The International Trip – An EMBA Highlight

Nate Drees (EMBA 2015) and wife Annie, enjoy the boat ride to Contadora Island in Panama.

The 2015 Culverhouse College of Commerce Executive MBA study abroad tour took us from Panama City in the Republic of Panama and then to Bogota, Colombia, February 28-March 6. While waiting to depart with some of the EMBA Class of 2015 students, who were excited and looking forward to heading to Central America, it was hard not to reflect on the many trips we have taken over the years.

Turning 30 this year, one of the many highlights of the EMBA Program is our international trip, which is part of the International Business course in the final semester.  The international trips began in 2003, and since then we have visited 15 countries, 28 cities and 118 companies. Students’ description of the trip include: Awesome, A Trip of a Lifetime, Challenging, Valuable and A Learning Experience I Will Always Remember! Students meet with senior executives from companies and government officials, in addition to touring the local sites.


Katherine Wayne (EMBA 2015) at Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal.

The EMBA Class of 2015’s Central America trip included business visits to Global Bank Corporation, Electric Transmission Company (ETESA), DHL Express Panama and the Panama Canal Authority in The Republic of Panama, and the Ministry of Defense, IBM, Alpina and the Coffee Federation in Bogota, Colombia. In addition, 38 students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests enjoyed city tours and a day on Contadora Island (part of the Pearl Islands) off the coast of Panama, and finally a closing dinner on Monserrate Hill in Bogota.

South America has been experiencing rapid growth.  Panama’s economy is service based, with GDP at $57.1B and 10.7% growth, and 16% of US-born trade passes through the Canal. Students were able to compare and contrast the economic and cultural differences between the two countries. Colombia, a member of the Pacific Alliance, is the third largest economy in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico, with a 5% average annual GDP.


EMBA 2015 Class at Alpina in Colombia.

At Alpina, a manufacturer of consumer food products in Colombia, the EMBAs met with Diago Aparicio, Director of Talent Development. According to Aparicio, “Alpina was founded by two Swiss entrepreneurs in 1945 creating artisanal cheeses, and six decades later exports more than 500 consumer products to 20 countries.”  Colombia’s economic growth in the last five years has been steadily improving, even overtaking Peru as the region’s fastest-growing economy.

Speakers at IBM and the Ministry of Defense in Bogota spoke of Colombia as a success story with a lot of influence in the South America region. “We are seeing more investment, but still have a long way to go,” said Luz Stella Paez, Director of Business Management at the Defense Ministry.

EMBA alumni are welcome to join the students on their international trip. We will announce the e next trip at the end of July. For more information on the Culverhouse College of Commerce Executive MBA Program and its international trip, contact the EMBA office at 205.348.4501,

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