital of the country. Rio is surpassed only by Sao Paulo as a center of industrial production, finance, and service. Activities in Rio included a lecture and discussion at the U.S. Consulate about U.S.-Brazil economic relations; a factory tour of Casa Granado, one of the oldest pharmaceutical firms in Brazil; a lecture and discussion with officials of Acessibilidade Brazil, a nonprofit organization that engages in cutting edge research on accessibility and disseminates national and international accessibility standards in Brazil; and tours of the downtown and old town business districts.

Sao Paulo was the final city on the itinerary. Unfortunately, the group arrived just as the city was shutting down for a two-day local holiday. However, Sao Paulo is such an important industrial center that some businesses remained open, including the modern Sao Paulo stock exchange, the BOVESPA, where the group was treated to a tour of the exchange and a lecture on investments in Brazil and South America. The group also visited Seresa-Experian, one of the largest consumer credit information companies in Brazil. Seresa-Experian is a leading employer of people with disabilities in Brazil, with a progressive philosophy of hiring, training, and providing accommodations to employees with disabilities.

The Brazil study tour and the previous international study tours have provided Business Department faculty with invaluable insights not only about the business environment in each country but also about the economic relationships between the countries and their trading partners. It is one thing to read or view reports about the astounding economic progress achieved by China, India, and Brazil in recent years, but an entirely different experience to actually see the results up close and to interact with individuals and organizations in each country that help make them happen. Business faculty members who have participated in the project are using the knowledge gained from the study tours to integrate new content into their courses and to develop new courses and programs, ensuring that the BIE project will have an enduring impact on the business curriculum.

Dr. Agboola is dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Sciences, and Technologies and a professor in the Department of Business.

26 August 2009

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