Students from TTU and Turkey travel to exchange business ideas, serve others

Posted by Lori Shull - Thursday, May 10 2012
lshull@tntech.edu

 

thumb Turkey_2Iced Turkish coffee, roasted chickpea snacks, a spiced spread and Turkish olive oil are hard to find in the U.S.

A group of engineering and business students at Tennessee Tech University has studied how to make those products more available as part of a new international service learning project.

In partnership with students from a university in Turkey, the group of 20 TTU students has developed ideas, from packaging to marketing, to launch sales of Turkish products in the U.S. The group will spend two weeks doing research in the Middle Eastern country this summer, visiting the products’ manufacturers and discussing their plans.

“In real life, engineers don’t just do engineering, and business students also have to be able to come out of their silos,” said Meral Anitsal, TTU associate professor of marketing. “Industry requires collaboration and integration, and we are seeing a need to teach that more.”

While at Celal Bayar University, which is near the Aegean Sea, the TTU students will work closely with their counterparts in Turkey, who have spent their semester doing nutritional analysis on the different products. They sent samples of the Turkish products to TTU students, who gave out the samples and gathered customer feedback during the Windows on the World international festival at TTU.

With business plans and marketing analyses behind them, it is now up to the TTU students to decide whether to actually try to launch the products here.

“It’s incubation,” Meral Anitsal said. “I asked my students, ‘Now that you know these products and you know the contacts in Turkey, will you start a business?’ They said, ‘Why not?’”

When the TTU students return home from Turkey, they will bring a group of students from Celal Bayar with them. They will stay on campus and work on a service learning project in Clay County’s Free Hill area, an unincorporated African American community that was established before the Civil War.

“We are trying to expose them to many facets of community life,” said Bonita Barger, associate professor of decision sciences and management at TTU and one of the trip coordinators. “They’re helping us in our community after we’ve helped them in theirs. Grassroots service helps.”

The informal partnership with Celal Bayar developed through a friendship between that university’s president, Mehmet Pakdemirli, and Ismail Fidan, professor of manufacturing and industrial technology at TTU. Ismet Anitsal, associate professor of marketing at TTU, also helped organize the trip.

Organizers say they hope to continue the service initiative and to involve more TTU faculty and disciplines in the future.

“We’re developing global classes,” Barger said. “The students have jumped out of the fishbowl, and now they are looking back into the fishbowl of their culture.”