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Students studying business abroad

A Cornell College class spent three weeks in South America in May to study growth, the factors that make countries rich or poor, and how business is conducted outside the U.S.

The class, taught by economics and business Professor Todd Knoop, spent three weeks in Uruguay studying the effect of institutions on the economy, examining the business opportunities in the country and meeting with professionals to find out how the theoretical is actually applied.

“Studying in Uruguay was great because we not only learned the academic perspective of why a country has economic growth, but we were in the midst of it to experience the differences, and then bring these experiences back to class and apply them,” said Rachel Silverstone, a junior. “We had the opportunity to interact with students as well as professionals such as bankers, brokers, business owners, and many more, to gain a multi-dimensional understanding of the course topic, growth economics.”

The class, sponsored by the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy, is part of a collaboration between Cornell, the University of Montevideo and the Southern Cone Group and its brokerage house in Uruguay, Renmax.

The relationship between Cornell and the Southern Cone Group started several years ago with a visit to campus by Pablo Sitjar and Frank Cherry, two principals of the group. They spent a day talking to students, and not long after, the Berry Center for Economics, Business and Public Policy sent its first intern to Renmax.

This class is a continuation of that relationship, Cherry said. In addition to time spent in classrooms, students will get a chance to spend time learning about the different projects the Southern Cone Group is working on in Uruguay and other South American countries and meet business professionals who can talk about how things are done, in addition to why.

“We look forward to developing this further, possibly with more focus on the practical,” he said.

Cherry said the Southern Cone Group has worked to create a bridge between the academic—the University of Montevideo and Cornell—and the practical. In fact, five of the group’s executives are professors at Montevideo.

Knoop said Uruguay is a particularly interesting case for students to study because it’s a mid-level economy bordered by two huge countries—Argentina and Brazil. Argentina, historically a wealthy country, is faltering, he said, while Brazil, historically a poor nation, is among the fastest growing economies in the world. That makes Uruguay an interesting place to think about the things that make countries rich or poor, he said.

This is not the first time Cornell students have studied in Uruguay. In 2009, two students, accompanied by former President Les Garner, did an independent study project on the Southern Cone Group’s commercial blueberry farm there, and spent time talking with Sitjar and others about the politics and economics of business in Uruguay.

The connections with the Southern Cone Group and Renmax will help students understand business as it’s actually practiced in Uruguay, Knoop said, which might in turn spark a long-term interest in South America or a company that does business in South America.

Knoop is the author of “Modern Financial Macroeconomics: Panics, Crashes, and Crises” and “Recessions and Depressions: Understanding Business Cycles.”