Innovator Article

Eurozone Crisis Up Close
Students on the Ground in Italy and Turkey

By Marianne Skoczek

In late June, foreign ministers of 16 European Union countries, including Italy, signed an editorial: “The EU and Turkey: Stronger Together.”

“At a time when the EU faces economic challenges and continuing instability in the Middle East, our relationship with Turkey matters more than ever. . . . In these tough economic times, increasing trade with Turkey offers opportunities for EU businesses. With a GDP growth rate of 8.5% last year, the second fastest in the G-20 after China, Turkey is now the EU’s fifth largest export market. Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe run businesses worth 40 billion euros, employing half a million people. In sectors like aviation, automobiles and electronics, our economies are increasingly integrated.”

The ties between the Eurozone and Turkey set the stage for 21 UC Davis MBA students and Wil Agatstein, executive director of the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, to travel to Milan and Istanbul in March to learn firsthand about how business is done in Italy and Turkey—and their roles in the global economic system amid the crisis in Europe.

The trip was the culmination of the School’s International Study Practicum, which marries 10 weeks of intensive classroom preparation with setting the itinerary for the 10-day, in-country immersion.

“With much of the world’s eye turned to the European economic situation, Italy and Turkey were a natural choice,” said Agatstein. “Italy is steeped in history and has some unique business strengths, such as fashion, food and performance automotive vehicles. The country is a founding member of the European Union that finds itself economically challenged today.

“Turkey is both European and Asian, working toward full EU membership. Its population—young, well educated, skilled but often unemployed—and its strategic geographic location offer a tremendous economic opportunity.”

The UC Davis team met with executives and managers, entrepreneurs and policymakers in industries ranging from finance and banking to food and wine, and from pharmaceuticals to fashion to automotive. They learned about local, regional, national and international business—and returned understanding how history, culture, management practices, geography and a country’s relationship to the U.S. are intertwined in today’s global business environment.

The experience has changed me both as an individual and as a business person. I have a new appreciation for other cultures and a wonderful perspective on their way of doing business.

– MBA student Marcus Wilson