West Windsor, N.J. -- Mercer County Community College has a vibrant, new connection with the country of Macedonia, thanks to a faculty exchange initiative that began during the spring 2013 semester and will continue this fall. Two MCCC faculty members, Laura Sosa, professor of Business and Economics, and Doug Fee, coordinator of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management, lectured at the University St. Kliment Ohridski in Bitola in early April. From September 6-13, three of their Macedonian colleagues will be on MCCC’s West Windsor campus and do the same.
During their stay, the professors will lecture on the potential of Macedonia as a tourist destination, and the means, tool and practices of tourism promotion in their country. On Sept. 12, they will participate in a panel discussion with MCCC faculty and President Patricia C. Donohue entitled “Leaning In: Can Women Really Have it All?" The discussion will focus on women in the workplace, the work/family balance; and how these issues play out in Macedonia and the United States.
According to Sosa and Fee, the college is looking forward to welcoming the Macedonian professors with the same kind of warmth and respect they were afforded during their April visit. “We were introduced as special guests and treated accordingly throughout our stay,” Fee said.
“The United States economy was of great interest to them,” Sosa noted. "Macedonia is in transition from a socialist-based economic system to a market economy. The concepts of individual initiative and entrepreneurship are still fairly new.”
Sosa presented a lecture to Macedonian Economics faculty and approximately 60 students, speaking in English to this multi-lingual audience. She discussed the history and framework of America’s market system, as well as current economic and social challenges facing the U.S. “The Macedonian group was surprised to know that the United States faces its share of economic pressures and income inequality,” she said.
Professor Fee focused on the U.S. hospitality/tourism industry's approach to performing under extreme circumstances in a lecture entitled "A Can-do Attitude in the Eye of the Storm: Preparation, Reaction and Recovery in the face of Hurricane Sandy.” Fee says he discussed restaurants and hotels that were literally under water and are currently rebuilding, as well as hotels that prepared for and took in newly homeless guests.
The MCCC professors had the opportunity to tour facilities where hospitality students were doing internships. Fee believes Macedonia has great potential for tourism.
“We got an insider’s view of the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry in a country that is just beginning to capitalize on its position as a tourist destination," Fee said. "The people were friendly, prices at restaurants were extremely reasonable, and the hotels we visited were nice."
A special part of the week was a live streaming video session between Sosa’s Global Environment of Business students and Macedonian students from Tourism Professor Ivanka Nestoroska’s class. Due to the time difference, approximately 15 Macedonian students stayed long after their classes ended in order to participate. The event was shown on national television that evening.
Sosa said the streaming session was a true interactive learning experience and notes that the Macedonian students were particularly impressed with the diversity in Mercer’s classroom, which included students from at least five countries.
Popular culture proved the common link. While the Macedonian young people eagerly commented on American TV shows that are aired in their country like Jersey Shore and the Kardashians, the MCCC students groaned collectively over that perception of American society and did their best to explain that those programs do not represent the vast majority of Americans.