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Students Get First-Hand Experience in International Marketing

For some college students, spring break means a week of soaking up the sun on a sandy beach, with all thoughts of classes, studying, and final exams banished from their minds. For a group of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) business students, sun and sand were part of their spring break landscape, but business was definitely on their minds.

Fifteen students in the D490 Special Study in International Business class and three faculty members spent 13 days on a study tour of Morocco. They returned with transformed perspectives and a mass of market research data for their two northeast Indiana client companies, Annie Oakley Perfumery of Ligonier and OFabz Swimwear of Churubusco.

The students spent the first days of the trip working with Moroccan marketing research students at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI). They tested and refined surveys and focus group plans that were used to collect data in Casablanca later in the trip. In addition to hearing lectures by experts in Moroccan economics and commercial law, the students enjoyed traditional Moroccan cuisine and were welcomed by “haydouss,” a musical performance by men moving shoulder to shoulder to the rhythm of a bendir or frame drum. Other highlights of the group’s trip to the Middle Atlas Mountains were visits to the monkeys of Azrou, the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis; the village of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun where King Moulay Idriss I arrived in 789, bringing with him the religion of Islam; and to the English Highway School in Meknes.

Assisted by their IPFW instructor Ahmed Rachdi, AUI instructors Abdelhamid Benanni and Samir Aguenaou, and IPFW faculty members Kathy Pollock and Myeong Hwan Kim, students surveyed Moroccan consumers outside the gigantic, aquarium-equipped state-of-the-art Morocco Mall in Casablanca. The group was also welcomed by Procter and Gamble, Coca Cola, the Regional Moroccan Investment Center, and the American Chamber of Commerce.

In their sightseeing ventures, the students saw the palace of the current King of Morocco, Mohammed VI; explored the ruins of Chellah, an old Phoenician city; marveled at the architecture of the Hassan II Tower and the shimmering interior of the Mohamed V Mausoleum; and bargained for unique souvenirs in the medina, a traditional market.

Christopher Bach, one of the D490 students, said about the trip, “…Morocco is an amazing country filled with people that did nothing but make me want to return. Everywhere we went, we were treated as family. Without this D490 experience, I think each of us would be leaving IPFW missing an incredibly important aspect of what the business world has to offer. In this age of globalization and diversity, it is more crucial than ever to broaden our education to include practical, multi-cultural experiences.”

The annual trip is funded by Bill Lawson, prominent Fort Wayne businessman and former owner of Franklin Electric.