The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS) implemented several international initiatives in the Fall 2020 semester through which students had the opportunity to collaborate virtually with peers and faculty from other international institutions. In one of these initiatives, St. John’s University students were involved in an innovation challenge that involved the design of a business incubator for sustainable agriculture at the Chinhoyi Technical University (CUT) in Zimbabwe.
Three classes from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and the Collins College of Professional Studies included the project as a special assignment under the leadership of CCPS faculty Carmine P. Gibaldi, Ed.D., Professor, Administration and Economics; Luca Iandoli, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Global and Online Programs, and Associate Professor in the Division of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Science; and Basilio G. Monteiro, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor, Division of Mass Communication, and Director, Institute for International Communication.
Victor K. Muposhi, Ph.D., Deputy Dean and Coordinator for the MSc in Biodiversity Conservation degree in the School of Wildlife, Ecology, and Conservation at CUT, wanted to create an incubator for the value chain of sustainable bee farming and honey. The project moved forward thanks to the partnership between the Dutch nonprofit Stadsgarage Foundation and St. John’s in Queens, NY; ESIC Business & Marketing School in Valencia, Spain; and Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The effort was coordinated by the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (RUAS) Business School.
“Online international collaboration experiences like these, while deprived of travel and day by day immersion in another culture, offer students valuable opportunities to hone their digital collaboration abilities, a skills that is now key to thrive in the professional world”. Luca Iandoli, CCPS Associate Dean for Global and Online Programs
A total of 31 St. John’s students were placed on several of the 20 international teams to develop the most effective plan. Each team was tasked to serve as a consultant for CUT and the Stadsgarage Foundation and propose ideas and actions to overcome three critical challenges: counteracting the decline of pollinating insects and bees, contributing to the fight to end youth unemployment, and leveraging local culture and agricultural assets and tradition in Zimbabwe.
Each team used research and market analysis to draft a proposal on how to implement solutions to these challenges. Faculty from all of the participating schools offered classes and workshops with expert guest speakers to enhance the experience.
The project required each team to meet outside of class, which was at times difficult given the different time zones. Six teams made it to the finals, and each team included at least one student from St. John’s. The winning team included Tineal A. De la Cruz and Paola Sosa, two students in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduate program offered through the Tobin School of Business in collaboration with the Collins College of Professional Studies, along with RUAS students Romanie Groen, Limin Hu, and Puck Rozendaal, and Beatriz Romano from FAAP.
“Rotterdam University of Applied sciences did a great job at getting guest speakers who could fill-in our gaps as students and the Zimbabwe landscape. Learning about the diverse socio-culture environment in Zimbabwe was humbling,” says Tineal De La Cruz, SJU student.