Category Archives: Dominican Republic

Tanda Extendida and the Dominican Republic

Tiffany Hynek completed her post-practicum reflection on her experience in the Dominican Republic and passionately describes the adverse situation that the private school system is facing there.

Tanda Extendida, the policy changes affecting the public school system in the Dominican Republic, have created a huge threat for the K-12 Christian private schools to which Edify and its microfinance partners, Esperanza and Aspire, provide loans. I was assigned to a team of University of San Diego graduate business students who were hired by Edify and its partners to travel to the Dominican Republic to help find solutions for these private schools. The schools were seeing high loss rates in their retention of students and teachers who were believed to be moving to public schools, due to the apparent rise in public school education levels and higher teacher salaries. The issue became apparent as we met with Edify, Esperanza and Aspire staff who shared their high levels of apprehension with us. They were concerned that with tuition beginning to leave the private schools, it would be increasingly more difficult for their clients to make loan payments and the availability of faith-based private education would decrease.

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Lunch meeting with Esperanza’s CEO

After hearing about the issues concerning our clients, we headed out into the field to visit thirteen private schools and hear the concerns of the principals and directors of these schools. These individuals largely echoed the concerns voiced by our client’s staff members: students were rapidly withdrawing from the private schools in order to access free education at the public schools, teachers were leaving in order to gain higher paying jobs at the public schools, and loan payments were going to be harder to make with less tuition coming into the private schools.

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Visiting K-12 Private Christian Schools

At this point, our team decided it was important for us to meet with the private school parents to find out their opinions on education, as they were the major decision makers in this situation. We were able to meet with a number of parents who shared their concerns about safety, nutrition, and discipline. Many of the parents had attended public schools as children themselves, but were concerned with the level of safety in the public schools where there were often 50 to 60 children for each teacher to both watch and educate. They were also concerned that the teacher to student ratio in the public schools made it impossible for teachers to discipline their students. However, due to the Tanda Extendida regulations, the public schools were now offering free breakfast and lunch programs for the children, which was very enticing for many of the parents whom we were able to speak with.

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Fernando Silva interviewing private school parents

At this point, our team recognized the importance of the situation and we needed a solution. We realized that the public schools had a huge benefit that the private schools were missing out on: economies of scale. For example, the public schools were able to purchase cheap meals from suppliers for their students because they were purchasing thousands of meals per day. However, the private schools would only be able to purchase a couple hundred meals per day, therefore losing out on bulk discounts. We realized that in order to compete with the government supported public school system, the private schools needed to work together to form a trade association.

Through this trade organization, they could work together to create benefits of economies of scale, learn from each other’s best practices, and create large scale marketing campaigns. We were able to contact food suppliers who were interested in working with a trade organization of private schools to supply affordable meals to a number of private schools. At this point, we were able to develop the beginnings of a food program for interested schools. This would not only help them remain competitive in the new market conditions, but it would also help to provide the much needed nutrition to their children. We presented our idea of the trade association and accompanying programs to CEOs and staff members of Edify, Esperanza, and Aspire, who loved the idea and wanted to move forward with the creation of the trade association as soon as possible. Our team is looking forward to also presenting our findings and recommendations to the CEO of Edify, and longtime supporter of USD, Chris Crane.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Action Learning Through Consulting Abroad

Each year MBA students have the opportunity to travel abroad to gain international consulting experience. The purpose of the consulting project is to further develop students’ leadership and team skills and to enhance their cultural awareness in an international setting. In addition, international organizations benefit from receiving consulting services. Many of the projects have a strong focus on socially inclusive business models or issues of sustainability. Below is a sampling of these projects.

Examples of International Practicums:

  • Project completed in January 2013 and 2014  – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

SECOVI-Rio is a government-sponsored organization that receives funding from condominium associations in Rio de Janeiro.  Management in SECOVI-Rio was interested in learning how to improve the environmental sustainability of both existing commercial housing units and future housing development projects.  After meeting with the clients and conducting research in this area, the student team presented a number of feasible “green” initiatives to the clients.  The clients were particularly impressed with one of these ideas—building a “model condominium” complex as a demonstration for developers, builders, and tradesmen to view in person.  The clients were so impressed with the presentation that they asked the student team to translate their entire presentation into Portuguese and return in the near future to present this to their Board of Directors.

student experience

“I attended the International Practicum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in January 2013. Beyond the amazing cultural experience I had and the overall expansion of my comfort zone, the practicum has given me so much more. Working with students from COPPEAD, I was able to hone my intercultural business skills. The company, SecoviRio, offered us a challenging project and real world practical experience. Finally, the professor provided essential consulting knowledge and advice, which added to the success of the project. Overall, I believe that the International Practicum experience provided by the University of San Diego should be a major requirement for the development of effective and knowledgeable MBA students, as I consider it to be one of the best professional experiences in my MBA career.” Daniel Shehan, IMBA

  • Practicum – January 2014 – La Romana & Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Edify, Inc.’s mission is to improve and expand sustainable, affordable, Christ-centered education in the developing world. They do this by providing capital to educational entrepreneurs to support facilities, curricula, and business and teacher training. Through a grant from Edify, Inc., USD consultants were able to travel to La Romana and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to investigate the feasibility of installing solar panels on the roofs of small Christian schools. Considering electricity is very intermittent and expensive in this country, this type of project was necessary. While in the Dominican Republic, the students built a survey instrument, traveled to school sites and interviewed principals, met with a solar panel installer and gave their final recommendations. Ultimately the students concluded that it is feasible for medium and high-end electricity users to afford loans for solar panel installation at competitive microfinance interest rates.

Dominican Republic practicum participant and Evening MBA student, Mario Orozco, commented:

“It is important that people come to business school with different goals. This kind of project and our exposure to it was an important reminder that we, as future business leaders, have a responsibility to society. It’s not all about making money for the company or organization. We need to make sure we’re using our resources to train and educate these small businesses that are trying to make a difference. If you can make a difference here, you’ll make a difference out there.”

MBA Student Mario Orozco with client in the Dominican Republic

MBA Student Mario Orozco with client in the Dominican Republic

What about you? What lessons did you learn while consulting abroad? Share your thoughts below.

Explore Santo Domingo!

The International Practicum course offered in Santo Domingo allows students to work in multicultural teams while providing real solutions to a Dominican Republic company. Each consulting project requires students to use their creativity and apply all of the analytical tools they have learned in multiple classes on campus to create solutions for a company in a completely different cultural, and economic environment. Dr. Stephen Conroy serves as mentor to the teams, helping them with their consulting challenges, and advising them on how to effectively communicate results to local clients.

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

Dr. Steve Conroy with MBA consultants in the Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic practicum participant, and Evening MBA student, Mario Orozco, commented: “It is important that people come to business school with different goals. This kind of project and our exposure to it was an important reminder that we, as future business leaders, have a responsibility to society. It’s not all about making money for the company or organization. We need to make sure we’re using our resources to train and educate these small businesses that are trying to make a difference. If you can make a difference here, you’ll make a difference out there.”

Students also get an opportunity to immerse themselves in the country’s wonderful culture, customs and cuisine. Below are some recommended things to eat, and places to see in the beautiful city of Santo Domingo (or “La Capital” as it’s typically called):

Restaurants

Dominican Republic cuisine - original photo by http://www.mydestination.com/dominicanrepublic/travel-articles/72851/dominican-republic-cuisine

Dominican Republic cuisine – original photo by http://www.mydestination.com/dominicanrepublic/travel-articles/72851/dominican-republic-cuisine

Mitre Restaurant & Wine Bar Enjoy international dishes served with a beautiful view on the terrace . The bar is located on the second floor and music is played for dining pleasure.

Pate’s Palo– This unique place is said to have been the first tavern in the New World. It offers its own “Rum Experience Menu” that pairs fine rums with fine foods.

Pura Tasca– Located in the Colonial City in Plaza España. It overlooks the Columbus Alcazar and is known for its variety of dishes and Spanish cuisine.

Meson D’Bari This lovely restaurant located in the center of Plaza Barolome de las Casas, occupies a charming colonial home with bright paintings of local artists. The restaurant serves delicious traditional Dominican and international cuisine, and has a small outdoor bar with live music on some weekend nights.

Sightseeing

The city of Santo Domingo offers a wide variety of entertainment and attractions that allow visitors to experience the culture, tradition and history of the people living in the Dominican Republic. Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean, Santo Domingo provides easy access to nearby beaches, elegant restaurants and unforgettable nightlife performances and shows.

Below are some of the places you will not want to miss – all located approximately 15 minutes away from the hotel.

1- Palace of Alcazar de Colon: built as a tribute to nations and explorers who helped settle the New World such as Ponce de Leon and Diego Columbus.

Original photo by: http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Caribbean_and_Central_America/Dominican _Republic/Distrito_Nacional/Santo_Domingo-1654465

2 – Catedral Primada de America: Completed in 1540, this building is considered to be the oldest cathedral in the Americas. It was dedicated to St. Mary of the Incarnation.

Original photo by: http://viajar.elperiodico.com/var/viajar/storage/images/media/imagenes-y-videos/fachada-de-la-catedral-primada-de-america/670629

3- Park of Three Eyes (Los Tres Ojos): The turquoise waters are completely transparent in the cave complex consisting of underground lagoons. Upon descending the stone steps, explorers take a small boat with a guide to discover the mysteries of the cave.

Original photo by: http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/rd/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=250&Itemid=12&lang=en

4- Fortaleza Ozama:  The oldest fort in South America. Constructed between the years 1502-08, it was used to protect the city from conquistadors and pirates.

Original photo by: http://www.minube.com/fotos/rincon/108471/501950

Beaches

Surrounded by nearly 250 miles of coastline on the north, east and south, the Dominican Republic’s beaches are known worldwide for pristine white sand beaches that are lapped by the warm blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Punta Cana Beach– Punta Cana has 10 different beaches, most of them very wide and all ranked among the most beautiful in the world. To find out exactly where to go read this report. Activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing are available.

Beaches of Cayo Levantado– Located on the island of Samana, these beautiful beaches are surrounded by tropical forest.

Playa Rincon- This beautiful remote beach offers a relaxing environment with beachfront restaurants nearby. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

Named one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world by international travelers.
Original photo by: http://www.bahiadelosdioses.com/galeria/photos/PlayaRincon/

Nightlife

Santo Domingo is the biggest city in the Caribbean and also one of the best cities in Latin America to party. The best (and biggest) nights for live music are on the weekends. If you are looking for live concerts head to La Hispaniola Hotel, which also gives you the opportunity to roll the dice at one of their casinos.

For more information on where to go at night in Santo Domingo read this 10 BEST report.

What about you? Have you been to Santo Domingo? What other suggestions do you have?

Students exploring the coast

Students exploring the DR coast

Student Recommendations in Latin America: What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Would Have Known Before Traveling on This International Program Abroad?

Every year, in our post-program surveys, we ask our students for feedback on things they wish they had known about a specific location prior to going there to study. On this blog post we compiled answers to this question from our graduate students who experienced life in Latin America as part of one of our programs. We hope that this information will help other students in the future!

Bogota, Colombia:

Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia

“The altitude might be an issue, which can be mitigated by arriving one day early with no need to take medication. Colombians are very humble, friendly and very helpful, so don’t worry too much about safety. Public transport, in particular the transmilenio, is fast and safe, even faster than taxis due to constant traffic in Bogota. You can have a real local experience using the transmilenio.”

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by roughguide.com

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by roughguide.com

“Internet access can be poor in many parts of the city (i.e. at coffee shops and the hotel).”

“When entering the DR one must pay a $10 fee. This fee is ONLY payable in U.S. dollar, not pesos. One must also be very careful with safety. It seems that in a country that is visited by so many tourists, one must be aware that you have to bargain for prices all the time. This may become tiring.”

 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Research the subway transportation system prior to departure. Also, I felt quite safe while there.”

“How hot it would be so bring very light clothing. Also, sun tan lotion is extremely expensive in Brazil”

“The Portuguese language was very difficult. I would tell the students about the ‘onibus’ (bus) that runs to/from airport. It was a great value compared to the taxis.”

“The need to learn Portuguese. Socializing with locals is very hard otherwise.”

“English-speakers are uncommon in Rio”

“Research the social enterprises/organizations we visited beforehand to make the most of the experience.” (Social Change Class)

“International calling plans can be expensive but international data plans not so much so consider buying that before going abroad. WhatsApp is likely the only thing you’ll need to communicate with others during the practicum  (E.g. Verizon data plan gives you 100MB for $25). Especially if you’re going to a country where you can’t just buy a cheap SIM card off the street.”

“I wish I would have known there was very little free time during the day time.  I would have liked to do some more sightseeing.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

“If possible, contact the client prior to traveling abroad. Some communication with the client could have helped develop a very loose framework and do some more targeted research prior to arriving.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

“Do some team building prior to going abroad. Also, COPPEAD students were a BLAST as were the local business leaders.” (International Consulting Project Abroad in Rio)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Have decent grasp of Spanish.  I knew very little and the language barrier was one of the most difficult of any non-English speaking”

“I wish I would have done more research into activities in the area prior to our trip.”

“Bring lots of US dollars to exchange, rather than withdraw from an ATM.  You get much better exchange rate that way.”

“It would have been nice to know the huge disparity in exchange rates on the blue dollar.  Many people brought cash and benefited greatly.”

“That laundry was not only available, but extremely convenient and affordably priced (I would not have packed half as much as I did).”

“I found two apps for my phone that were invaluable.  One was a free English/Spanish translator for Android that did not require wifi.  The other was a currency converter. Whatsapp was also instrumental.”

“You will be working a ton on your practicum, which doesn’t leave too much time to explore the city. Arrive early or stay late if you wish to do this!” (International Consulting Abroad)

“I wish I had learned more Spanish, had brought a detailed city street map, and had studied the area for restaurants and sites to see.”

“Buenos Aires is not as dangerous as people made it sound.”

“Read the material in advance! I wish I had been aware of how intense the course was going to be.” (Advanced International Negotiations Class with Professor Barkacs)

“The service at businesses and restaurants can be pretty bad.”

“I would have arrived a few days earlier and left a few days later in order to experience more of the culture and sights during the day when we didn’t have classes.”

What about you? Have you studied abroad? Do you have any other suggestions for people who are going abroad this Intersession? Post your comments below.