Executive MBA alumni explore Cuba

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Over the past 20 years, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business has graduated more than 900 executive MBAs — “a nice little cadre,” said Van Wood, Ph.D., professor of marketing and Philip Morris Chair in International Business.

As students, many of those graduates traveled overseas on educational trips arranged by Wood and Bill Miller, executive director of alumni programs for the EMBA program. This spring, a dozen of them once again traveled overseas thanks to Wood and Miller, who wanted the program to reconnect with its alumni through an educational experience.

“Bill and I had been talking about where would be a good trip,” Wood said. “We needed something that was interesting, contemporary in terms of both geopolitical settings and business, and that didn’t have jet lag.”

Cuba came to mind.

“It was very fortuitous in that the Obama administration had recently made these announcements about the thawing of our relationship, the lifting of the ‘embargo’ that’s been on for 53 years, or the ‘blockade’ as the Cubans call it,” he said.

Twelve alumni signed up for the people-to-people educational trip.

“Cuba has great potential,” Wood said. “Certainly the creeping capitalism that we see, that we’ve seen in the last years in China and Vietnam, is becoming apparent in Cuba. But there’s huge need for construction or reconstruction.

“The American construction industry is ready to pounce. As soon as we get the word that yes, relations are normalized, you’re going to see a lot of industries that are American move in there.”

The alumni had a fantastic time, Wood said, enjoying cultural demonstrations such as dancing and musical entertainment in addition to witnessing firsthand the economic realities and political changes in Cuba. He and Miller also met with a representative  from the University of Havana in hopes of setting the foundation to work on future endeavors and research projects.

“What can we do next?” Wood asked. “We’d like to have another option for Cuba; I think that’s a real possibility. I think we’d like to pick options that are interesting for the business set.”


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