Beneath the Southern Cross

Beneath the Southern Cross

Jun 27
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

Guiding navigators for millennia, the Southern Cross is a bright constellation in the southern sky.   Cultures of the southern hemisphere adopted it as their symbol, and the stars of the “Crux” feature prominently on several national flags. Sometimes known as sons and daughters of the Southern Cross, pioneers made their way to Aotearoa, the Maori name for the island nation of New Zealand.

Beneath the Southern Cross in the middle of May, twenty of our finest Illini landed in Queenstown on the south island, framed by the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps. International business immersion was the reason for the journey – with agriculture, food, and fiber as the frame. To illustrate New Zealand’s innovative approaches to agribusiness, the students traveled value chains ranging from Merino wool, to grass-fed lamb and beef, to Kiwifruit, to dairy.

Directly engaging students with the professionals who lead important industry segments is a primary goal of the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP), and for two solid weeks that happened every day. Real-world interactions with people who live and work in a culture greatly enrich the study abroad experience. In New Zealand, the Illinois students also met ACES alumni, like Jack Cocks, who operates the Mt. Nicholas high country sheep station with his wife, Kate; Jo Stevenson, an expert in business resiliency in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; and Trent Jesso, a former IBIP participant who is making his career and life down under in transportation logistics.

From a Maori cultural evening, to an afternoon in “Middle Earth”, to super rugby competition between the Auckland Blues and the Waikato Chiefs, a taste of the Kiwi nation whetted the students’ appetites for more international adventures. Upon reflection, they said things like this.

“I have grown more as a professional, and I am now more than ever, ready to go out into the world of business.”

 “While we went to New Zealand to seek answers, I felt that I learned much more about asking questions and looking at situations from different angles.” 

“This trip pushed me to step out of my comfort zone by interacting with intelligent individuals in a professional manner.” 

“Participating in the International Business Immersion Program taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined…I can say without a doubt that traveling to New Zealand has made me a better student, agriculturalist, professional, and person.”

In IBIP, students critically evaluate important opportunities, constraints, and drivers for businesses in their international contexts.  For this class, student teams gathered primary data to inform their research about innovative responses to consumer demand, disruptive natural events, and growth of tourism, as well as innovative uses of advanced technologies and competitive advantages of pastoral livestock systems.  As an overarching bonus, students discovered new ways of creative thinking at the heart of New Zealand’s culture of innovation in food and agriculture.

After the ACES Career Fair in October, this group of budding professionals will share their stories from beneath the Southern Cross.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way.…”

Crosby, Stills, and Nash

students in New Zealand
Richard Vogen and his students enjoy the scenery in New Zealand.