South Coast Plaza: An International Mecca for Student Learning

August 5, 2013 by University of La Verne

In July, more than 100 students and young professionals from the International School of Sao Paulo, Brazil visited South Coast Plaza, an internationally-recognized destination for luxury shopping and dining in Orange County. However, they did not have the usual tourist experience.

Instead, these international learners were a part of the South American Summer Certificate Program at the University of La Verne, where they were exposed to the daily business practices and commerce activities that take place in such an international mecca.

With eight certificate foci, the program gives students direct access to the professionals and business models that mirror the infrastructure of United States corporations in areas such as finance and accounting, human asset management, and public administration.

The visit to South Coast Plaza included a tour, networking opportunities and 30-minute presentations from company executives, providing the students with behind-the-scenes insight into the daily workings of the global center.

“Our international students get to see the role of planning and strategy transformed into measurable action at U.S. companies, which is an invaluable experience for them,” said Dr. Abe Helou, dean of the College of Business & Public Management and creator of the Brazilian program. “My favorite part of the program is that most students say it has been a life-changing event that exposes them to things they never imagined.”

From learning about international trade to knowing what is driving advertisement and how retail companies engage in strategic branding, program participants exhibited a strong curiosity about the differences between Brazilian and U.S. business practices and culture. 

“There is joy on their [the university students’] faces and an interest in the fact that they can visit an iconic destination for shopping, dining and the arts,” said Werner Escher, executive director of domestic and international markets at South Coast Plaza. “At the plaza, we don’t just welcome consumers; we welcome those in education for technical visits, where it’s nice to see the students come and learn about salesmanship, inventory, and marketing as quickly as they can.”

As part of its core values, the University of La Verne has long been recognized for encouraging students to understand and appreciate the diversity of cultures that exists locally, nationally, and internationally. La Verne also commits itself to promoting education that facilitates lifelong learning.
“The University gives the students direct access to executive leadership, and the connections they’ve made allow them to develop long-term relationships, or gain a mentor to help further and direct their career,” said Thomas Cobos, director of corporate education at the University of La Verne. “South Coast is a culture unto itself, which has allowed students to gain insight about how retail and international trade works in Orange County.”

From relationships with countries in Asia to the island of Australia, this summer was the first time that South Coast Plaza has welcomed a group of students from Brazil. Ranging from new students to middle managers, the group was diverse, representing companies such as Intel, Pepsi, IBM and Microsoft.

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