From August 4 through the 11th, David will be part of Shenandoah University's joint study abroad program with the University of Oxford, focusing on Global Organizational Management and Leadership. From the UK, David has kept us posted on what it's like to be experiencing the second oldest university in the world. Enjoy his musings!
Monday, August 6: Classes begin! Sunday evening before dinner was our introduction. Monday at 9:15, classes start. Our group's first learning dialogue was on the creation and structure of the European Market — how the single currency came into being and the many ramifications of what exists today. For example, the EU was officially created in 1999 with 11 members. Today there are 17 States on the Euro with 27 States as members of the Union. This was a fascinating discussion about how it was created, why it does exist and how current issues are creating a crisis with Greece, Spain and other countries. The future will certainly be interesting as it challenges the core principals of the EU beyond what was ever conceived just 15 years ago. The flow chart is interesting: Free Trade — - Customs Union — - Common single Market (9 members are at this level only and may not go further) — - Monetary Union — - Economic Union (18 members are at this level), with the final stage being a Political Union (none have agreed to this level as of yet, but may be key to the future or breakup of the Economic Union). Fascinating overview of financial complexity. Also, we had great discussions around Great Britain's non membership at the EU despite being the 7th largest economic GDP in the world.
The afternoon was focused on Global Environmental overview. Our professor, and host coordinator, was Dr. Ken Addison. While I personally am skeptical on some of the key issues, his presentation was very informative. His focus was to educate, not convince. Like a senior fellow of Oxford, he masterfully created dialogue in a non controversial way. I concluded the program with a broader understanding of a global perspective on the multiple issues.
Monday evening was our formal reception in the Courtyard of one of the original buildings of the college dating back to the mid 1600s. With champagne on the lawn and mingling with another group from Salem College, North Carolina, we had a typical Oxford social event. One must be properly attired for these events. Tradition prevails. After this we went to a lecture on the origins of coins before our formal dinner. Think of the dining room as you see in Harry Potter movies. The rows perfectly lined up at a 90 degree angle to the "High Table". I had the good fortune to be invited to sit at the High Table. Of course, the conversation as always is around the academic discussions of the day. No texting or cell phones allowed! We were also warned not to even leave the table for the rest room. This almost 2 hour event was one I will always associate with this trip. By 9pm, the formal day was over.
One other item of interest was to watch a Croquet game played on the lawn of the quad. It so reminded me of the Rotary events we have hosted at Glenfiddich. I now better understand both the need for the appropriate lawn (which ours is not) as well as the heritage of the sport. Somehow, the game takes on a level of elegance when at Oxford.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012: Breakfast at 8:00 as everyday and off to our first class by 9:00. Today, our first presentation was on Islamic History. In true Oxford style, there is absolutely no connection between speakers. In the spirit of providing an intellectual framework, this was excellent and true to Oxford. Dr. Adeel Malik is from Pakistan and has an intimate knowledge from his research on the historical developments of the Islamic countries and their growth. His subject: Looking at Development in Muslim Societies, which brings about the question, was it a legal or political failure that has caused the underdevelopment of the Islamic countries as compared to Western Europe? His overview focused on how the religious documents were then translated into legal documents which had unintentional consequences on growth and development from a business perspective. Law from Scriptures did not make a business foundation especially in the areas of Land Development and accumulation of wealth (through death redistribution which was mandatory) and no business laws that allowed creation of self-sustaining corporations. Therefore, all possessions including money were tied directly to the life of the person without the ability to inherit from family or others.
In addition, the one bright spot was WAQF. This is the process much like we have with tax deductible charitable donations. These were allowed to be created typically around social good. If wealthy enough, you could build a small hotel for travelers and have it there for free use, but have it operate through your endowment. By putting your family name on it, this would create recognition for your success while alive. A very interesting concept for social systems. As an economist, his views focus on financial and legal issues as they relate to business and life.
In the afternoon Neil Eibeler gave a great overview of Rubbermaid. He set a high standard for my upcoming Thursday presentation. We ended at 4:45 with an open evening.
Neil and I had the opportunity to have dinner off campus. It was a great relaxing time to both reflect on the program as well as general business. After spending 3 days in academia, it is always refreshing to return to my roots with another business professional! I truly enjoyed his company.
Tomorrow's entry: David visits the world famous Blenheim Park. See below for a sneak peak!