College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Cultivating International Business Connections


by Sarah Small

Last Tuesday night (9/14/10), a group of new friends gathered in the atrium of the Business Instructional Facility for a celebratory dinner. Six students and two professors from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil were honored at a dinner hosted by the College of Business and the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies and attended by a larger group of students and faculty from ILLINOIS. Together, the group met to enjoy each others’ company and to celebrate a growing partnership developing between ILLINOIS and the University of Sao Paulo.

In May, 18 James Scholar students from the College of Business, accompanied by Dean Collette Niland and Professor Terry McCoy, an affiliated scholar from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Lemann Institute, spent two weeks in Brazil. On the trip the students visited local companies, learned about the economy of Brazil and participated in a case competition with 18 students from the University of Sao Paulo. This trip marked the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between the College of Business and the University of Sao Paulo.

“We are very happy to be here; we will continue this,” said Graziella Maria Comini, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo. “It’s a good start to begin this partnership; it has been a great partnership.”

At the dinner, Dean John Hedeman, Professor Werner Baer of the economics department, McCoy and Professor Andy Orta, director of the Center for Latin and Caribbean Studies all emphasized the already-strong connection between ILLINOIS and Brazil and the importance that the connection develops and endures.

“There’s a big connection between the University of Illinois and Brazil,” McCoy said. “One great partnership is with the University of Sao Paulo, it’s one of the great universities in the world; we have a great connection with Sao Paolo, here.”

When the ILLINOIS students visited Brazil, they were partnered with 18 students from the University of Sao Paulo; the students divided into nine teams of four students with two American students and two Brazilian students on each team. The case focused on AmBev, which is the largest beverage distribution company in Brazil and a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch. All the teams presented to executives from AmBev in Brazil.

This week, the students visiting from Brazil spent time in Chicago, Champaign, Peoria for a visit to Caterpillar and St. Louis during their week-long visit, and on Thursday, the three winning teams presented their case solutions to executives at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis

“Presenting will be fun, especially because we’re presenting in a different country,” said Giulia Angeluccia, a second year student from the University of Sao Paulo. “It will be really fun to present to a different culture and get different feedback. It will be interesting to see what the different cultures comment on.”

One of the most important experiences from the trip to Brazil was cooperating with the students from Sao Paulo during the case competition, said John Kinsella, a sophomore in Accounting & Finance. By participating in the case competition, he said he learned how to collaborate ideas with people from different cultures in a business setting. He believes the skills he learned in this case competition will help him now and in his future career.

“The program was really important because we brought our students together to work; to really learn, to study together and to present,” said Comini. “It’s really important because it prepares them to do this in real life.”

Sarah Jeep, a junior studying Marketing and Management, said that, although the students from the two universities approached the case with different perspectives and priorities, what stood out from the experience were the similarities, not differences, between the two groups of students.

“At some point there were difficulties,” Jeep said. “We have our own way of doing things in America, but at the end of the day, we’re all students. It’s funny to see how many similarities we had. We all wanted to work hard and do well.”

UIUC College of Business