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Students back from Barbados

7/23/2014

Caribbean trip not just a vacation; students learn, assist businesses

Caribbean trip not just a vacation; students learn, assist businesses

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University has extended its reach to Barbados, and 31 students recently traveled to the Caribbean to assist with entrepreneurship and innovation.

As part of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship's learning communities, 4C Innovation and Everybody's Business, the students helped young entrepreneurs with day-to-day aspects of their businesses in addition to developing business plans and an online presence.

Students in learning communities live and learn together, making the freshman experience more enjoyable, said Angela Walters, associate professor of informatics who is the lead faculty member of 4C Innovation.

This was Jessica Heronemus's first experience with a learning community.

Heronemus, accounting instructor, led Everybody's Business.

"It all fell together better than we could have ever imagined," she said, of Barbados. "I noticed several other learning communities were taking trips. That seemed to be a big draw for students. I talked to the chair of the department since internationalization is one of the university's goals. As long as we could get funding, we were good to go."

Shortly after, FHSU alumnus and Hays native, Peter Werth, announced a $1.6 million gift to the university with one of the goal being the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"With his gift, we wanted to find a place students could experience entrepreneurship in action," Heronemus said. "Students only had to pay about $150 out of pocket for the trip."

Barbados was chosen because it is primarily English speaking, it was safe and could be traveled to in a short time frame.

"Some of the entrepreneurs already owned a business," Heronemus said. "Others had identified an idea and were moving forward."

A group of students worked to help expand a fish farm. Others helped to build websites. Some acted as business consultants, tracking company expenses and building business plans.

"Some students asked me how anything gets done without cell phone service and wi-fi," Walters said. "Students are so used to doing everything online in the U.S; they don't realize we did business before the Internet. It was a real eye-opening experience."

The students stayed for six days, including travel time.

"We had a student who had never been out of Kansas before," Heronemus said. "We had a few who had never been on an airplane before. We really took some people out of their comfort zones, and it really was a life-changing experience. One of the students said to me, 'This is the best thing I've ever done and I'm only a freshman. I can't wait to see what's next.' "