BY CHRISTIAN POLIDORO AND KELSEY SKIC
Last April, LeBow College of Business Executive MBA students and alumni traveled on an international residency to Havana and Cienfuegos, Cuba. Improved relations between Cuba and the United States permitted faculty and staff to offer this rare educational experience. During the trip, students and alumni experienced international business first-hand through academic and cultural activities.
The international business course and residency are a required component of the Executive MBA curriculum. Before the international residency, students engage in a 9-week course consisting of an academic study of economic trends, current and historical events, and the international business setting of the areas they will visit.
While students in this program travel annually, the 2017 Executive MBA international residency was the first time a large number of alumni – 10 in total – joined the students. Patrick McGonigal ’86, who has traveled with past cohorts, shared his thoughts about this trip: “The Cuba 2017 trip was a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience for all, made even more meaningful because of the wonderful bond between the alumni and students. Having traveled previously with Executive MBA students to Peru in 2015, I would say that the larger group enhanced the experience for everyone.”
Drexel LeBow leveraged existing partnerships and connections to acquire academic visits in Cuba. Thanks to connections through the College’s Institute for Strategic Leadership, the group met with staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana to learn more about government and economic relations between the two countries. Executives at American Airlines discussed the process of establishing a corporate headquarters in Cuba. LeBow’s Executive MBA students joined Cuban business students from the University of Cienfuegos for a joint lecture and networking session, enhancing the existing partnership between the University and Drexel’s Office of International Programs.
The group also enjoyed noteworthy cultural and historical landmarks during their time abroad. In Viñales, a rural town outside of Havana, they learned traditional agricultural methods and how tobacco is rolled into cigars. Students and alumni visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana and toured its collections with a curator. On the drive to Cienfuegos, students stood on the Bay of Pigs beach, the site of a failed CIA-sponsored invasion. These cultural experiences allowed students and alumni to connect more deeply with a country that remains mysterious for many Americans.
The 2017 Executive MBA international residency to Cuba exemplifies successful international business education. This 10-day trip expanded LeBow’s international portfolio, strengthened strategic university partnerships, and engaged alumni and students to provide a unique experiential learning opportunity to all involved.