Students gain business experience in Barbados

More than just a vacation, over 30 freshmen from Fort Hays State University's College of Business and Entrepreneurship recently traveled to Barbados to help other young entrepreneurs with their business practices.

"Students not only got to see the country through the eyes of a tourist, they were also immersed in the economic environment and learning the business community as well," said Dr. Stacey Smith, assistant professor and director of tourism and hospitality management.

The students were part of the college's learning communities, 4C Innovation and Everybody's Business. They teamed with the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Youth Entreneurship -- a not-for-profit company whose mission is to help young entrepreneurs acquire the skills, aptitude and attitude needed to become successful and productive individuals.

"The students were able to learn self-worth and gain a different perspective on what is possible for their future," said Courtney Kanzenbach, Victoria, graduate. "Many students commented that helping these young entrepreneurs made them realize the value of their skills and felt good about being able to apply what they learned from their first year."

Students worked on a large variety of projects: a fish farm, a catering service, a deli in a local hospital, a modeling agency, an iron fencing manufacturer, an e-waste recycling company, a printer of commercial signs and customized apparel, and several local produce farmers.

"When you look at Fort Hays' motto -- Forward thinking. World ready. -- this opportunity gives you direct contact with the world, the world that I didn't have any prior knowledge about," said Austin Foster, a Lakewood, Colo., sophomore. "It is putting you into the environment, and I feel like there is no better way to learn about the environment then to be there."

While some of the students performed manual labor, others built websites, established systems for their entrepreneurs to track costs and inventory, and helped with some preliminary research as to whether expand into a new product line. Students also assisted with the preparation of business plans and helped to establish realistic levels of financing.

"We felt that this was an excellent international opportunity for our students in a way that helps others and provides them with a positive learning experience outside the classroom," said Angela Walters, assistant professor of informatics. "We were very fortunate to have a donor who believes in our students and provided the funding to make it happen."

"This was not just a growing experience for the students in their schooling but as young adults," said Kanzenbach. "For many of them this was their first time traveling internationally. Gaining confidence through experience is empowering and many were nervous at first but by the end of the trip they were talking about other places they would like to travel."

Along with Smith and Walter, Jessica Heronemus, instructor of accounting, was present on the Barbados trip.

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