Immersion is often the best way to learn. In July 2004, a new international immersion course gave Executive MBA students a chance to dive head first into understanding the European Union (EU). Students spent a week in Brussels and Luxembourg exploring political, economic and business aspects of U.S. relations with the EU. They came away with a newfound appreciation for the intricacies of doing business in Europe, including the mutual misconceptions that sometimes hinder trans-Atlantic partnerships.
One of the program’s goals was to increase awareness of cultural differences, says finance professor Edward Trubac, who organized the trip along with Associate Dean Leo Burke (’70) and EMBA Director Barry Van Dyck (EMBA ’86). “The idea that one has to be sensitive to the culture of the person you’re dealing with made an impression on the students,” says Trubac. “To use the language that we learned—we’ve got to move from being ethnocentric to ethnorelative.”
It’s a lesson worth taking home, as the EU now encompasses 25 member states and 450 million people. Since introducing a unified currency in 1999, the EU has made major strides towards forging a single market and a stronger political voice for Europe. This evolving, dynamic economic union accounts for around one fifth of the United States’ bilateral trade, nearly $1 billion a day.
Program sessions covered topics from the EU’s growth to competitive policy, lobbying and capital formation in Europe. Panels featured top-level executives as well as scholars, diplomats, journalists and representatives of the European Commission. “As time progressed, our students began to appreciate the complexity of the EU,” Trubac says. They also learned that the alliance affords many opportunities to create wealth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
One of the most meaningful moments came when participants toured German and American graves at a World War II cemetery in Luxembourg. The stop explained the EU’s origins as a supranational body, created in the 1950s to prevent any future wars between member countries. Says Burke, “the emotional and visceral impact of seeing acre after acre of white marble crosses...brings home in a very vivid way why what is often criticized as a bureaucracy in Brussels has got to work.”
Plans to repeat the European experience are already underway. The upcoming July 2005 trip is required for students in the South Bend EMBA program. Chicago EMBA alumni can also attend upon completion of their studies. In addition, experts on the European Union now come to campus to teach intensive courses for undergraduates and MBA students.
EU Connections on Campus
For junior Kiki Stastny, learning about the European Union is more than an academic exercise. Just last summer, her father, Peter Stastny, a former United States hockey star, was elected to represent his homeland Slovakia in the European Parliament, a political body which helps set policy for the European Union. Helping Kiki and other Notre Dame undergraduates navigate the complexity of the European Union and its trade relationship with the United States is Professor Jerome Sheridan (’83), who came to campus in June 2004 to teach an intensive seminar on the European Union. An economist, Sheridan has spent the last 13 years living in Brussels and teaching college students about the European Union.