A group of students and faculty from UNC Pembroke got a rare view of two sides of Poland during their visit to Warsaw in May.
Left to right, Dr. Crandall, Amy Creamer, Obi Onwuzurike, Dr. Ziemnowicz, and Tracy Timmerman, relax in a park in downtown Warsaw.
Three business majors, accompanied by professors Dr. William ‘Rick’ Crandall and Dr. Christopher Ziemnowicz traveled to Poland during Maymester as part of a course in international business and sustainable develop- ment.
They saw Poland’s history at Warsaw museums as well as the modern Poland that is engaged in manufacturing and international commerce. In the days before they arrived, Poland’s history collided with modernity.
A plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and other top government and military officials crashed on the way to Russia to commemorate a World War II event.
“That plane crash was so ironic because the Polish delegation was going to Russia to commemorate the Katyn massacre, when the Russian military slaughtered thousands of military and intellectual elites during WW II,” Dr. Crandall said. “I did ask a number of people to weigh in on the situation.
“The consensus is that Poles like their freedom now, but still think a lot of the elected officials are just so-so in terms of effectiveness,” he continued. “Oddly, one of the front runners for the next election is the twin brother of the president who died in the plane crash.”
For the students - Obi Onwuzurike,a business management and marketing major from Raleigh, N.C., Amy Creamer, a business administration and management major from Greensboro, N.C., and Tracy Timmerman, a business administration major from Versailles, Ohio, it was a unique opportunity to study international business.
The course requirements included:
- attending the Responsible Business Forum Academy 2010 Conference, a meeting that discusses the merits of corporate social responsibility;
- participating in service and marketing projects with two local businesses. One business was an upscale bakery retail chain, the Blikle Company, which has existed since before World War I. The other was the Impact Company, which makes an all-electric car and - batteries for other vehicles; and
- visiting museums, cultural attractions and local businesses to learn the history of Warsaw since World War II.
Creamer said her trip to Poland was a revelation.
“Visiting the Warsaw Uprising Museum was my favorite activity,” she said. “The museum explained the history of the area in grave detail and made us understand what the Polish people had gone through during World War II.
Dr. Crandall and Onwuzurike check out Impacts’ new electric vehicle aptly named Re-Volt.
“Upon entering the museum, I had no idea what I was going to see and learn about,” she continued. “Knowing the history really made me look at the city in a different way. It is still hard to believe Poland has only been free of communism for 21 years.”
The group also visited the storied National Theatre Opera House and soaked up some contemporary culture.
“We got a chance to try a variety of food such as one of Poland’s most famous dish called perogi,” Onwuzurikesaid.
They also attended a conference, where both Drs. Crandall and Ziemnowicz gave lectures on corporate social responsibility.
“It was great to see how the other students responded to the lectures,” Timmerman said. “It was also an interesting experience to listen to a debate with the help of a translator.
“I believe it is always rewarding to learn the view points of many different individuals,” she concluded.
The heart of the trip was presentations to two Polish companies. At Blikle Bakery, they presented ideas for their Web site and ways to increase sales and retain customers.
The Impact Company had just launched its newest electric powered car, the Re-Volt.
Left to right, Tracy Timmerman, Obi Onwuzurike, and Amy Creamer pause a moment after their presentation to the Blikle Company on how to upgrade their company Web site.
“We helped Impact by thinking about possible market strategy if they were to release the product in the U.S.,” Onwuzurikesaid. “We presented market strategies if they were to release the product in the U.S.”
Timmerman said the meeting with Blikle’s top executives was interesting.
“We were able to meet with the president of the company and the marketing team to discuss their current Web site,” she said. “We became familiar with the objectives for their site and presented our ideas on how to improve the site.”
Creamer said the challenges of doing business internationally are daunting.
“Working with the two international companies opened my eyes to all the challenges that occur when doing international business,” she said. “One must understand the culture and how business is performed within that country.
“Having this knowledge helped us know what was appropriate to say and how we should present our information,” she continued. “The international business aspect of the trip was one of the most educational experiences we had in Poland.”
The experience gave Dr. Crandall a different perspective on teaching and learning.
“This is my second summer in Poland, and I am learning a lot from Dr. Ziemnowicz, who is a native of Poland and still has an apartment in Warsaw,” Dr. Crandall said. “The most stunning thing for me is the gory details of the Warsaw and Jewish uprising during the German occupation. It is one of the saddest stories ever, as thousands upon thousands were slaughtered, and most of them were civilians.”
The international business experience will continue next year with more students, Dr. Crandall said.
“Perhaps, we will make it a regular academic trip from now on,” he said.” The country offers a nice mix of history and economic reforms that have been going along surprisingly well.”