by Scott Dellana*
When people in the United States think of Italy, most likely the first things that come to mind are outstanding historical sites and great food. However, Italy is clearly much more. Among its many positive attributes, Italy has a strong tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation that continues today. The East Carolina University (ECU), an institution of higher education in the United States where I serve on the faculty, seeks to build cultural awareness and business knowledge in its College of Business students. Entrepreneurship and innovation are key aspects of ECU’s educational mission. That is why ECU sought an Italian partner who could help its business students realize the educational mission of the college in a place that also helps to build cultural intelligence.
ECU has been very fortunate to find such a partner in Fondazione CUOA (Centro Universitario di Organizzazione Aziendale), located in the charming town of Altavilla Vicentina (VI). This year CUOA personnel, led by international projects leader Paolo Bellamoli, were instrumental in delivering another outstanding program for a group of our ECU business students. The first program was in the summer of 2013 when CUOA hosted 25 ECU students for two weeks. In May-June of 2016, CUOA hosted 33 ECU business students for five weeks in Italy through a program of applied study and travel organized jointly by ECU and CUOA. These included students at both the undergraduate and MBA levels.
The structure of the 2016 five week program was a new and unique approach for both CUOA and ECU. Students completed one or two online classes while in Italy and also attended various sessions every Monday through Thursday. These included study periods, presentations, workshops, and exam proctoring in one or more rooms of CUOA’s beautiful historic villa as well as business tours in the region. On the weekends students visited various cities for the purpose of cultural enrichment.
One day a week was dedicated to CUOA-sponsored activities that related to doing business in Italy. Typically the morning was used to deliver a high quality workshop with an engaging speaker, while a visit to a regional business took place in the afternoon. The workshop speakers were well-chosen and gave presentations on highly relevant topics that included Intercultural Management, the Italian Social and Economic System, Corporate Social Responsibility, Change in the Italian Economy, and Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation. The afternoon facility tours gave a broad view of regional business. The Italian tradition of hand-crafting was exemplified in the fine jewelry of Marco Bicego and the historic grappa distillation techniques of Poli Distillerie. The high fashion design processes of Giorgio Armani were intriguing, consisting of highly modern processes mixed with intense human attention to detail. Ducati, the motorcycle manufacturer, and amusement ride manufacturer Zamperla, demonstrated marketing concepts and manufacturing processes for two very different industries that shared the common goal of defining the cutting edge in their respective fields.
On the three-day weekends students were given the option to travel with the group or to choose their own arrangements. The first optional trip, which was attended by about 20 students, included a visit to Verona, Lago di Garda and wine tasting in Valpolicella. This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in the five week session. A highlight of the experience was the visit to the Villa Mosconi Bertani for an exquisite lunch involving a wine tasting. Students were given the second weekend free to arrange their own travel. Many students traveled throughout Europe, including locations such as Athens and Amsterdam. The third weekend was a four-day stay in Rome in a hotel located very close to the coliseum. It goes without saying that all of the students took time to see Rome and to visit the major historical sites. The expanse of western history and its awe-inspiring influence on our current cultures was clearly felt by all who shared time in the eternal city. The fourth weekend in Florence was enjoyed by almost 30 students, where they were treated to a guided tour through the historic town (Piazza della Signoria and Ponte Vecchio) ending at the scenic overlook at the Piazzale Michelangelo. Many also enjoyed additional cultural sites and museums during the weekend. The final weekend allowed a single day visit in Milan before returning to the USA. There was plenty of time to experience shopping at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and to make a breath-taking visit of the incredible Cathedral.
The Welcome and Farewell Dinners were incredibly special times for all; a joy-filled beginning with great expectations and a satisfying conclusion with hugs among friends. The unanimous conclusion was that the food at these events was unparalleled. Expectations of outstanding historic sites and great food in Italy were fulfilled on this trip. Moreover, the added enriching cultural experiences and new learning our students gained during this short five weeks abroad will endure in their hearts and minds for a lifetime.
*PhD Professor and Interim Chair East Carolina University, College of Business
More information about CUOA Business School International Projects: www.cuoa.it/eng