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Business and Global Affairs Undergraduates Embark on Immersion Experience to the Dominican Republic

How do you begin to tackle real-life problems at the intersection of business, government, and civil society? One approach, rooted in Ignatian pedagogy principles, is through immersion and experiential learning.  

BGA students at the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX).
BGA students at the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX).

Georgetown’s Class of 2023 students enrolled in the B.S. in Business and Global Affairs (BGA) program traveled to the Dominican Republic to explore this question in the inaugural delivery of the program’s fourth signature course: Business, Policy, and Society.  For one week, BGA students examined issues and challenges related to sustainable development through the lens of different stakeholders (local communities, businesses, and government leaders) to evaluate how these agents interact at the intersection of business and international affairs. 

Through a series of community visits, panel sessions, and local events, students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local business and culture and connect their classroom concepts to economic, social, and political issues in the Dominican Republic. 

Among other locations, the BGA cohort visited the Dominican Republic-Haiti border, including stops at the Binational Market between the nations on the border between Dajabón, Dominican Republic, and Ouanaminthe, Haiti, as well as at the CODEVI free trade zone; multinational corporations such as Falcondo and Central Romana; and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Foreign Relations. 

BGA students also met with activists and community organizers protesting for better living conditions, as well as small business owners and entrepreneurs with innovative business models and solutions to sustainable development issues – all while analyzing topics related to economic policy and international relations, climate change and sustainability, foreign direct investment, and human rights and labor standards.

“Interacting with various stakeholder groups in the Dominican Republic throughout the trip made me understand the way that climate change is affecting the world, and vulnerable countries, rapidly at a disproportionate rate,” said Aiganym Nurakhanova (SFS’23), a current BGA student enrolled in the signature course. “I also saw the way that global operations can exacerbate the problem through the impact they have on local populations, and that it is impossible to discuss climate change and sustainability in developing countries without addressing underlying issues of poverty, social inequality, and racial injustice.”

BGA students engaged in a discussion with Falcondo, a ferronickel mining company.
BGA students engaged in a discussion with Falcondo, a ferronickel mining company.

Nurakhanova emphasized the impact of meeting with local companies and entrepreneurs throughout the week. Notably, she recalled speaking with the owners of a sustainable bee apiary called La Ruta de la Miel in the Dajabon province, where she learned about their focus on high-quality organic honey, conserving endemic plant species, and promoting public awareness regarding the impact of climate change on bees.

“Given that we study a lot of abstract models and theories in the classes, it was quite insightful to go and see the way that they play out in real life,” said Nurakhanova. “This allowed me to notice certain aspects and nuances that are often overlooked in generalized approaches towards issues on the nexus of business and global affairs.”

Anna Csigirinszkij (B’23) appreciated the ability to look beyond general business concepts, call upon Georgetown’s Jesuit values, and focus on the unique circumstances and concerns of people in the local communities.

“Even though we had a handful of frameworks and theories to apply to what we were seeing in the Dominican Republic, the local coordinator encouraged us to not just think with our heads, but also feel with our hearts during our trip,” said Csigirinszkij. “Ultimately, the trip showed me the necessity of traveling to the communities where global firms operate because nothing can replace being on the ground and having a conversation with the people who are directly impacted by the externalities we discuss in class.” 

Each signature course is custom designed by BGA faculty in the McDonough School of Business and the Walsh School of Foreign Service, with a progression of topics covering global markets and politics, culture and leadership, organization and institutional behavior, and societal concerns. 

“The integration of business, politics, and international relations form the basis for the program’s signature courses,” said Mario Ramirez, professor of the practice and managing director of the BGA program. “The fourth signature course – a two-course sequence that will continue in the fall semester – serves as a capstone for our students to apply most of the tools and skills they have learned during their time at Georgetown. Our goal is to provide students with a canvas to start developing meaningful ideas and contributions that will help address pressing global issues within business, government, and society.”