Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA students tour European businesses in new study-abroad program

September 9, 2008 - Office of Public Affairs
Business students from Stephen F. Austin State University recently traveled to Germany, France and Switzerland to study European business practices. Above, the group is pictured outside Ludwigsburg Palace in Germany, one of several historical sites the students also visited on their tour.

NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - Sixteen Stephen F. Austin State University business students recently had the opportunity to visit several European companies where they learned first hand about doing business in the European Union.

From the factory floor of Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart, Germany, to presentations from executives at Novartis Pharmaceutical's world headquarters in Basil, Switzerland, students were able to ask questions and learn from business professionals about the differences between European and U.S. business practices. The trip, organized by SFA general business lecturer Marcus Cox, highlighted business principles students studied in Cox's course.

"The travel courses are a valuable complement to a student's traditional course work in business theory and practice," said Dr. Debbie DuFrene, chair of SFA's Department of General Business. "The business environment is increasingly global, and graduates with an understanding of international business have a definite advantage for employment and advancement opportunities."

During the trip to Germany, France and Switzerland, SFA students had the opportunity to tour the Deutsche Börse (German Stock Exchange) in Frankfurt and receive a lecture at the Deutsche Bundesbank on the primary role of the German Central Bank. Another highlight of the trip was touring the Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart, which included an hour-long tour of the production floor where the class received information on inventory management, quality control and operations management.

"I began to develop the idea for this course after assisting Dr. Keaton Grubbs with a study-abroad course last year focusing on international business law," Cox said. "I saw that we had an amazing opportunity to take SFA students to some of the top business sites in Europe. It's impossible for us to get Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, to come to Nacogdoches, but we can take our students to them.

"I was amazed at their commitment to quality," remarked Cox. "They showed us several methods for ensuring that the products they produce are of the highest standard. Throughout the entire production line, every worker had a responsibility to stop the line or pull defective products if the slightest flaw was detected. It was easy to see why the Mercedes brand is so closely associated with quality."

Before leaving for Europe, students learned in class about the evolution of the European Union and its impact on the business community, as well as many current topics dealing with the European business environment. "The classroom lectures provided a foundation of knowledge so that students were able to ask insightful questions during the business tours," Cox added. "Our goal with these study-abroad programs is to make the class material come to life for the students."

Other venues that the students toured included chemical giant BASF, Frankfurt Airport, the European Commission, Kronenbourg Brewery, Jean Gilier winery, the Swiss Banking Association, Mt. Titlis resort and the Eichhof Brewery.

In addition to the business visits, students were able to experience some of the cultural and historic aspects of Europe by taking a cruise along the Rhine River, touring Germany's largest baroque palace at Ludwigsburg, exploring a restored castle in the Alsace region of France, and visiting the gothic cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg, France.

"Each year the Rusche College of Business puts together an exciting educational trip for our upper-level students," said Dr. Violet Rogers, dean. "We are in the process of developing new themes for future trips."

If you have an interest in supporting the program or have business contacts in other parts of the world, please e-mail Marcus Cox at mcox@sfasu.edu.