“We live in a globalized world,” says Sergio Carvalho. “It’s important that we be exposed to other cultures, not just within Canada, but outside.”
Dr. Carvalho is a professor of marketing in the Rowe School of Business who also directs the Centre for International Trade and Transportation (CITT). Since arriving at the Rowe School in 2013, he has been creating opportunities for students to have a more global education. He began the Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation Israel Exchange Program, and has now begun a new initiative to teach students about international trade — the “Doing Business in Emerging Markets” program.
A major donation from three sponsors has made this possible: Export Development Canada, Northstar Trade Finance and the Bata family have partnered to fund the program for the next five years.
In developing the program, Dr. Carvalho carefully considered the field of study.
“We looked at some of the areas in which students don’t necessarily see a career path, such as international trade,” he says, “and we thought that it would be a fantastic thing to show them that potential.”
Dr. Carvalho observes that it is useful to teach Nova Scotia’s business students about trading internationally, since Canada and the Atlantic region need to increase trade, especially in emerging markets. “The presence of Canadian business in these markets is very small, and they have great potential for us,” he says.
Dr. Carvalho approached the three sponsors to help send the students abroad, and all of them loved the idea. Export Development Canada was a perfect choice, he says: “This program ties right into its main concerns, and it’s a big recruiter of graduating students,” he explains. “EDC has employed a lot of our former students and knows the quality of our programs.”
Aside from its monetary donation, EDC also takes care of most of the program’s logistics, putting the students to work with local businesses for their projects. EDC also helps organizers secure guest lecturers and find companies for the students to visit.
Northstar Trade Finance was already a major supporter of CITT. “Northstar fits because of its global trading,” says Dr. Carvalho. The company’s president, Scott Shepherd, is an alumnus of the Rowe School; through Shepherd, Dr. Carvalho got in touch with the third sponsor, the Bata family, whose international outlook and leadership works well with the program.
“Doing Business in Emerging Markets” consists of a marketing course available each winter and a 12-day trip abroad to end the term. Valerie Trifts, associate professor of marketing, helms the course, which combines students from all three of the Rowe School’s programs: the Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Management and Corporate Residency MBA.
Students from each program work closely together, explains Dr. Carvalho, “and the MBA students have a little bit of a mentor role to the undergrads.”
The students are assigned to one of four groups that each work with a specific company looking to expand into emerging international markets. “They work throughout the term directly with the CEOs of these companies, and do parallel research on the markets,” says Dr. Carvalho. The emerging market highlighted in the course will change each year; this term, the first cohort of students is researching China, and working with LED Roadway Lighting, Survival Systems, MedMira and Acadian Maple Products.
An immersive learning experience
After a term spent discovering the details of the Chinese market, the students will make the trip to China to immerse themselves in the environment they’ve been studying. The course will culminate in market-entry plans that each student group will present to its business partner.
“It’s completely hands-on,” says Dr. Carvalho. “They are working with real projects for real companies, which at the end will be used by those organizations.”
Another benefit of the program, he says, is the opportunity for the students to network: “From day one, they are put in touch with top executives, not just here in Canada but also in the country that they visit.”
With two international programs already underway, Dr. Carvalho has plans for more, including a course on social entrepreneurship that would see students visit developing nations to see firsthand their social venture work. “The motivation for this program is similar to the ‘Emerging Markets’ one,” says Dr. Carvalho: “for students to see that there is career potential in starting a social venture or working for one.”
Helping students to discover a potential career is important, says Dr. Carvalho. But the professor, who was born in Brazil, settled in Canada, and has traveled extensively himself, believes programs like these allow students to grow in other ways as well. “They’re having these complete experiences — cultural, business and so on,” he says. “It’s a very, very rich experience.”
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