Nineteen students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business ventured to the nation of Panama through a global immersion program over winter break. Prior to their travel, students enrolled in International Studies in Business and Economics (BSAD 491) in the fall semester, split into two teams to develop a marketing plan to maximize a Panamanian teak farm’s market share in the United States.
“We conducted market research with American companies who are importers of teak through both email and cold-calling. Our goal was to gain information on their current teak distribution methods, costs, purchasing priorities and quantities. The more answers we got about other companies’ consumption, the easier it was to write a beneficial marketing plan for the teakwood farmer, Mr. Luis Ríos,” said Meghan Matt, a sophomore international business major from Mound, Minnesota.
Blogging about the Sustainable Entrepreneurship in Panama program, Matt said the winning team, who researched opportunities on the American West Coast, devised a strategy to increase the farm’s digital footprint to maximize their marketing presence. They also considered what could positively impact the farm’s current strategy of seeking one American distributor who offered the highest bid for the product each year.
“We thought by developing a website and a social media presence, more buyers could be informed about their product and submit a bid. Mr. Ríos said it was most beneficial to have our research and sources, and he admitted he even learned something new from us. It’s great to have possibly helped him grow his business,” she said.
In Panama they also collaborated with students at the Universidad Technólogica Oteima to recommend opportunities in ecotourism, ethno-tourism and sports tourism. After their experiences there, students saw growth potential in water sports as a way to provide more recreational activities for tourists.
“The judges were impressed by the quality of their presentations. Armed with data they collected, students presented with confidence. They learned so much from us just as we learned from them,” said Dr. Kalu Osiri, director of international business, associate professor of practice in management and faculty sponsor for the trip.
While much of the two weeks was spent executing a full itinerary, Osiri believed students experienced invaluable and sometimes spontaneous moments of cultural exploration and relationship building.
“On two occasions, we got up and danced to Caribbean and Spanish music, and the locals joined us. Some of the students swam with the Embera tribe when we visited their indigenous community. Engaging with the locals outside class enriched our collective experience. They happened because our students were hungry for interaction and open-minded to new experiences,” he said.
Osiri also introduced the students to alumnus Jaime Figueroa Navarro ’77 who gave the students a personal tour of Panama City. Orhun Aygun, junior international business major from Maiche, France, believes Osiri’s planning of the program enabled students to experience Panama in a more authentic way.
“Panama is nothing like I imagined it to be. My experience in Central America changed my perception of Panama and the world in general. Panama is a booming business center, a cultural hub and overall a piece of paradise,” he said.
The College of Business will offer the global immersion opportunity to Panama again during the 2018 winter break. The program is open to all class years, but freshmen and sophomores interested in going can apply for an Early Abroad scholarship of $2,000 through the university’s Education Abroad office. Applications are due Thursday, March 1 at 11:59 p.m.
To read Matt’s blog about her Panamanian experience, visit: http://business.unl.edu/news/meghan-matt-global-immersion-blog-from-panama/?contentGroup=international_business®ionName=tile