Penn State Great Valley Holds Global Immersion Trip to Europe

Image via Penn State Great Valley.
Students outside the European Parliament.

Penn State Great Valley’s Global Immersion course trip to Strasbourg, France, took a while to get off the ground — literally. The course was first offered in the spring of 2020, but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international travel component was canceled just three days before the class was set to leave the United States.

Three years later, Great Valley was able to hold the course with a successful trip abroad.

Last month, Great Valley students in the MBAMaster of Leadership Development and Master of Engineering Management programs examined sustainable business practices, innovation, and the design of work in several organizations on a trip to France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Denise Potosky, professor of management and organization, had been collaborating with colleagues at the École de Management Strasbourg since working there as a Fulbright research scholar in 2011.

In the 2020 iteration of the course, Potosky was able to arrange virtual tours, presentations and question-and-answer sessions with many of the companies her class had planned to visit.

“I’m thrilled to recognize what an accomplishment this course is, even the 2020 version,” Potosky said. “It’s the immersion experience, the opportunity to visit some places and gather new perspectives, virtually or in-person.

Strasbourg provided the perfect location to do so: The city is a cultural hub and has been called the “capital of Europe,” as it houses the European Parliament, one of the many organizations the group visited.

Located in the Alsace-Lorraine region on the France-Germany border and less than 90 miles from Switzerland, Strasbourg offered easy access to a number of business organizations and sightseeing opportunities.

“Strasbourg, France, proved to be a destination that exceeded all my expectations,” said Jainam Gandhi, a student in the engineering management program.

“The city’s unique blend of French and German influences created a cultural tapestry that was both enchanting and diverse. Strolling through the picturesque streets of La Petite France, admiring the grandeur of the Strasbourg Cathedral and engaging with the warm and welcoming locals were highlights of the trip.”

Talk of the pandemic was minimal—the early days were especially devastating for the Alsace region—but Potosky and her students could clearly see their hosts’ enthusiasm at hosting in-person guests. For many of the organizations, the Great Valley group was one of the first since the pandemic.

The class had a full schedule, with visits including:

  • The Bank for International Settlements, in Basel, Switzerland, which supports central banks worldwide.
  • Gaggenau, a German manufacturer of high-end kitchen appliances.
    “It turns out, that was his first time doing a virtual tour,” Potosky said. “When we met in person, he mentioned, ‘Do you know, after that, we started doing virtual tours? Now we actually have a virtual tour option for some of our vendors.’”
  • Maison Joseph Cattin, a winery that has been family-owned and operated for more than 300 years.
  • Roche Pharmaceuticals, a multinational healthcare company based in Basel, Switzerland.
  • WeberHaus, a German company that builds sustainable modular homes.

With the trip behind them, the students are now focused on finishing comparative analyses of American organizations with the European companies they visited. Three student teams will share their findings at a poster presentation on the campus today at 5 PM.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in hearing more about the amazing educational experience.

Read more about the immersion course on Penn State Great Valley’s website.

36 hours in Strausbourg, France.

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