American South Immersion

Guest Post By: MBA student Jonathan Bannick. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient who participated in the Race, Business, and Culture Immersion faculty-led program. 

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to be able to travel at least once a year with my family. My parents often would take us to cities that played a big role in the history of the United States such as New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. Up until several weeks ago I hadn’t fully realized that cities like Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma played an equally important role in understanding the country I call home. Over the course of a week, I had the opportunity to travel with classmates in the MBA program to five states throughout the American South titled “Race, Culture, and Business.” The lessons I learned have deepened my understanding of the United States and the role that I have in it.

In several ways, this trip broke the mold for typical spring break study abroad trips. First, we never stepped foot outside the country. Second, we often described our trip as a “pilgrimage.” Although all study abroad trips have moments of profound learning, this trip was unique in that many of the places we visited were very somber in nature.

Throughout the trip, I was often overwhelmed by both the unimaginable suffering endured in these places, but also the indomitable hope that the people carried.

No place captured this dichotomy better than Montgomery, Alabama. As the original capitol of the Confederacy, the city is still shaped by the legacy of slavery. At the same time, the city was the home of the Bus boycott that sparked the Civil Rights Movement. The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice created by the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative left a lasting impression on my mind and I would encourage every American to visit those places at some point in their lifetimes.

As I am still processing the weight and complexity of the trip, I am truly grateful to know that I’m not alone. All the faculty and students in attendance were extremely supportive of the group throughout the process and I feel lucky to have created close friends throughout the experience. Thank you to all who made this experience a reality.