2017 Cohort International Expedition

Opportunities to experience business on a global scale remains a critical part of the student experience for undergraduate and graduate students at Fisher. Madeline Furash, a fourth-year student and member of Fisher’s Honors Cohort program, shared a recap of the program’s recent International Expedition to Brazil.

The Cohort’s International Expedition took 25 students from the bustling business center of São Paulo to the historic beachfront city of Rio de Janeiro. Throughout this experience, we met with both American and Brazilian multinational enterprises across a wide range of industries, from government and nonprofit organizations to raw material sourcing (mining, oil, and gas). In addition to business exploration, we experienced Brazilian culture through visits to iconic tourist attractions, such as Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain, as well as local sights, such as Ibirapuera Park and the Vila Madalena neighborhood.

A key objective of the expedition was to widen our perspectives. Many representatives of companies were open to our questions and adapted their presentations to our interests. Representatives from Vale, the largest producer of iron ore in the world, spoke in-depth about mining processes and its business implications. This meeting introduced us to the unfamiliar industry of mining and provided insight on the operations of a Brazilian-based company.

2017 Honors Cohort International Expedition

In contrast, a meeting with the British-Dutch multinational company Shell discussed the various challenges they face adapting to Brazil’s diverse culture and dynamic economic landscape. Despite the differences in organizations, the meetings had common themes: political and educational differences between Brazil and the United States, the current economic recession in Brazil, and the unique dynamics of business in a developing country.

Perhaps the most popular meeting took place with a local nonprofit, Business Professional Women. We heard from a panel of three individuals: Sonal Gupta, a fourth-year student at Fisher and founder of Women with Will; Ty Shepfer, senior lecturer at Fisher and program coordinator for the Honors Cohort; and Marianna Depereon, who represented ONU Mulheres, a Brazilian nonprofit focused on building a community of business women.

The enlightening conversation unveiled similarities between issues faced by men and women in both the United States and Brazil. Erin Halleran, a member of the Honors Cohort, now in its 20th year, said “it was fascinating to see such commonalities across countries. If the problems span borders, it is likely the solutions could too.”

As globalization continues to connect different corners of the world, it was encouraging to see cross-continental panels of business professionals come together to offer advice and collaborate on the same issues.

Another popular meeting took place at the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration with the Consul General, James Story. Describing his work experience related to U.S. foreign affairs, he said it was “the best job for someone who does not like a stable job.” He also spoke about the importance of understanding Brazilian culture, the promotion of U.S. trade, and the challenges around foreign diplomacy. We left this meeting filled with curiosity and contemplation around a potential career in foreign service with the Department of State.

The primary goal of the International Expedition was two-fold: increased awareness of the impact that politics, culture and history have on the economy of Brazil; and an increased understanding of the economic opportunities and challenges faced by a major emerging economy. Prior to departure, we were asked to list their objectives of the trip.

Cohort student Meredith Rintoul strived to “be challenged and to think in a way [she] never has before.” Tom Mariniello wanted “to better understand the Brazilian perspective on global issues and expand [his] perspective of global business.”

As cohort students, we were advised by program director Ty Shepfer to “have the mindset of trying to extract the most value from this trip as possible.”