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Catawba Faculty Leverage Past Cambodian Experiences for Future Benefit of Students

September 30, 2015

Category: Academics, Business & Economics, Faculty, Mathematics


Tcambodia03.jpgwo Catawba College faculty members who spent parts of their summer traveling in Cambodia for a research project and humanitarian relief efforts are making plans to leverage their experiences to the future benefit of their students.

Dr. Paul Baker of Mathematics and Dr. Phillip Frank of Marketing co-instructed a spring semester course entitled, "Cambodia; Business and Culture." Their summer travels to Cambodia proved a capstone event for the two, allowing them to spend time researching how Catawba students might be able to study in this country while also participating in humanitarian relief efforts there.

Frank, a recent addition to the Catawba College faculty, said about the collaboration, "I had the chance to meet and discuss with Dr. Baker my interests and past experiences in the Southeastern Asian region and discovered this was something we shared."

Frank spent three months in India in 2008 working with the Indian Government, the Tibetan Government in Exile, and conducting international research about youth culture in Thailand, a country bordering Cambodia.

"Having some exposure to Thailand provided a peripheral familiarity with the culture and political/ business environment of Cambodia, but nothing could have adequately prepared me beyond personal experience. I essentially got a crash course in Cambodia's history and culture by the man who literally wrote the book!" Frank explained.

Baker has written extensively on Cambodian history as part of a four volume, 1,000-page tome entitled "A Shadowy Passage."   "To be able to share 'my' Cambodia with a colleague this summer was very rewarding," Baker explained.  "It fueled our desire to expose Catawba students to this beautiful country that is still recovering from years of conflict."

Baker and Frank spent three weeks traveling throughout Cambodia as part of a two-prong project; one devoted to humanitarian and mission efforts as part of Baker's Resurrection Teachings Ministries (RTM), a non-profit organization affiliated with the Resurrection Lutheran Church located in Charlotte, N.C.; as well as a second emphasis spearheaded by Frank that was devoted to data collection and network building with local universities in the country.

cambodia01.jpg"It was a perfect blend of interests and efforts for Dr. Baker and me. We built upon not only the standard data collection and macro-economic institutional analysis of the Country's political and business interests, but we also got to be involved with the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide a large proportion of the Country's overall gross domestic product (GDP) and as such play a pivotal role," Frank said.

"In fact, my primary research interest is focused on youth culture and the influence of global media marketing on the establishment (or absence) of a global youth culture. While in country, having the opportunity to speak with both college students as well as children in the orphanages provided a well-rounded mix of insights and opinions for me to see and hear," Frank continued. "As a researcher trained in mathematical modeling techniques which rely solely on large data-sets, it was imperative for me to get in front of these youth to hear personal accounts and opinions of how global marketing impacts their lives. To hear their voices was for me more important that solely testing the theoretical model."

In addition to the research side of the trip, Frank spoke of his exposure to the humanitarian side. "What was one of the biggest take-aways for me was seeing the poverty, sickness and pain that the Cambodian people endure, and seeing how Dr. Baker and his humanitarian team brought reprieve, however brief."

Baker, in turn, was very complimentary of Frank's contributions to both the humanitarian efforts and his efforts to plan for the future involvement of Catawba College students in executing them.  "I expected that Phillip would add a new dimension to our ministry to Cambodian orphans, however, I was blown away by how much he actually contributed to the ministry aspects of our three-week mission," Baker shared. "From the time we debarked the plane, Dr. Frank was constantly searching for ways we (both the RTM Team and future Catawba students) could make a difference in the lives of those living in extreme poverty. The course we will teach this spring is just a continuing implementation of Phillip's ideas from the mission."

The two professors plan to build upon their Cambodian experiences and research to create a travel abroad experience for select Catawba students in May, 2016. Preceding the trip, students will enroll in MGT 2001: Cambodia: Business & Culture, a spring 2016 course that will be a collaboration between Catawba College and Paññāsāstra University, one of the top institutions in Cambodia. Two parallel courses will be offered, one at each institution, with classes being held simultaneously via online video conference technologies.

"Thanks to the current state of technological devices, these students are going to have a chance to communicate and share some personal and cultural exchange without the travel initially," Frank explained.

However, even with the online component, Catawba students taking the spring 2016 course will be required to travel to Cambodia for two weeks in May to obtain in-country exposure.

"The online component serves as an initial introduction for both groups of students, but the ultimate challenge and rewarding experience will be when students step off the planes into a new environment, and see first-hand many of the things we will discuss in class," Frank concluded.