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EMBA Students Travel to Brazil

While Tippie Executive MBA students were in Brazil, the U.S. went to war. It was an odd experience for these students to be abroad at such a time; but they gained great insight into how other countries view the United States, especially at this time in history. Every year the international business experience proves to be enlightening and exciting for students and this year was no different.

The trip was a one-credit requirement for the 46 second-year Executive MBA students. The March 15-24 trip complements the program's curriculum by providing a firsthand experience with businesses in another part of the world.

"The experience was outstanding and worth every minute," explains Michael Rugeroni, manager of commercial operations for John Deere's Construction and Forestry Division. "There are many major corporations in Brazil and it's fascinating to see how they deal with the business issues of the region. Our company visits helped us gain a better understanding of the macro-economic conditions of the country."

"This experience provides our students with a new way of looking at the world," states John Fraser, director of the Executive MBA Program. "Not only do they gain insight into a different language, culture and business practices, but they also formulate a model of how one should conduct business in international markets. It's extremely valuable learning, as students are forced out of their comfort zone in an unfamiliar environment."

The trip began in Sao Paulo, a city with a population of 22 million. A partnership between The University of Iowa and the Business School Sao Paulo provided students with lectures taught by Brazilian-based business faculty. These lectures focused on topics such as Brazil's business environment, electric power industry, market for imports, foreign trade agreements, and how Brazil fits within the global economy.

In Sao Paulo, students gained a firsthand view of international business practices by visiting several corporations. Businesses included Natura, a cosmetics company; the Brazilian corporate office of Cargill, a processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services; and Bradesco, one of the largest banks in Brazil.

Prior to the trip, the students broke into ten teams and each selected one business to visit during that week. This project, entitled "Your Day, Your Way," makes students responsible for solidifying all of the details for their visit including making the initial contact, scheduling, working through any language difficulties, and gaining an understanding of the company and the business challenges it faces.

The companies selected by the student teams ranged from the fourth largest manufacturer of passenger airplanes (Embraer) to one that specializes in the design, manufacture and sale of automotive electrical equipment (Delphi). For many, the Your Day, Your Way experience was a highlight because it gave them a firsthand look at the challenges American business people face when trying to establish business relationships in another country.

According to Rockwell Collins employees Doug Bader and Mike Schura, "This experience allowed the group to get an intimate view of how business is done in Brazil. Overall, the timing and value of the visit was exceptional the value provided by the business models integrated into the overall Brazil culture and market dynamics was one of the most memorable parts of our visit. Clearly, Your Day, Your Way is a valuable experience." Bader is the manager of Lead Systems Engineering while Schura is the program manager of Boeing Programs at the Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins.

The trip ended in Rio de Janeiro, where students attended a lecture by Claudio Salles. In his role as president of the Brazilian Chamber of Investors in Electric Energy, Salles represents the international corporate investors in the utility business in Brazil. The whirlwind trip allowed for only one day for the students to be tourists. They took advantage of the opportunity to visit the famous statue of Christ atop Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and several open-air markets. In addition to touring the city of six million, the students were able to enjoy a performance of traditional folk music and dance at Plataforma.

Earlier in March, EMBA students were able to brush up on their Portuguese when they visited with five Brazilian reporters who were in Iowa as part of a three-week study tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. The reporters were learning more about trade negotiations, economics, and international politics with specific emphasis on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). In addition to meeting EMBA students, they met with William Albrecht, director of the UI Institute for International Business and Justice Professor of Economics.

The Executive MBA Program has been offered on the UI Campus in Iowa City for more than 20 years, and the next class will start in August, 2003. The EMBA program expanded to Des Moines this past fall. Classes there are offered in the W.A. Krause Center for Entrepreneurial Education, while Iowa City classes are taught in the John Pappajohn Business Building. In addition, the Executive Engineers Dual Degree Master's Degree program offers both a UI Executive MBA and a Master of Systems Engineering Degree from Iowa State to mid-level engineers. The next Dual Degree Program will be offered in the fall of 2003.

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