Students Experience Latin American Business First-Hand in Panama During New Global Immersion Course

The Next Global Immersion Course is in Hungary During Spring Break


For the 10th year in a row, more than 20 undergraduate business students from the John Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University began their New Year in Panama participating in an international business course focused on emerging markets in Latin America. The 2015 course launched the new Global Immersion format structured with three phases:
  1. Pre-immersion class sessions at the campus in St. Louis to introduce the students to fundamental issues impacting business in an overseas market plus introduce them to a live case study.
  2. The immersion experience in-country where students will progress on the company-focused, live project combined with visits to companies and venues reflecting the cultural influences of the region.
  3. Post-immersion courses in St. Louis to wrap up the live company project and integrate the many facets of the overall learning experience in that world region. 

“In today’s world economy, study abroad experiences are critical to career success, so we encourage all students to participate in a semester abroad,” commented Seung Kim, Ph.D., director of the Boeing Institute of International Business (BIIB) which develops these international study courses. “The Global Immersion course model provides a short-stay immersion within a full-semester course to provide expanded breadth and depth of learning.”

Kim explained the format will be replicated with additional destinations,  “the next Global Immersion course will highlight European Business and include an immersion over spring break 2015 in Hungary with the Corvinus University of Budapest and live projects with the Emerson Company and MarquipWardUnited: A Barry-Wehmiller Company.”

The Global Immersion course in Panama was led by Jase Ramsey, Ph.D., assistant professor of international business at the Cook School and an expert in Latin American business strategy and culture.

“The learning objectives for the pre- and post-class sessions and the immersion experience are to assure that students gain a better understanding of the business environment in Panama, the emerging opportunities for investment, and the challenges that multinational companies experience in the country,” explained Ramsey. “Additionally, we use this one market to introduce the students to broader Latin American business issues.” 

Through the Global Immersion course, students better recognize the crucial role that culture plays in doing business abroad and how cultural differences need to be taken into consideration in business transactions everywhere around the world.           

The immersion component was based at the City of Knowledge, previously a U.S. military base and now a center for knowledge exchange in Panama City. It is located next to the Panama Canal, which is Panama’s most important economic asset influencing all facets of the country and culture.  For this reason, the live case study focused on the shipping company, Maersk. Students performed extensive research on the global shipping industry with analysis of the impacts the company may experience with the future expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate the larger vessels used in today’s shipping industry and the development of a new canal in Nicaragua.  Teams of students presented findings and recommendations while in class at the City of Knowledge. Their course will continue with the post-immersion portion back on campus in St. Louis.

During the week in Panama, students also engaged in visits to local companies and organizations each highlighting the importance of the canal.  Destinations included the National Banking Association, the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Panama, La Rana Dorado (a local microbrewery start-up company), the Innovation Center at City of Knowledge, Caterpillar, Quality Leadership University and Copa Airlines.  Students also received a briefing from a commercial services officer from the U.S. Embassy and a lecture from a local professor on the history, economy and education system in Panama. 

Students toured Panama City, seeing the old town Casco Viejo and its churches, cathedrals, theatres, town squares, and plazas plus a visit to Ancon Hill, which provides a wonderful view of the entire city. They also visited the village of the Emberá Drua tribe, a semi-nomadic indigenous group that lives on the banks of the river in Southern Panama. Only accessible by canoe, this village is located deep within the rainforest and gave students the opportunity to learn about these indigenous people and how they continue to thrive in their remote location as the surrounding world becomes increasingly modernized.

According to Stephanie Sanchez, a Cook School senior majoring in international business and minoring in Spanish, “walking through the streets and listening to knowledgeable Panamanians in the business world was truly eye-opening as we realized firsthand the impact U.S. influence had on Panama. We also saw the many ways the Panama Canal impacted world trade.  Discussing these concepts with my classmates further developed my understanding of how important it is to expand the Panama Canal and how significant a Nicaraguan Canal will be as well.”

The next Global Immersion course will focus on European business and include an immersion in Hungary over spring break.  There is still time to enroll in the European Business Global Immersion course and attend the pre-immersion class sessions in February.  For more information, please contact Danielle Stevens in the BIIB by email to stevensd@slu.edu or call 314-977-3631. 


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