Clark Teaching with the USAC: Havana, Cuba
For three weeks in January 2017, Tim Clark, associate professor of management, taught a course in Havana, Cuba to students from universities across the U.S. In addition to providing students the opportunity to visit the country in the midst of rapid change, the trip equipped students with invaluable experiences and insights for college and beyond.
“All societies depend upon their business communities to do a tremendous amount of things, like employment, infrastructure, and development. In communist Cuba, the contrast to what we’re used to in the capitalist U.S. could not be more profound,” explained Clark.
“Until about six years ago, all commerce in Cuba was controlled by the government,” Clark continued. “Slowly but surely small businesses are opening up, which makes seeing the relationship between business and society there a unique experience.”
Over the course of the three weeks, Clark and his students, one of whom hails from NAU, spent time touring points of interest, learning about the country’s history, and immersing themselves in Cuban culture. However, the trip was not a vacation. To receive three credit hours in this upper division elective, students were required to complete an extensive research project about an industry in Cuba relevant to their own career interests.
“Over three study abroad trips (previously in Spain and in India), I’ve refined this project to stir insights most valuable to each student’s career plans,” explained Clark, who has since implemented this assignment into his semester-long classes at NAU. “Students deserved three credit hours for this trip because of the amount of time they spent thinking and researching their topic … even when they were wandering around Havana, observations and analysis of their industry were always on their minds.”
Since the students in the course were from a variety of majors, their project topics varied significantly.
“One student, interested in international finance, decided to study banking,” explained Clark. “In Cuba, most people don’t have bank accounts; everything is paid for in cash … this presents a lot of challenges for the government to collect taxes from its people and businesses, and is a really interesting aspect of Cuban society to study.”
“Duncan Webb, an FCB marketing major, studied how small businesses market their products and services since there is no commercial advertising in Cuba … radio, television, and newspapers are controlled by the government,” continued Clark. “This is sure to enrich his thinking about marketing no matter how his career evolves.”
“I want to travel with my job in the marketing field, and learn about new cultures and how to market to them,” explained Webb, who has also studied abroad in the Netherlands. “This project helped my experience and understanding of Cuban culture, and I think it will help with interviewers and marketing agencies to see that I have international experience.”
Other students’ research topics included Cuba’s system of education with a focus on how much it must evolve in order to support the inevitable transitions the country must undertake. Other students studied Cuba’s small businesses, including those in the health and fitness industry. Shortly before concluding their trip, the students presented their findings in their open-air classroom.
The program and Clark’s teaching is organized through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), NAU being one of 40 affiliated universities. USAC has provided U.S. students with quality study abroad programs for thirty years, and employs professors such as Clark to ensure courses are both rigorous and transferred properly by home universities.
“This was the third study abroad trip I did for USAC, and in terms of education for students it was the best yet,” explained Clark. “These students will never forget what they learned from their experiences, and in the future, the insight they gained from this trip might spark excellent answers to interview questions, providing a boost for them into their careers.”
In January 2018, Clark plans to teach a USAC course in Costa Rica. He encourages students to take advantage of any study abroad opportunity they can. Formats can span entire semesters, summers, or just winter breaks, and many financial aid packages are available.
Categories: spring 2017 2017 tim clark university studies abroad constortium duncan webb study abroad usac havana, cuba teaching with the usac global spotlight global faculty spotlight