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Students study globalization and its impact in Cuba and Cayman Islands

Elon University students participating in the Winter Term study abroad course “Business in the Caribbean” spent last month studying globalization and the tensions it plays in Cuba and the Cayman Islands.

The "Business in the Caribbean" Elon group in Havana, Cuba

Kevin O’Mara, professor of management, who led the course with Art Cassill, the Wesley R. Elingburg Professor of Accounting, said, “Pairing Cuba and the Cayman Islands provided a glimpse at the two extremes of globalization. One is completely ‘plugged in’ (Cayman Islands) and one is barely engaged.”

“I was able to witness both extremes of the world economy, as well as the power of globalization,” said senior Nathan James. He visited Grand Cayman, where he was “impressed with its economic power given its small size,” while he said his time in Cuba gave him a “better appreciation of (his) life and privileges as an American.“

O’Mara said the course aimed to have students recognize the trade-offs, implications and ramifications of how Cuba and the Cayman Islands decide to run their societies. “Almost all decisions at the country level require making trade-offs and countries throughout the world are wrestling with how to balance these issues,” he said. “For instance, in Cuba, they provide cradle-to-grave healthcare and education as well as two weeks of food staples per month but their economic policies have crippled their economy to the point where the average Cuban earns roughly $20/month (U.S. Dollars equivalent). In the Cayman Islands, there is no direct taxation, so it is attractive to companies and individuals. However, they cannot support key infrastructure projects and public education due to the lack of governmental funds during this latest economic downturn. Nearly 2 million cruise passengers visit the island each year and is a major source of employment in the country but this revenue stream is in jeopardy if they do not build a dock where the ships can dock. An interesting example of the global economy is that the Chinese government has offered to build the dock and run it the facility for fifty years.“

During the course, students researched societal issues – education, legal/judicial, environment, culture, healthcare, and government/immigration – and examined how these issues overlap and affect one another.

“Our objective was for our students to realize that although Cuba and the Cayman Islands are two distinct countries,” Cassill remarked, “all countries are facing these issues of balance. If students recognize how these issues interplay within a country, they will not only be better business people but better citizens.”

The Ballet Theatre in Havana, Cuba.
A street in Old Havana
Nicole Filippo,
2/15/2013 5:30 PM