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‘An American Consumer in Italy’; Marketing Professor Shares Program Experience

by | Aug 23, 2018 | Blog, Field Notes

 

Marketing in Rome – An American Consumer in Italy’ allows students to earn six hours of marketing credit while studying at the University of Arkansas Rome Center. Two classes in consumer behavior and marketing research were designed to cover the class material with a focus on Italy and Rome in particular. Over a five-week summer session, students explored Rome and several parts of Italy and worked with Roman businesses on a marketing research project.

outside the Colosseum

Jensen, far left, and her students gather outside the Colosseum.

Students became Roman consumers by living in an apartment and shopping and exploring Rome via public transit. The following is account of this experience written by Molly Jensen, clinical associate professor of marketing in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and director of Marketing in Rome – An American Consumer in Italy program.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Rome already for 17 days. During this time, we have completely immersed ourselves in Roman culture. To understand the Roman consumer, we’ve explored neighborhoods and visited many different areas of the city – places like Prati, Tesstaccio, Monti, Trastevere, Esquilino, Pigneto and Campo Mazio – during the day and at night. We want to see how the life of a neighborhood changes throughout the day.

This research assignment requires students to use public transportation early in the semester, to expose them to Roman life and help them navigate the city. Other adventures include the kilometer-long Porta Portese, a Sunday flea market, and Eataly, a large marketplace with many restaurants, bakeries and other food and beverage counters. Students also visit quintessential tourist sites in Rome, including the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel, and explore Italian consumer life in a broader, historical sense.

Eataly in Rome

Produce at Eataly, a marketplace with restaurants, bakeries and other food and beverage counters.

Through the generosity of Rhodora Vennarucci, assistant professor of classics, we are excited to participate the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, which Vennarucci co-directs. Marzuolo is a 2000-year-old site of commerce and production. It’s exciting to help with the excavation and talk to archeologists about how Romans produced and moved goods, how warehouse facilities were built and maintained, and how goods were used. Some students find ancient artifacts, such as nails, pieces of plates and even a few bones!

We travel on to the medieval city of Sienna and the Renaissance city of Florence. This experience back in time was both awe-inspiring and exhausting.

Back in Rome, we are ready for a quieter routine, to cook for ourselves – although gelato is daily requirement – and travel to and from school as the Romans do. With immersion of Rome and Italian culture in full swing, students focus on their marketing research projects. Each group works for an Italian company – a restaurant or hotel – and the Rome Center was our client. Each group has a research question they explore for the client. This process entails much self-education about the problem, clarifying the question and then coming up with a design for answering the question. These research projects culminate in a final client presentation.

Tuscany archeological dig

Rhodora Vennarucci, assistant professor of classics and co-director of the Marzuolo Archaeological Project, explains aspects of the excavation.

I also get in a routine back in Rome. Turning off my phone, including its map and GPS, results in many long, winding self-tours throughout the city, which allows me to discover fun places not found in tour books. I regret not spending more time learning the language. Being an “ugly American” (have you read the political novel The Ugly American,1958, by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer?) is a real thing. Although many locals know some English, they seem to appreciate it when you try to speak Italian.

For me, becoming part of the rhythm and flow of this city is important. This includes shopping local, traveling local and learning to avoid tourist areas. A crossover mark for me was when people asked me for directions and the tour hawkers stopped harassing.

Moving through the last week here, there is frantic energy with students finishing projects, preparing presentations and discussing how to pack. I notice an amazing ebb and flow to study abroad, which is captivating to me. For a long time, all I thought about was Rome and five weeks living as an Italian. Today, all I can think about is home and the joy of numbing familiarity.

students eating gelato

Students sampled gelato from many Roman gelaterias.

Looking back on this experience, I realize I’ve learned a few things:

  • Students will always surprise you. Before you embark on a experience like this, you can never tell who is more or less mature, who will remain flexible, and who will freak out.
  • Pesto is good on everything – bread, pasta, tomatoes, cucumbers, cooked veggies, raw veggies, the options are endless.
  • You can tell the quality of a gelateria by its limone (lemon) gelato. To test this theory, I tried as many gelaterias as possible throughout the city.
  • I am not able to switch off my American body clock. I’m a lunch-at-noon, dinner-at-6 p.m. kind of gal. This dinner at 9 or 10 p.m. … I’ll leave that for the Italians.

Rome holds a special magic. It is a wonderful place to explore and to learn more about business and myself, in addition to Roman and Italian culture. It has been an amazing experience to be part of the U of A Rome Center. I leave exhausted, grateful and unwilling to eat pasta for a while, and I look forward to some Arkansas barbecue and my own kitchen, where I can cook for my family.

About The Author

A former newspaper reporter, Matt McGowan writes about research in the College of Engineering, Sam M. Walton College of Business, School of Law and other areas. He is the editor of Short Talks From the Hill, a podcast of the University of Arkansas. Reach him at 479-575-4246, or dmcgowa@uark.edu.

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