Croatian people key to country's economic success

Croatian people key to country's economic success

April 27, 2015

In her academic life, Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini specializes in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Dr. Mariangela Vecchiarini
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.

CroatiaDr. 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 a living.

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.

CroatiaA 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," she said.

Visits to Croatia have given Dr. Vecchiarini opportunities to appreciate both its beauty and its potential.  She hopes to share that experience with the lecture audience.

"I hope to instill some more curiosity about this country that I sincerely admire."


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