M.B.A. Students Witness Celebration for New Pope in Argentina

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

About a dozen UTEP Executive M.B.A. students studying human resources last week in Argentina were swept up by national pride as the country learned that an Argentine native was chosen as the 266th pope.

The University of Texas at El Paso students, many of them Catholics, were enjoying an after-lunch dessert at a quaint but busy ice cream parlor when the announcement was made March 13 that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, had become Pope Francis.UTEP Executive M.B.A. students, from left, Omar Jarquin, Terry Shobney, and Matthew Boykin, were part of a cohort that recently returned from Buenos Aires where they studied Argentine culture and business practices. They witnessed the nation’s euphoria after an Argentine native was selected pope March 13. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceUTEP Executive M.B.A. students, from left, Omar Jarquin, Terry Shobney, and Matthew Boykin, were part of a cohort that recently returned from Buenos Aires where they studied Argentine culture and business practices. They witnessed the nation’s euphoria after an Argentine native was selected pope March 13. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

Terry Shobney, a financial auditor with the U.S. Department of Justice, said she was eating two small scoops of dulce de leche with nuts when the news was broadcast on a flat screen television near the front of the restaurant. She said the patrons, mostly young adults, began to clap, whistle, hug and kiss at the announcement.

Shobney said the national pride was evident for the rest of the trip. While the students maintained their focus on comparative human resource issues, their hosts would start the presentations by talking about the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“Everyone was excited and proud and we were right in the middle of it,” she said. “What were the odds that we would be part of a celebration like that? I’m grateful to the University that I was able to be part of that experience. That definitely was the cherry on top.”

Pope Francis, the first Argentine, South American and Latin American to be named pontiff, was inaugurated Tuesday, March 19.

Omar Jarquin, director of finance at Electrical Components International, said it was exciting to be part of the celebration.

“We were away from home, but we were sensitive to our surroundings. We understood that this was a special occasion and we were touched by it,” Jarquin said.

Matthew Boykin, vice president for sales with Intervolve Inc., noted that the initial reaction was one of quiet awe, but added that being part of the international event helped the Executive M.B.A. students to bond during their weeklong international research course. 

“The hugging started after the news sunk in. It was just amazing,” said Boykin, who purchased a Buenos Aires newspaper that announced the new Pope as a memento for his mother-in-law.

While in Buenos Aires, the students heard lectures about Argentine culture, economic policy and human resource practices, and met with executives at Hewlett-Packard, Arcor and Banco Galicia to learn about conducting business in that country. The students also experienced the city’s cuisine and entertainment throughout the week, said Roland Nuñez, an E.M.B.A. manager who accompanied the students to Argentina.

“It was very surreal,” Nuñez said of the minutes after the announcement of the new pope. “Church bells were ringing. It was very exciting.”

While the country’s business leaders used the news to break the ice with their guests, they also shared the importance of understanding different cultures as part of the global economy. Nuñez said the University plans these trips to expose the students to the different practices and policies used by successful international companies.  

“Culture is a major factor in how business is conducted, so businesspeople need to respect other cultures and be ready to adjust to the way others look at life,” Nuñez said. “Business is only part of who they are.”