Croatian people key to country's economic success
April 27, 2015
In her academic life, Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini specializes in entrepreneurship
|Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini
But the Assistant Professor of Business at LaGrange College came by her forward-looking
focus the old-fashioned way – she was inspired by her father.
"My father is an entrepreneur, which has been inspiring for me for my entire life,"
she said. "During a business trip with him in Canada, I realized that I wanted
to study family business. I wanted to understand the intangible aspects of a business,
the cultural and emotional aspects behind enterprises."
Study she did, obtaining multiple degrees from universities in her native Italy,
including a master's from the University of Rome La Sapienza and a doctorate from
the Second University of Naples, her hometown. Along the way, she was a visiting
scholar and teaching assistant at the University of Alabama, where she heard about
her present job at LaGrange College.
She describes herself as "very impressed and pleased" that LaGrange College not
only offers courses in entrepreneurship but emphasizes global engagement and has
a minor in international business.
"It's a great opportunity for students," she said.
Dr. Vecchiarini will share her international perspective and entrepreneurial expertise
as the final lecturer in the college's 3D Journeys series on Croatia. Her
April 27 presentation, set for 10 a.m. in Turner Hall, will focus on "entrepreneurial
vigor" and "economic rebirth" in Croatia, the former Yugoslavia, following decades
of disastrous repression and violent conflict.
"The values and norms created by the Communist and Socialist ideological system
are not known for encouraging entrepreneurial values, such as independence and
self-accomplishment," she explained. "The history of this country created a sort
of deficit in their entrepreneurial tradition."
With few existing opportunities, the resilient Croatians set out to create their
own, she said.
"War damages in Croatia were inestimable and industrial output was at its historic
low," she said.
But it was the difficulty in finding jobs that helped spur Croatia's rebirth.
It created an incentive for the Croatian people to find their own ways of making
In the first years after independence, new business ventures in Croatia jumped
70 percent, she explained, and "economic rebirth" seemed a real possibility. The
global financial crisis of 2008, however, has been hard for the fledgling country.
A bright spot is tourism, with Croatia currently ranked the 18th most-popular
tourist destination in the world, and a top choice of European travelers.
"Croatia is a natural treasure in Europe, with 47 percent of its land and 39 percent
of its sea designated as specially protected areas and areas of conservation, including
many UNESCO World Heritage sites," Dr. Vecchiarini said.
About 36 travelers from LaGrange will visit Croatia in late May as part of the
optional travel opportunities offered through 3D Journeys.
Meanwhile, Dr. Vecchiarini is fostering opportunities for LC business students.
She serves as advisor to ENACTUS, a service organization in which students use
and develop their business skills by helping local organizations.
The group recently attended the ENACTUS national competition in St. Louis, presenting
a marketing plan they developed for New Ventures, a local non-profit employment
development center for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
In January, Dr. Vecchiarini will help lead a study-abroad trip to Rome and Florence.
"I am very excited to get the chance to show my beautiful country to my students,"
Visits to Croatia have given Dr. Vecchiarini opportunities to appreciate both
its beauty and its potential. She hopes to share that experience with the
"I hope to instill some more curiosity about this country that I sincerely admire."