Connecting Classroom with the Real World
By Judy Ashton
Pretty to look at, but the invasive lionfish species is wreaking havoc in the Atlantic Ocean. Native to Indo-Pacific waters, the lionfish is thought to have been released in the Caribbean by individuals owning home aquariums. As fast breeders, voracious eaters and with no known predators, they are causing damage to the natural habitat of coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves.
The problem is one that Lindner Economics Professor Michael Jones presented to his students: can a market for this tasty fish be created?
As part of an Economic Development course in Costa Rica, 18 Lindner students partnered with a nonprofit organization, Asociacion De Pescadores Artesanales Del Caribe Sur (ASOPACS), to better understand the economic impact of the invasive species on the local fishing industry. The ASOPACS partnership allowed students to travel to the Central American country to explore whether lionfish could be caught and sold as food.
Prior to the trip, Jones invited a local Cincinnati chef, Jaime Carmody, to prepare lionfish dishes for students to sample. After the feast, students then developed a marketing research survey to analyze the consumer demand for lionfish.
"Students discovered that the dish is similar in taste and texture to tilapia, but can be priced within one to two dollars of salmon," Jones says of the market research.
Students also learned that Whole Foods Market began offering lionfish in 2016, thereby creating a market for the tasty species.
Economic Lessons Learned
Could the same be done in Costa Rica?
Upon arrival in Costa Rica, students quickly went to work. They used economic tools and interviewed locals in the fishing industry to learn more about the supply chain for lionfish. Students spent a day on the water for a first-hand look at the fishing traps. They discovered that the presence of lionfish meant that less red snapper, a popular local fish, was being caught in the traps.
Students learned a worthwhile lesson in economic markets.
"We focused on how a local environmental problem can be solved by applying economic principles to analyze the marketability of this invasive fish," says Rachel Harrison, an International Business and English major, reflecting on her first study abroad experience.
Students discovered that promoting consumer demand may lead to unintended consequences in a global economy. If a lionfish market were created, people may breed more lionfish to meet that demand.
Michael Jones, Assistant Professor, Educator Department of Economics
Over a lionfish feast, Lindner students proposed creative ideas to the fishermen to increase the demand for lionfish. Ideas ranged from selling the lionfish meat, which tastes like sweet tilapia, Harrison says, to making frozen fish sticks, marketing the fish as exotic and selling to high-end American restaurants, or marketing the fish as an exotic pet for fish collectors or aquariums.
However, Jones says, markets can be powerful tools in solving environmental and business challenges, but sometimes come with unintended consequences.
"If we proposed stimulating consumer demand and building out the supply chain for the lionfish, then we might only make the problem worse because more people may breed them to keep up with demand."
Impactful Lessons Abroad
This past year, 706 Lindner students traveled to six continents and 37 countries to expand their knowledge of business abroad. Here's just a sampling of what they experienced.
Cape Town, South Africa
Lindner students designed marketing plans for a small business owner to bring more customers to his coffee shop. Students supplied the owner with business cards, signs and social media aid.
A visit to GE Aviation offered a close-up look at the cultural and environmental challenges of operating a business in the Middle East, where every 30 seconds an aircraft with GE technology takes off.
Lindner Honors-PLUS students, accompanied by Daniel Gruber, the program's new director, learned about Procter & Gamble's Cincinnati heritage and wide-ranging impact in the global marketplace from Swiss IT execs.
Freshmen in the Kolodzik Business Scholars program toured Fabrik8 — a fully-equipped work environment offering rental space for startups such as Guru Organic Energy.
Hollywood meets Bollywood with a visit to Prana Studios in Mumbai. The special effects animator offered a tour and a behind-the-scenes look at visual effects for popular American feature films.
MBA students experienced business abroad in China. The first-time trip offered students an opportunity to consult on a project with Nike and Cintas.
The Lindner College of Business is the only college at the University of Cincinnati with a dedicated international programs office. Lindner also sends more students abroad than any other college at UC.