July 26, 2014  

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Panama Serves as Classroom in Business, Culture for Study Abroad Students

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From left, University of Southern Mississippi business students Nicole Nettles of Ocean Springs, Jadon Johnson of Gulfport and Blair Thornton of Amory are shown here during their visit to the Port of Balboa, the second largest port in Latin America, while on a 10-day study abroad program in Panama.

This past summer, University of Southern Mississippi students took part in a unique study abroad experience, spending 10 days in Panama, a country rich in culture and economic growth.

The program, open to all Southern Miss students, most recently included undergraduate and graduate students in degree programs for business administration, professional accountancy, economic development and logistics, trade and transportation.

“The study abroad program in Panama features the most marketing and business expertise available to students in one place at a given time,” said Dr. Tulio Sulbaran, the program’s director. “Students are seeing up close how Panama affects world trade. Additionally, with the expansion of the Panama Canal, students are learning how the shipping industry directly affects the ports right here at home in Mississippi.”

During their visit to Panama, students met with local executives, immersed themselves in Panamanian culture and explored the local rainforests, which have been integrated into Panama’s business environment. Each day, students visited businesses and organizations in various industries where executives conducted interactive presentations.

Jadon Johnson of Gulfport, an MBA student who took part in the study abroad program in Panama, said the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and liked earning credit for two elective courses.

“I learned the significance of the Panama Canal and how it provides shipments of goods from North to South America,” said Johnson. “I also learned how the business culture compared between the U.S. and Panama. This trip actually helped me decide to put my focus on international business, leading me to the economic development sector.

“From a business standpoint, I think the U.S. has much to offer other countries, but we also could learn from other countries as well, especially Panama.”

In addition to a tour of the Panama Canal expansion, industry presentations included those from Procter and Gamble, Copa Airlines, the Panama Port Company and Superintendencia de Bancos. A visit to the Port of Balboa gave the students the opportunity to learn about the logistical process of transporting containers as well as the importance of continual improvements in process efficiencies, logistics, management and port operations.

“Our business students gain an understanding of world trade and the important connections between Panama and the Gulf South region” said Dr. Elizabeth LaFleur, associate dean and MBA director for the College of Business. “These immersion experiences prepare our MBA, professional accountancy and international business students for employment opportunities in global firms and enhance their value in the market as graduates of Southern Miss.”

While the study abroad trip lasts 10 days, upon returning home students are assigned reports comparing the differences and similarities of businesses in the U.S. and in Panama.

“With Panama’s effects on world trade, our study abroad students gain a better understanding of how consumers experience products produced far from home,” said Sulbaran.

Registration for the 2013 study abroad program in Panama is currently open; however, the number of participants is limited. For more information about the Panama Study Abroad program, contact Dr. Tulio Sulbaran at 601.266.6419 or email tulio.sulbaran@usm.edu.