Cohort 8 reflects on trip to South Africa

The Cohort 8 executives from Stetson University’s Executive MBA program have been returning in waves over the last several days from South Africa. The business portion of the trip ended last weekend, but many of the students opted to stay extra days to enjoy more of the culture and — for some — shark diving!

“It was an incredible trip,” said Wendy Lowe, Stetson Executive MBA program coordinator. “I would really like to go back again sometime. The students had a great time and we all learned a lot!”

Apartheid was the most riveting aspect of South Africa’s culture and history for most of the students. For Raul Herrera, the highlight of the trip was visiting the Apartheid Museum.

“I am so amazed how far the people of this country have come in the last 15 years when it comes to race relations considering where they were,” said Herrera. “Apartheid was one of the most oppressing forms of government mankind has ever seen.”

Dr. Stuart Michelson, director of Stetson’s Executive MBA program and dean of Stetson’s School of Business, concurred. “It was remarkable to learn about apartheid and how much this country has changed in such a short period.”

Herrera found inspiration in the plight of Nelson Mandela, who spent three decades in one of the most brutal prison in the world, Robben Island. “He insisted on reconciliation, not retaliation or revenge — in marching toward a unified South Africa instead of a South Africa that will sulk in its past,” Herrera said. “Whoever thinks one man cannot affect change is sadly mistaken and should read about this man and his struggle for freedom.”

The business visits were very professional and organized, said Michelson. “Vodacom, especially, was so first-class. The top leaders of the company took the time to meet with us, and after having just unveiled the company’s new marketing campaign, they were eager to share their strategy and findings.”

“At all our business visits, our speakers were very candid about the country’s dark past and how they are all working toward the future,” added Herrera. “No one tried to sugarcoat anything about what happened, nor were they trying to condone it.”

In addition, experiencing wildlife and nature was icing on the cake. “The safari was great,” said Michelson. “Seeing the leopard that has only been seen three times this year was incredible!” Cohort 8 executives enjoyed getting close to many animals on their trip, including elephants and penguins.

The bike ride through Soweto was Lowe’s highlight. “It was a three-hour ride, up and down hills, and it was vigorous! The sights and the people made every minute worth it,” said Lowe. Lowe said she and Michelson would consider future visits to South Africa based on their recent positive experiences. “We are confident that our weeklong visit just scratched the surface of what the nation has to offer,” said Lowe.

“South Africa has an amazing power to forgive and move forward,” Herrera said. “It’s an amazing country with amazing people.”