Pett continues by explaining how the Aquitaine region is home to several different sectors of business from agriculture and forestry to high tech. “We want our students to become global leaders, and understanding cultural difference is the foundation for that.”
First up was Bordeaux. “To really understand the business aspect of the city,” says Tori Jenkins ’19, “we needed to understand the culture first.” And the culture here is all about wine. “It’s part of the everyday life and seen not only as a prosperous business but an art form.”
That sense of discovery and surprise continued as the group headed south to Pau, a city along the edge of the Pyrenees mountains. Exploring the castle of Henry IV, who is credited with unifying France, gave the students an up-close look at the role of king and church and how this foundation is still very much alive in France’s culture.
“Innovation is not a universal value,” says Amanda Piter ’19. “In this part of France, instead of priding themselves on constantly evolving and building the next great thing, the emphasis is placed on tradition and creating something that lasts a lifetime. In business this translates to employees who spend an entire career with one company and entrepreneurs who have a sense of shame for selling their startup.”
Here the students spoke with horse trainers and other business leaders, discovering that issues of employees, labor laws, and taxes are just as prevalent in France as in the United States, pointing to one of Pett’s most important takeaways: “While there are important cultural differences to learn and stereotypes to break through, there is much that we have in common.”
“Things seem slower and more deliberate in Aquitiane,” says Pett. “Art and culture play a larger role and are more intertwined in society than in the States. There’s not a Publix on every corner. But the people here are driven just as we are: for friends, for family success, for societal prosperity.”
“It is one thing to learn how to become a global citizen in a classroom; it is another to experience another culture firsthand,” says Piter. “I will carry the lessons I learned and the relationships I made in France with me for the rest of my life.”
The historic sheet flow of water across southern Florida created the Everglades, an ecosystem found nowhere else in the world. This field study was part of a class that focused on the entirety of this unique region, from just south of Orlando all the way to the southernmost tip of the state. Despite many of the students being from the Sunshine State, several had never traveled to the Everglades.
Leslie Poole, assistant professor of environmental studies and Florida environmental historian, explains how human manipulation in the 20th century reconfigured this massive system, creating serious problems that Americans have now pledged more than $8 billion to “fix.” One of those problems is the human-made flood-control structures that have damaged the natural systems of water flow.