By KATIE RICE ’10
Little more than a week after leaving Hendrix for the summer, eight students will head to China for the third annual China Odyssey program. Led by economics professors Keith Berry and Stephen Kerr, the 16-day trip will focus on the impact of Chinese culture on business and entrepreneurship practices.
Under the guidance of Shane Nunn, ’86 graduate, the group will explore the modern business capitals of Beijing, Yiwu and Shanghai, as well as several cities along ancient trade routes like the Silk Road. During their travels, they will visit corporations, factories and markets. Nunn, who owns his own business in China and has lived there for more than a decade, will also be an invaluable resource.
During the spring semester, students will prepare for the trip by reading several books. Each will also develop a hypothetical entrepreneurial plan involving China. Nunn will give them some initial feedback, and they will further judge the plan’s feasibility and profitability while they travel in China.
The Odyssey trip takes place in the context of a growing focus on China. In addition to the three Odyssey trips, Hendrix has set up a student and faculty exchange program with Heilongjiang University in Harbin, China. Several students have also recently undertaken “special learning experiences” in China, such as serving as religion professor Jay McDaniel’s teacher’s assistants when he lectures in China during the summer.
McDaniel, who originally suggested the entrepreneurial Odyssey trip, has become the go-to man on campus for questions about China.
“My passion is to help Hendrix students get ready for the 21st century, and I think relations with China are just central,” he said.
He cites the fact that China is the oldest living civilization on earth, going back more than 5,000 years. China also has the fastest growing economy, expanding at rates unparalleled in modern economic history. He sees China’s return to the center of the international stage as both a challenge and an opportunity for the United States.
“[Americans] have to enter into a different mindset of partners, collaborators. I think business can help there. Business is inherently competitive, no question about that. But the kind of partnerships that can be created between Chinese and American businesses [can be] win-win situations. … Businesses do that on an on-the-ground, very practical, tangible level. That’s one reason I’m extremely excited about this China odyssey.”