MBA students create study abroad course in Croatia
By Whitney Critten | Student reporter
Four ambitious Quinlan MBA students created their own study abroad course using the Ignatian Pedagogy framework—a model for teaching and learning with emphasis on experience, reflection, and action—as a guide for their time abroad.
In June 2016, students Abby Annala, Magi Zlatkova, Emily Schroeder, and Amanda Schaumann and management professor Mike Welch spent 12 days in Croatia. There, they consulted with two major Croatian companies and provided market trend research, industry analysis, and information on the American consumer.
Professor Welch advised the students and worked with them to apply the Ignatian Pedagogy framework to their time in Croatia.
“I really admired how the students took ownership over the course and their learning,” said Welch. “They successfully used the Ignatian Pedagogy framework to maximize their time in Croatia and provide their client with an actionable business plan.”
The students also relied on the international connections and insight of information systems professor Nenad Jukić. A native of Croatia, Jukić introduced the group to one of their clients and helped them navigate Croatian culture and customs.
Gaining insights in Chicago
Classwork began well before the June trip. Months beforehand, the students began working with their first client, Kraš, a Croatian company specializing in chocolate. The students researched the company to determine its market share in Croatia, while also analyzing American market trends from the confectionery industry. The result was a SWOT analysis of potential U.S. distribution and operations.
“Our detailed SWOT analysis showed Kraš how serious we were, and it made them open to scheduling Skype meetings with us and sending additional documents to help us better serve them,” said Annala. Ultimately, the students chose to write a business plan for opening a Kraš retail storefront in Chicago.
For an additional perspective on retail operations in Chicago, the students visited World’s Finest Chocolate and toured its local manufacturing facilities. This was made possible thanks to Anthony Gargiulo (MS ’87), a Quinlan alumnus and vice president of human resources at World’s Finest Chocolate.
Hands-on experience in Croatia
Once in Croatia, the students met with representatives from Kraš and their second client, Stemi.
“During the company visit, we met with several members of the supervisory board of Kraš in the marketing, exports, and manufacturing departments,” said Schroeder. “The meetings were extraordinarily useful for us to gain a deeper understanding of the company and the cultural differences of operating a business in Croatia versus in the U.S.”
The students also visited several Kraš retail stores and toured its facilities, which came with the added perk of eating freshly made chocolate.
Their second client, Stemi, is a start-up company focused on educating women and children about STEM. Stemi requested insights on the American education market and consumer, as they are looking to market a build-your-own hexapod robot to American consumers.
The robot kit teaches STEM in a fun and interactive way, as it challenges the consumer to assemble its various parts. However, the students identified a major challenge for marketing the robot to American consumers: a 10-month wait to receive it.
Providing value to their clients
While in Croatia, the students provided Stemi with research on the U.S. education market. They also advised Stemi to shift its marketing focus from individual consumers to educational institutions, such as schools and libraries. These institutions are more likely to wait up to 10 months to receive the hexapod robot.
Following the trip, the students provided Kraš with an actionable business plan to help the organization bring retail operations to Chicago. The plan relied on knowledge gained pre-trip, their experiences during the trip, and group reflection.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished in Croatia and our deliverables for Kraš and Stemi,” said Zlatkova. “At times it was challenging for us to balance both full-time school and work, on top of creating a study abroad course from scratch, but in the end it was all worth it!”
An important part of the class—and of Ignatian Pedagogy—is reflection. After each meeting, the students created time for focused group reflection and discussion. This time enabled them to brainstorm ideas and work together to meet the expectations of their clients.
"Each of us on the trip came from a different field of study, which meant we all came away from each meeting with a different perspective,” said Schaumann. “Having the opportunity to reflect throughout the trip helped me to develop a broader business understanding."
Sharing the lessons learned
In August 2016, the students presented at the Focus on Teaching and Learning Conference, a Loyola conference on effective teaching and learning practices. They discussed their experiences and how this model can replicated by business students and others interested in international experiential learning.
The students all agree that creating their own study abroad course and spending 12 days in Croatia working with international clients were life-changing experiences for them, both individually and as a group.
“This has been a self-actualizing experience,” said Annala. "Our time in Croatia allowed me and my classmates to directly apply skills from the classroom to solve a real-world business problem for a company."