Why hadn’t I done this before?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I just returned from the most intensely educational and interesting trip I have ever been on. 

Last week, I had the good fortune of accompanying 27 of our talented undergraduate students and their incredible instructor Steve Spruth as they learned valuable lessons on entrepreneurism in one of the least likely locations, Cuba. 

Undergraduate Students Holding Carlson School Flag in Cuba

While the conditions for starting small businesses remain immensely difficult - highly restrictive property rights, no concept of limited liability, little funding for the self employed other than through foreign remittances, weak, expensive wifi that has only been around for a few months, the spirit of entrepreneurism is alive and well and the persistence and resilience of the small business owners we met in the face of what seem insurmountable odds was truly inspiring. 

Sri Zaheer with the Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana and the Vice Dean of International Relations

I also had an opportunity to meet with the Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Havana and the Vice Dean of International Relations, while our students got to meet their students. We talked of the possibility of collaboration should conditions open up after President Obama's visit. Their students were as interested in learning about our educational system as our students were of theirs. 

For me, the joy of traveling with our students, getting to know them on a deeper level and all of us  processing together what we had observed and learned, was the best takeaway from the trip. And there were so many takeaways! 

I am kicking myself that I haven't done this before. Spending quality time with our students and witnessing firsthand how these opportunities shape a global mindset have strengthened my resolve to fund more scholarships for international education opportunities. 

Sunset & Cityscape of Havana, Cuba

And while I knew the Carlson Global Institute was one of the school’s greatest assets, I’m not sure I fully appreciated all that they do until this trip. From arranging fascinating speakers to scheduling visits that brought classroom learning to life, they created an experience that even a scholar of international business found life-changing.