A global immersion trip to the Republic of Benin in Africa presented an in-depth, interdisciplinary learning opportunity for seven students from the College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. During the spring break trip, students leveraged their different perspectives and ideas to present two production and management projects at the University of Abomey–Calavi in Cotonou, Benin.
This program, one of 20 global immersion program options offered by the College of Business, enabled students to create marketing plans for Benin’s cash crop exports and help improve agricultural technology in West Africa. One of their presentations focused on design ideas for a solar-powered irrigation pivot. They heard feedback from students and professors at the University of Abomey–Calavi, enabling the group to consider how their solutions would work in real-world environments. Seeing successful businesses and solutions up-close like Songhai Farm, a site the group visited that focuses on respect for nature by producing zero waste and managing sustainable growth, help the students envision their own ideas and whether they would work.
“The students might have their own ideas about what will work, but after they get to Benin and actually visit working farms and experience a new culture and meet new people, they find out whether there is any appetite for the solutions we are offering,” said Dr. Kalu Osiri, director of international business and associate professor of practice in management. He facilitated the project and accompanied the Nebraska students to Benin.
Osiri noted the main goal of Nebraska Business global immersion programs is to develop cross-cultural competency and understanding. Students have the opportunity to develop empathy and understanding when they listen to others outside of their perspective.
“I chose to go to Benin because my best friend is from that country. I don’t think I would have a chance like this otherwise, to go so deep into the local culture,” said Wenjun Ma, senior marketing major from Nantong, China. His favorite part of the trip was touring a pineapple juice production business because he could see a successful example of agriculture, business and environmental responsibility. “The country is developing but is also full of opportunities.”
Another global immersion group of students will travel to Benin over winter break 2018 to pick up where this team left off and build on the ideas they presented. To find out more about the trip, go to https://business.unl.edu/studyabroad
The students who participated in the Benin spring break program include:
Alexa Davis,senior environmental restoration science and water science major
: Tian Gao, senior marketing major; Charles Krueger, senior mechanical engineering major; and Zvonimir Pusnik, senior mechanical engineering major
Wenjun Ma, senior marketing major
Tingting Zhou, sophomore accounting major
Sungai Buloh, Malaysia
: Khee Low, senior mechanical engineering major