M.S in Commerce students prepare for the Global Immersion Experience (GIE) over the course of the spring semester. Students take two courses: Foundations of Global Commerce and the track-specific course Regional Perspectives on Global Commerce. Foundations of Global Commerce is taught by Professor Peter Maillet January through March. Then, the class breaks into the GIE groups (Latin America, India & the Middle East, Europe, East Asia, and Southeast Asia) from March to May, for the Regional Perspectives on Global Commerce course.
I sat down with Professor Maillet and Professor Jeremy Marcel, Latin American GIE lead, to hear their perspectives on the importance of studying business from a global standpoint.
Professor Peter Maillet
How does Foundations of Global Commerce prepare students for the Global Immersion Experience?
In business, you need to be able to get up to speed on a country very efficiently. GIE gives students a taste of this professional experience as students transition through various business contexts in four to five countries over the course of a few weeks. My course gives students a guiding framework that is relevant to business. In Foundations of Global Commerce, students analyze countries through four lenses—people, place, political economy, and global presence. This framework helps students focus on aspects of the country relevant to commerce.
Throughout the semester, you host additional seminars for students seeking to better their understanding of macroeconomics. How do the topics covered in these optional sessions add to students’ understanding of the global economy and prepare them for global immersion?
In the M.S. in Commerce Program there are two types of students—those who studied economics, foreign affairs, or politics and everyone else. The first group of students have a good understanding of concepts such as dependency ratio or quantitative easing that are relevant to our class discussions; the other half often have not studied these concepts in an academic setting before. The additional macroeconomics seminars provide a safe space for students to ask basic questions. My goal is for students to be able to walk away at the end of my course and pick up The Financial Times or The Economist and have a better understanding of an article than they had before. One tool we use throughout the course is The Little Book of Economics, which explains some of these difficult concepts in laymen’s terms. It’s also just a really interesting read!
The additional macroeconomics seminars are optional and held Thursday afternoons
Your course requires students to form their own opinions. Why do you think this is important?
I have two motivations in teaching students to form opinions. First, it will make students more successful as they progress in their careers. In the first two to three years of your career, your technical skills will be the essential element of your success. However, after the first few years of your career, you will be evaluated less on your technical skills and more on your critical analysis, ability to articulate your opinions, and ability to defend your point of view.
Second, I believe that it is worth pausing for a moment to think about why you want to be in business. I do not view business as “selling out.” Rather, I believe that business is the organizing principle of society. Business is good, but some businesses are “gooder,” per se, than others. I ask students to step outside of their preconceived notions and ask if the way we currently conduct business makes our societies better off. I encourage students to question what they see, make judgments, and take responsibility for their actions.
Professor Jeremy Marcel
How does Regional Perspectives on Global Commerce build upon Professor Maillet’s course, Foundations of Global Commerce?
Peter Maillet’s course provides a general framework through which we can understand business across the various contexts. The regional perspectives course is all about application of that framework, and using it to discover and understand the issues that drive and constrain businesses in a specific region. Of course, the opportunities and challenges vary greatly depending on which part of the world you focus on.
Why study business in Latin America?
Latin America is culturally vibrant and resource-rich, but hampered by a history of relatively weak institutions. That situation is changing fast, and the three decades of free market thinking have really set the stage for increased competitiveness. Business and governments have benefitted from a sustained commodities boom, and everyone is watching to see how they fair as that cycle softens.
What part of GIE are you most excited about?
The most exciting aspect of GIE is really the chance to visit so many wonderful businesses and talented executives. The opportunity to learn about different firms and business models, as well as how executives build successful organizations, is amazing. For example, we will get the chance to visit a cut flower producer in Bogota—walking acres of flowers being grown under glass, observing processing and packaging, and learning about all of the logistical challenges associated with a highly perishable agricultural product. To delve deeper, we are going to visit the national association for growers, where we will learn what makes Colombia competitive vis-à-vis other global producers and how the global industry is becoming more competitive. It is a really energizing experience.
What do you gain from immersion that you can’t gain in the classroom?
The variety and depth of quality business visits cannot be replicated. They are topped only by the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the region you plan to explore. The number and variety of people that students meet on GIE is amazing. You can’t meet so many people, and do so many different things, and remain unaffected.
Written By: Kaylee Lucas