Students learn about business in the Dominican Republic

Monday, February 4, 2019
Group of students in front of building in the Dominican Republic

Students in the Perspectives on the Business Environment in the Dominican Republic course. Courtesy Photo

Oftentimes when you think of international business and marketing, Europe or Asia come to mind. However, there are other regions of the world with their own unique business challenges. Take for instance, Central America. That’s where students in Audrey Ashton-Savage’s January Term (J-Term) international marketing class were able to go.

In today’s world, global and cultural knowledge has become increasingly more critical for success in the business field. Ashton-Savage, principal lecturer in marketing, made it her mission to provide a short-term, study-abroad class to college students at UNH to better prepare them for their lives in the business world. “Everybody’s global these days,” she says. “If you have a website, you’re global by definition.”

Ashton-Savage’s goal centered on creating a class. MKTG 598/798: Perspectives on the Business Environment in the Dominican Republic allows a group of up to 16 students to travel to the Dominican Republic for 13 days and experience the way a different part of the world handles business affairs.

“When they’re doing business globally, they need to adapt to the local protocol of local business customs,” says Ashton-Savage, which is a major part of the class trip to the Dominican Republic.

In order to take Ashton-Savage’s four-credit class, students must first take a prerequisite course to have a base in marketing and be eligible through the university for study abroad. The significance of this course is that it gives the students a shorter study-abroad experience where they can get a taste of the international world as not all students are able to dedicate an entire semester to studying abroad. This snippet, as Ashton-Savage calls it, still immerses the students into a new culture even if it’s for a shorter period of time.

Prior to the J-Term trip, the students attended two classes and gave a presentation on an aspect of the Dominican culture. This helped other students in the class learn what to expect when they’re abroad. During the trip, days consisted of tours of the Dominican layout, which included a trip through the colonial zone where Christopher Columbus was based, a trip to a cacao factory where students saw the start-to-finish process of making chocolate, a trip to a baseball game during the Dominican World Series and several trips to Juan Dolio, a beautiful Caribbean beach only 45 minutes from the students' hotel.

“Everybody’s global these days ... If you have a website, you’re global by definition.”

The students also got to hear several guest speakers, including the vice president of one of the largest commercial banks in the Dominican, Banco Popular, a trader on the Dominican stock exchange and a very successful industrial engineer who designs commercial kitchens and other infrastructure for big resorts including the Marriott hotel where the students stayed. These guest speakers talked about their business experiences with the students. The students also had a farewell dinner with the guest speakers to be able to engage with them one on one. When the students returned from the trip, they had a final class where they presented the research projects they completed while abroad.

This course became a highlight on former students’ resumes as  an eye-catching experience that large companies have already shown substantial interest in. Students who have taken the course said they believe the experience differentiates them from other job candidates and makes them memorable to employers.

“Overall it was a fantastic course and I learned a ton. I think the most valuable thing I got from it was just learning about and experiencing another culture, as I had never been out of the country before other than a two-hour trip in Canada,” says Paul College student Katelyn Frechette ’19, who took the class in J-Term 2018. Frechette adds the course showed here "how different business can be outside of the U.S."

When asked what her students take away from the course, Ashton-Savage says there is one part that always surprises her. “There are finance majors who go, management majors and accounting majors, so there’s this fairly diverse group of 10, 12, sometimes 16 students who meet, and by the time we come home, they are bonded. And they are meeting once a month to talk as a group. They really network and bond with their own classmates in a different way in this class,” she says. “They learn a lot — not just business-wise but about the world in general.”