CTU doctoral students use business skills in South Africa

April 1, 2011

Seven students from Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs traveled to Africa to finish their degrees by developing solutions to government and business problems.

The students spent two weeks in Magaliesburg, South Africa, as part of CTU’s Doctor of Management program. Since the trip in February, they have continued to work with their clients to wrap up details. The students, who broke into teams to focus on specific projects, deliver their final reports in class this week.

“You can learn from all the textbooks and read all the case studies, but there’s noting like working through it,” said Debora Elam, CTU student.

Joanne Preston, doctoral dean of management in the graduate school at CTU, led the trip.

She chose South Africa based on her extensive experience in the country, which included helping the country deal with the after effects of apartheid.

Last year, Preston took a group of students to China.

The trip isn’t about changing the location of a class, but about giving students a chance to work as international consultants, she said. They get to test their techniques and skills in another culture.

Pepperdine University had a similar program, but it has been dropped, she said, adding that a trip as part of the advanced action research class is unique.

“The real thing that sells this experience is they are working with real people who want to make a real change in their communities,” Preston said.

The projects touched many sectors in South Africa’s changing economy.

Elam worked on a program to promote improvement among the country’s public service and administration workers.

The work forced the students to quickly build working relationships with clients so things could be accomplished, she said, adding that it was a fantastic experience professionally and personally.

Other projects included one that links union and government officials to better evaluate and clean up water sources; a marketing and communications plan for a local commercial farming initiative aimed at improving techniques and livelihoods across several African nations; and plan aimed at decreasing employee theft and improving work ethics for a businessman.

Kristine Brands, CTU student and associate professor at Regis University in Denver, said the collaborative teamwork that was key to the projects is a powerful tool for any business or organization, regardless of country.

The trip wasn’t all work. The students did squeeze in some sightseeing. After all, it only make sense to enjoy your surroundings when traveling nearly 10,000 miles.

As for next year: “There’s a lot of places we could go,” Preston said.

Contact the writer at 636-0162.

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