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USU business students meet South American counterparts

June 8th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Satenik Sargsyn
HNC Special South America Correspondent

SANTIAGO, CHILE—A team of USU Huntsman Business School students, spending the summer studying in South America, completed two days of visits to Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago on Monday, comparing U.S. and Chilean higher education systems and using economic tools to evaluate the effects of last February’s massive earthquake on the Chilean economy.

Chilean professors discussed with U.S. students the differences between the two countries’ university systems.

Catholic University economics professor Rodrigo Navia told the U.S. students that their Chilean counterparts have to make an “almost permanent” decision of what they want to become before they graduate from high school. For USU marketing senior Natalie Johnson, this is the main difference and challenge for students.

“Unlike in the United States, it’s really hard to change majors in Chile,” Navia said. “Students have to make their decisions when they are 17.”

The U.S. system offers more flexibility and time to make that “life-long decision” about their carer tracks.

“I thought I knew exactly what I wanted when I was 17, but I ended up changing my major a few times,” Johnson said. “If I were studying in Chile, I would probably still be in Deaf Education program.”

Navia said that between 40 percent and 70 percent of first-year students in Chile drop out. That is “shocking,” Johnson said. According to Navia, Chilean universities are trying to “collect the cream from the top,” in order to make the best professionals in the job market.

“We are trying to make sure that Chile gets the best possible professionals,” Navia said. “The elimination process starts at the university.”

USU assistant economics professor Michael Thomas defined the educational differences between the two countries in terms of student access to education.

“While in the United States, most people have access to education, it is something to be prized very highly in Chile,” Thomas said. “It is important to understand what the Chilean economy is going through. As its economy shows tremendous growth, it seems like their education system has been working for them.”

In the second part of their visit to PUCV, one of Chile’s largest universities with about 22,000 students, USU students worked closely with PUCV students to analyze the long-term impacts of last February huge earthquake, and to arrive at the most effective model of public intervention to address the crisis.

“When we started our cooperation with Utah State nine years ago,” Navia said, “we felt the need for student involvement on the Chilean side. Starting last year, Chilean business students have been actively engaged in the curriculum.”

Navia said that he is hoping for increased student involvement in USU-PUCV joint program  in the future.

The USU-PUCV relationship helps Chilean and American students combine their accumulated knowledge to analyze given cases around a table, said Gabriela Genao, a junior in business administration.

USU assistant economics professor Diana Thomas, who facilitated students in the case studies discussions, said “the hands-on experience is always more memorable than the classroom.”

Next Stop for the Huntsman South American Scholars: Brasil


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