NYC2017, or There and Back Again (Notes from a Module Convener’s Field Diary)

There is an old saying about good company making a journey seem shorter.  Never were truer words spoken about the NYC visit, which took place between 16-21 September 2017.  First field-trip for the Business School in Cornwall, first visit abroad (and to NYC no less), with representatives of the first Year 3 cohort.  Many firsts, yet I believe it was the opportunity to create a learning space which staff and students occupied and jointly explored, that makes the trip so personally memorable.  An opportunity to get to know our students and appreciate how far they have come over the past two years, both in confidence and skills.

This became apparent as soon as we, the staff, touched down at JFK on Saturday.  Are all the students here? Are they safe? Can they find their way to the hotel?  While in a state of somewhat elevated consternation I find that Olly and Alex have already explored half of NYC on their own, Shivani is visiting in New Jersey, Seb and Emily are making their own way from Washington DC, Joud and Catherine are en route also, and Amelia is already waiting for us at arrivals.  Point taken. They are perfectly capable of finding their way around.

We meet and debrief over breakfast on Sunday.  It is my goal to balance leaning and reflection, so students have the morning to themselves, the afternoon being dedicated to visiting the Metropolitan Museum.  A simple journey to 5th Avenue proves eventful as Heads of State descend on NY for the UN summit and staff are forced to take a round-trip on foot due to the transport grid-lock.  Security outside Trump Tower is such that we have to walk two blocks out of our way, just to by-pass it.  We rush up 5th Avenue, spurred-on by the promise of a hot-dog on arrival until, tired sweaty but smiling, we all get there on time and have our first impromptu lecture on the Met roof. NY treats us to a bright and clear day to rival all of the British summer, the kind of temperatures which invite cold beverages and the striking NYC skyline almost at our feet…’king of the hill, top of the heap’, indeed!

On top of the Met

On top of the Met

Day two, and we hit the ground running.  An early start sees us boldly making our way to Grand Central Station with its beautiful domes and busy, busy, busy open spaces.  We are travelling to Darien, Connecticut in order to meet our friends from Remedy Partners, a visit arranged by Exeter Alumni Graham Hill.  Another impromptu lecture, this time on the train and attracting the curious glances of our fellow commuters.  We don’t mind, though – presenting and having discussions in front of different audiences is something we do every day at the Business School!  Graham meets us and gives us some background on Remedy – we are about to meet Director Steve Wiggins, who had a low-key IT career helping the IT project of a friend (Mark), before forming a Fortune 300 company and then Remedy, which works with the US Government.  Our students shine during the meeting and I receive a brief note that same evening.  ‘Your students are an impressive crew’, it says simply.  They are.  We finish day two on a high note, enhanced by the knowledge that we are now within only one degree of separation from the creator of Facebook (Steve’s friend Mark being none other than Mark Zuckerberg).

With alumni Graham in Connecticut

With alumni Graham in Connecticut

Big plans for day three.  We are on our way to visit NYSE and Federal Hall and, perhaps more importantly, are are about to experience rush hour on the subway. Having valiantly fought their way through the crowds like Leonidas’ Spartans against the Persians, part of our group is safely en route.  The other part is still at the station of origin, 103 West Street, unable to get on and resigned to wait for the next train.  Our patience is eventually rewarded – we not only find an empty carriage but lots of empty seats.

The Stock Exchange is an experience – some of us go on the live TV feed from the Exchange floor, while others get close to the famous NYSE bell, which opens and closes each day full of transactions.  After the NYSE we have some free time for lunch and convene again at George Washington’s feet to visit the place where he was inaugurated as president, Federal Hall.  No points awarded for spotting the seven differences between Mr Washington and his 45th successor…

On the floor at NYSE

On the floor at NYSE

The morning of day four is dedicated to visiting the First International Bank in the inimitable Chinatown.  We meet CEO Mark Ricca, who talks of the importance of maintaining strong community ties, and openly discusses his reasons behind pursuing a focus strategy, rather than placing his bank on an open collision course with the big names in town.  Speaking of big names, part of the group are invited to visit JPMorgan’s office, while the rest of us attend a workshop on resilience and career choice at NYU, organised by our friend Dr Matt Statler, Professor of Business Ethics and Impact.

First International Bank

First International Bank

Those two visits conclude a busy, inspirational, fun and hopefully enjoyable visit to the US.  We did our utmost to fill the ‘unforgiving minute’ with activities to remember and talk about.  Each student account will offer another insight into the trip and yet there will be events which may remain undocumented.  Perhaps for the better – no-one wants to hear about the unfit lecturer who agreed to work-out with Olly and Seb and was schooled by them (one of my fondest memories of the trip, by the way, as was putting the world to rights over a beer at the hotel!)

Anyway, the trip is done and ‘it’s time to face the final curtain’ (second Sinatra quote, I know – a Sinatra quote competition may be in the works for next time). Until then all I can say is – our students did us proud. Thank you, guys!

Costa, 25 September 2017

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