Tag Archives: Ahlers Center

European Accounting Experience – Karinn Uppal

Introduction

I am a first generation American. As a child of immigrants who came to this country with a strong drive to succeed, it was only natural for me to be taught the value of hard work, commitment and, above all, education at a very early age. Because of my strong desire to achieve and excel I choose to take on challenges that will better my knowledge and perspective. The most recent challenge I have taken on is to pursue my Bachelors and Masters Degree simultaneously. I believe that the Accounting Program and the Masters Program here at the University of San Diego will do just that.

Traveling and being a well-cultured individual has taught and shown me many different aspects of the world and given me a global perspective from a young age. I am a very lucky individual who has been given many opportunities to explore out of my home. From traveling alone abroad, to visiting my parent’s motherland, I have seen so many different sides of the globe. Places as diverse as an impoverished village in India, to the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, both very different settings, with different stories to witness and experiences to have. In cities such as London, Paris, and Rome, I hoped not only for an incredible travel experience, but an opportunity to expand both my professional and personal aspirations, and I received just that. This program helped me excel and take a step further towards my goals.

The International Accounting Experience

On this trip, I expected there to be many office visits, including both accounting firms and companies. In addition to these professional trips, I also expected us to partake in typical tourist activities, such as being on a tour bus in London to visiting the Vatican. In my free time I was able to explore the city in a new light, interact with different people, and find hidden places in the city I did not know about prior to the visit.

The company visits were centered on the differences between what we are accustomed to in the United States versus the international guidelines and standards found in other places. Specifically, I was able to see how this played a role during our visit to the IASB. At this particular visit, we met David Ji, an employee who presented us with a lot of information on accounting standards and what they hope the future looks like. His presentation was of value to me because it helped me understand how subsidiaries and companies have to deal with standards globally, something I will have to do once I start working.

Prior to the trip I was intrigued to see how the culture plays a part in the work environment and how the professionals act with each other versus our cultural norms. I definitely saw this culture difference in France. The hierarchy at the Amada visit was very prominent, and it was shown that those who have a higher standard job do not like to do work that is “beneath them.”

The tourist activities and exploration helped me grow personally. Through the other activities I was able to come across students I was not close to before the trip had started. I created new relationships with Austin Andrews and Andrew Taggart, two people I did not know at all prior to the trip. In addition, I went to the Colosseum with Carolyn, Cheng Cheng, Veronica, and Cecilia, four other students I had not known prior to this trip. Building relationships with these girls exposed met to a culture I had not been exposed to before. I realized how different the Chinese culture is by having conversations with them about home.

Professional Growth

With the International Accounting Program, I enjoyed meeting with our European colleagues and counterparts during the planned company visits. I exchanged ideas and had thought-provoking discussions based off the many questions I had asked. Specifically, it was very helpful to meet expatriates in the Big 4 where they would answer all of our questions. As someone who wants to enter a public accounting firm and work internationally, it was very helpful to meet someone who is currently living my future goals. At PwC I met two expatriates who were on their international rotations. I continuously asked if there was a culture shock moving and if they would want to go back to the states. It was interesting to see two different perspectives and different answers towards this question. One PwC employee said she would and will eventually move back to Southern California no matter what, where as another employee said he was there for the long-term and wants to permanently move there.

Someday, I may want to pursue career opportunities in Europe, and therefore having professional relationships with people that live and work there could be immensely rewarding. I met Claire Beng, a partner at KPMG that stepped in at the end to answer our questions. Claire and I bonded over our similar view towards a company we had both previously worked for, Accenture. After having a conversation with Claire she gave me her business card and said, “Stay in touch. I look forward to speaking with you.” After hearing that I added her on LinkedIn and she remembered exactly who I was. This connection will be beneficial and helpful to have back in the states and its very exciting to have made a connection through this trip.

Conclusion

This program was fast paced, with a full and busy schedule. It provided me with a good view and keen insight into what I could expect life to be like in the “real” world past the academic life at USD. I will constantly be busy in the public accounting field, with new clients, becoming certified, and building good work relationships; I will not have much free time in my day. I have further developed two critical skills that I need prior to entering the professional world: to be able to prioritize tasks and have excellent time management skills.

I believe that traveling abroad while in the process of obtaining my masters was an extremely enriching experience. I gained a new set of skills that will add to my professional career and personal life. This experience connected me to a whole new world of people, may it be students or professionals, many of whom I hope to have lifelong meaningful relationships.

Prior to being an Accounting Major, I was a Biology Major. But now that I have developed this passion for business and accounting; the idea of traveling and receiving credits towards my Master’s degree that once appeared as a dream has become reality. This international program advanced my persona and character in more ways than one and I am so appreciative that I was able to partake in it.

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

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

A Perfect Ending of My MBA Experience – Vivian Ma

Life as a student is enjoyable especially when you get involved in an Ahlers Center’s study abroad program. My second time studying abroad in the emerging country of Peru and my last time joining the Ahlers Center for an international program as a MBA student has given my whole MBA learning experience a perfect ending. The GSBA course of Latin American Business Environment was short, intensive, yet harvestable.

Firstly, during the two day on-campus classes, we learned the conceptual frameworks, managerial skills and background knowledge to help us make more knowledgeable decisions when it comes to formulating and implementing business strategies in Latin American countries. 

Secondly, it was always our unique advantage that we were scheduled for company visits during program. The most impressive one for me was the visit to Belcorp’s headquarters in Lima. Their vision contributes to the empowerment of women in Latin America, to awaken and build women’s capabilities, so they can imagine a better future and make it happen. On the day of our visit, it happened to be the International Women’s Holiday and they launched a campaign of red lipstick to symbolize women as warriors. We were involved in this campaign as well. I was so grateful, humbled and inspired to be there on that day and part of their vision.
Thirdly, besides the class itself and the company visit, there were two more amazing parts of this trip. We engage in a culinary tour on bike, which not only allowed us to cover more ground to visit places of interest, but gave us more flexibility and connectivity to the city as opposed to the standard bus tour. After finishing the class, we had the opportunity to explore a world miracle, Machu Picchu. We experienced four seasons, the rains, clouds, and sunshine, all in one day to get an amazing view of Machu Picchu city. It is just like a life’s journey. When you experience obstacles or tough times, you really enjoy and treasure the happy times more. 

It is so true that the USD MBA study abroad programs are a real beauty in that it provides multiple opportunities to enable myself to fulfill a transformative journey, including hands-on consulting projects with big companies, national level support for entrepreneurs and so on. Life is never easy, but thanks to USD and to the Ahlers Center for International Business, I am more confident and well-prepared for my future. I would love to help promote these trips in my home country and get more and more people benefit from these awesome program.

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

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

Consulting for Multi-Billion Dollar Companies in Munich – Asad Naqvi

The real value of an MBA along with the enormous multi-disciplinary knowledge that it inculcates, spanning across all critical business functions, is the international experience it can provide to help students develop a global mindset. A global perspective means being open to new ideas, issues and solutions. It will give business leaders an opportunity to explore changing ways of uncovering new business opportunities and evolving to implement leaner business models. It means being culturally sensitive and willing to learn from others. With businesses getting increasingly global and interconnected, an international perspective has become a skill every aspirational business leader must possess.  Working for LEDVANCE in Munich, was a wonderful platform to simulate the experience of working as a consultant for a multibillion dollar organization. It gave us a chance to get a pulse of the working culture in Germany, especially since the organization had booked a conference room for us to work within its premises. The lunch and coffee breaks allowed us to connect with other employees, learning about the business culture in Europe. More importantly, these meetings were pivotal in helping us seek a deeper understanding of the firm’s business and the electrical lighting industry. We leveraged these tidy bits of information to tailor our suggestions to the executives at the company. The experience has certainly equipped me with better decision making tools for European markets, by highlighting the differences and synergies between the business etiquettes and environment in the continent.

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

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

Studying Italian Culture & Economy in Florence – Emmalyn Spruce

Intersession 2017 lasted exactly 35 days. Yet, as I look back on the countless impactful experiences, unique perspectives, and new friends it has provided me, it feels as though it lasted a lifetime. The trip I participated in (USD’s Second Year Experience in Florence, Italy) began in January, but I was able to spend time traveling Europe with my roommates beforehand. We started in Amsterdam and worked our way down to Florence over the course of a week or so, spending a few nights in places such as Zürich, Switzerland and Stuttgart, Germany. Although the experience of traveling abroad without the help of a travel agent or pre-determined schedule organized by an experienced professional was a stressful, exhausting, eye opening and completely rewarding part of my time in Europe, I’ve decided to describe my academic experience abroad as a student of International Business.

My first and favorite meal in Florence

As a participant in the Second Year Experience, students are able to choose from a variety of different courses offered during the three-week long excursion to Florence. Each class is taught by a USD faculty member and students receive USD credit towards their core requirements or major/minor. In addition to attending class every day, we participated in a number of course-related trips, which included visits to local museums and monuments such as Michelangelo’s David and an interactive virtual reality art exhibit featuring the works of Gustav Klimt. We also had the opportunity to meet with the owner of Leonardo’s Leather Shop, a local store we partnered with to collect data for our final projects, which analyzed the statistical trends of the shop’s sales. Our schedule also included a number of free days on which we were permitted to explore Florence on our own or travel to other Italian cities and regions by train.

The Colosseum looks just as incredible no matter how cold it is, but I’ve provided photographic proof that we nearly froze in Rome.

On our second free day in Florence, we set out to walk from our hotel through the narrow, cobblestone streets in search of lunch. We took our usual path along the river towards the city center, but were stopped just before we arrived by a line of police cars blocking the road. Whistles were sounding and chants were being shouted in Italian. The policemen were casually standing around, smoking cigarettes and chatting by the edge of the square, keeping an eye on whatever was happening just around the corner. Upon seeing this we became less nervous about what we might find. I made my way through a thicket of parked bicycles and into the square, where an ocean of light blue and cherry red flags ebbed and flowed. I watched as the people who held them in the air wandered back and forth speaking to one another and trying to keep warm as the protesters funneled into a small side street towards the city center.

It took a moment to find someone in the crowd who spoke our language but, after a few minutes, the purpose of the protest was vaguely described to us in broken and heavily accented English. The middle-aged Italian man said that they were workers for a major textile companies. Their employers had promised them new contracts and when the time came to sign them, the companies backed out. They were advocating for workers rights and specifically for contracts with fairer wages. As we made our way towards our usual lunch spot alongside the protesters, we ran into Mateo, a graduate student whom we’d met at Florence University of the Arts. When I asked him what he knew about the demonstration he explained that employees from different textile and footwear companies across Italy had come together with the help of a number of different Italian labor unions to protest the non-renewal of contracts. He pointed out signs that different sections of the group were holding up, “For example, this group you can see is from Milan, and those over there are from Bologna. They have traveled here to protest together so their numbers are larger.” Upon rifling through some Florentine news sources, I discovered that there were a number of reasons why the protest took place in Florence. The union officials who helped to organize the event intended for the timing (it occurred on the same day as many of the Florence Fashion Week events) to encourage the consideration of the difference between those who are wearing and selling high-end Italian clothing, and those who make it.

We could see the protest continue later that day in Florence, closer to the city center.

Poverty was not something I expected to see very much of when traveling to Europe. I assumed that, because we would be spending our time primarily in tourist-heavy areas, we would not see much exposure to this particular economic issue. This was not the case. Everywhere we went individuals could be seen selling trinkets in the plazas, outside of museums, and next to monuments. Others frequented the same areas and begged for money instead. I noticed that the large majority of these individuals were not native Italians. Many of the people I spoke to were refugees from Senegal, Africa. Some of the people had lived in Italy for many years and selling these knick-knacks and souvenirs had been their only source of income, while others had just recently arrived and could barely speak Italian, much less English.

Based on articles found in domestic sources such as The Local Italy and foreign sources like The Wall Street Journal, Italian politicians are primarily concerned with both the current banking system and immigration. A series of bad loans has plagued Italian banks since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and they are still working toward recovery. In addition to a financial system that is constantly at risk, Italy has taken in a record number of refugees and asylum seekers over the past few years. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the number of unaccompanied minors fleeing their home countries and seeking asylum in Italy has doubled in the past year alone. Unstable banks, along with the recent influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, has caused major political upheaval in Italy and Italians debate solutions to these issues most frequently. It seems that many of the same economic, political, and humanitarian issues are prominent topics for discussion in both cultures. I was surprised to discover that economic stability and the immigrant crisis are major issues that both Italians and Americans are concerned with. Some of the other aspects of Italian culture, however, were much different from those in the U.S.

One of the most prominent differences in culture that I noticed and felt the need to adjust to was the emphasis on time. I noticed in many instances that, for Italians, time is most definitely not of the essence. I felt as though I was being rude when I asked for the check after a meal in a local restaurant, or decided not to have wine or dessert. In the U.S., we treat time as though it is an invaluable resource that must be utilized to its maximum potential. Every minute of my life is scheduled to a T, and meals in particular seem to be treated as a necessary evil that must happen as quickly as possible so as not to interrupt whatever important work needs to be done. I found that I had great difficulty adjusting to this particular aspect of Italian culture at the beginning of our trip, but by the end I was perfectly happy to spend two hours of my day enjoying a four-course lunch as we looked out across the beautiful Arno River.

We sat here for three and a half hours.

The academic aspect of studying abroad is thoroughly rewarding and I would recommend it specifically to those interested in international interaction. There are a few pieces of advice I would offer someone who is interested in studying abroad. The first is to make sure not to underestimate the importance of balance. Studying abroad isn’t exactly a vacation, but spending enough time on your academics will allow you to have a more educated understanding of your host country and its people. You will appreciate it in the long run. The second is to allow yourself room to deviate from the plan. Lose yourself in a city you don’t know, meet new people, ask for help, trust yourself and let yourself be vulnerable so that your time abroad changes you for the better.

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

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

Implementing Marketing Strategies in Munich – Daniel Barry

Working on a project for BMW Motorrad (Motorcycles) during the 2017 International MBA Practicum was an experience I will never forget. Our case focused on marketing challenges directly impacting regional operations for BMW Motorrad in the current year through 2021. My group consisted of an extremely diverse set of MBA students both at USD and the Munich University of Applied Sciences who each had unique inputs on how to approach the project. Our final presentation brought new, compelling recommendations to the Regional Manager and Product Manager that they were eager to implement. We were able to establish a network with these individuals and I have maintained contact with them regarding progress and how we could help back in San Diego. As the target demographic for BMW Motorrad, I found it hard “turn off” the project and could not stop jotting down ideas as they came to me.

When I did break away for some downtime, Munich gave me plenty of sights, sounds and tastes to take full advantage of. I enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in Olympia Park on my way to visit the famous BMW Museum and BMW World. My colleagues and I also enjoyed delicious food and of course, beer, at many of the famous beer halls around the city. A great way to take a rest day is to visit the Deutches Museum that had amazing technical exhibits and industrial inventions through history. At the end of my trip, I was able to break away for a few days to visit Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria for some skiing! The weather was outstanding and the mountaintop views were breathtaking – I recommend this to anyone with the slightest interest because it’s only a few hours from Munich by train. The Practicum in Munich was far beyond the highlight of my (brief) stint as a USD MBA student and I am looking forward to my next one wherever it may be!

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina (because I’ll be back soon) – Cat Nilsson

“My trip to Buenos Aires will be difficult to summarize in one blog post, as it was two weeks of exploring, learning, and adapting to a place full of life and fun people. First, I’ll start off by saying that Argentina, or even Latin America, usually isn’t at the top of a traveler’s list, but after experiencing all that the country has to offer, I would have to say: think again. Buenos Aires, Argentina is a bustling metropolis that is made up of a blend of traditions and cultures, namely French and Italian influences. It is known as the “Paris of Latin America”, and for good reason – the architecture is reminiscent of many of the buildings that you would find in Europe and the options are endless for whatever type of food you could want. Argentina has a lot of character, and there are many different places to explore in order to find your niche, whether it be in the trendy Palermo barrio where there are charming cafes, such as Cafe Oui Oui and Artemisia, trendy boutiques and fabulous upscale restaurants, such as Don Julio and Las Cabras, and upbeat nightlife (safe to say that Rosebar was a frequented establishment), to Recoleta, known for its famed Cemetery housing the remains of Eva Perón, a women’s rights and labor activist in the late 1940s to early ’50s, also known as the “spiritual leader” of the country, and contains two of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Cumana (the gnocchi is the most amazing thing ever) and El Cuartito (famous for its ‘fugazetta’ aka cheese and onion pizza), or to La Boca, a neighborhood smack dab in the center of Buenos Aires’ slums, but is the most colorful and inviting area in the city.

As a group of undergraduates, MBA, and MSGL students, we all began our trip by being taken on a city tour just mere hours after stepping off the plane (in order to help us adjust to the time difference) that showed us a lot of the main highlights mentioned previously, besides Palermo. We were able to slightly get our bearings and see what the city has to offer, as well as the places we would want to go back to. Upon the completion of the tour, many of us decided to go out for an early dinner in the neighborhood of our hotel, Retiro, a quiet yet classy area that includes Calle Florida, a street filled with bustling students from the nearby university and many shops and restaurants.

The first few days included our initial class meetings, a tango night, a wine tasting lecture, and sleepless nights (due to countless naps taken throughout the day). I took the Negotiations in a Global Business Environment taught by the relentlessly entertaining couple duo, the Barkae. The course as a whole was excellent and I would highly recommend anyone to take a class or a seminar in how to negotiate, as it is a life skill that is so important, especially for women in our society. Women are at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to negotiating, as we are perceived as being subordinate, docile, and forgiving. My main takeaway from the course was that in order to combat this issue, it is imperative for both men and women to know that this is prevalent and women are just as capable to lead, if not better, as we actively listen, value others opinions, and try to build consensus more often than men. The simulations also were very pertinent to what happens in real life and were vital to the learning process throughout the course of the class. The tango night was probably one of the best nights that was a part of the program set up by USD, as the performances were impeccable and visually amazing. It truly felt like you were a part of the tradition and the emotion emitted from the dancers was undeniable. We also were treated to a wine tasting lecture that was highly enjoyable and we were taught all that we would need to know about how to correctly try wine, as well as were able to taste two white and two red, plus a champagne, that are indigenous to the Latin American region.

After giving a brief overview of what the program & trip entailed, I want to go back to my favorite place in the whole city, Palermo. We decided to go on a graffiti walking tour of the neighborhood, where our tour guide transported us back in time to when Argentina battled into becoming a democracy, which is what “street art” was born out of. The most intricate of all the graffiti, in my opinion, was a mural of Frida Kahlo, painted outside of a club called “Fridha” with an ‘h’. It included real gems as her jewelry and she was depicted as the epitome of a hipster. There was another interesting piece of graffiti that looked completely different at first glance, since it had a lot going on, but actually made up an image of a tiger peering down at you. After going on the tour, my classmates and I had a much greater appreciation for the history of the struggle many of the citizens have had to go through and for the art that they use to demonstrate their passionate feelings.

A few other adventures worth highlighting that my classmates and I embarked on were visiting the San Telmo market, the MALBA (the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires), and El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The San Telmo Market was an eclectic assortment of artisan made goods, paintings, jewelry, leather bags and wallets, soap dispensers, and trinkets galore. The market goes on for miles and miles and is hugely popular to attend on Sundays, attracting an insane amount of tourists. We happened upon a cafe called Coffee Town in the center of the market located inside a converted warehouse that served up a mean cup of coffee and delicious brunch, that I am always craving. Throughout the mess of vendors and visitors, there are street performers either singing or dancing the tango. The MALBA was a modern art museum that showcased Frida Kahlo and Picasso, amongst other famous Latin American artists. Many of the art installations had a deeper meaning (or so we thought they must, since some of them were pretty strange) and it is a must see if you are either an art enthusiast or like to interpret wacky paintings and sculptures. Furthermore, El Ateneo was originally an opera theater transformed into a large bookstore containing Latin American classics and a cafe. The bookstore is beautiful and grandiose. The picture that I am providing really doesn’t do it justice, as it is so much more awe inspiring in person. It was perfect to visit the bookstore as a slight study break, as well as set up shop at a table in the cafe to study, all whilst listening to opera music in the background (which could get loud at times, but we tried to embrace it).


All in all, the trip exceeded all of my expectations in the way that I was able to be surrounded by a vibrant and rich culture with a great group of peers that I am lucky enough to now call friends, as well as could learn more about myself inside and outside of the classroom, through both the negotiations and exploring one of my new favorite cities, Buenos Aires. I hope to return sometime in the future, but for now, I’m grateful for the lasting memories that I have made and will continue to have for a lifetime.”

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

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

Ahlers Fellow Jon Bocketti: Vortex Global Takes Second Place at the 2016 CUIBE Case Competition

Jon Bocketti, who is an Ahler’s Center Fellow, was a participant in this year’s CUIBE Case Competition held in Boston, Massachusetts and the team placed SECOND overall! Read on to find out more about his experience.

The CUIBE International Business Case Competition hosted by Northeastern University proved to be one of the most educational and applicable experiences I have participated in while at USD. Held in Boston, Massachusetts, this year’s competition brought in talented students from 16 schools from all around the country all trying to solve the challenging case.

Below I’ve provided 3 tips on how to take advantage of the trip and competition:

STEP 1: Explore Boston

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Being from the Northeast, arriving in Boston and feeling the cool crisp air, all while seeing the fall foliage only added to my excitement. Arriving on Wednesday, November 2nd, we went out to the North End for a delicious Italian dinner. The quaint cozy feel of the restaurant solidified we were no longer in San Diego. A long day of travel, a stomach full of pasta and meatballs, and a scenic walk back to our hotel meant for an early bed time. The next day, we had all day to explore the city of Boston. Some of our stops included the harbor district and Quincy market. On the Sunday following the competition, I went to the Top of the Hub, located on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Building. Here, you could see all of Boston. Boston has a lot of history and provided the team with inspiration for our case analysis.

STEP 2: Work Collaboratively

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When I first met my other team members, we discussed what we wanted to get out of the competition and how we personally would contribute to the team. We all wanted to put in our best effort, but also have a good time. We planned a dinner to serve as an icebreaker to get to know each other outside of the competition mindset. Before heading to Boston, the team was given a practice case. We met a few times to come up with a solution and presented it to two different panels of judges consisting of USD faculty. This was a great experience within itself, because we were able to garner real feedback without the pressure of the competition or getting graded. During the first night of the competition, we took time to read the case individually and came up with our own ideas on how to solve the challenging case. We then came together to discuss our ideas and concerns of the case. To avoid group-think and make sure that all of our ideas were heard, we decided to have a brainstorming session. During this brainstorming session, all ideas, no matter how crazy, were written down with no objections. This is where I attribute most of our success. To finish the night, we reviewed our brainstorming ideas list. The objective of the review was to be critical, but also constructive, and to see how these ideas could be incorporated into our overall plan. While we were working, we wanted to make sure that each team member was on board with the plan and understood every aspect of the plan. This proved to ensure that during our presentation and the Q&A section, we were all confident with every aspect of our plan.

STEP 3: Have Fun

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One of the most important aspects for me was to have fun. Although this competition was the perfect outlet to focus my natural competitive personality, I wanted to have fun in the process, and make sure the whole team was in good spirits. Throughout the analysis, and even right before the presentations, we would have dance breaks just to loosen up and relieve some stress. One of my favorite parts was getting to know the other students that were also competing. After the first round of presentations, it was announced our team had moved onto the final four. During the closing ceremony, I thought to myself that no matter what place we got, I could say that we had tried our hardest and had fun in the process … winning second was just the cherry on top.

Overall, I had the best time and am truly grateful for this experience.

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

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

People Before Profits – Judy Halter

Judy Halter traveled to Mondragón, Spain this past summer, studying the models of participatory leadership in a global context. Please enjoy reading her perspectives on business, philosophy and the importance of the cooperative model.

“Now having an increased knowledge of the many positive social outcomes for cooperative management, I ask how can we incentivize people to work for cooperatives again? An economist made a presentation for us during the week and mentioned “that it would be rare for anyone to currently creatimg_4927e a startup in the coop model.” The dynamics that were in place in the late 1950s when MCC was created were very different than today’s environment. We learned that even by the 1990s, people were joining coops for practicality reasons, not for higher purpose or perceived societal benefits. Though I personally believe and appreciate the positive societal outcomes from people coming together to work for each other instead of an individualistic approach, my beliefs are not the norm. So I ask, what is going to bring the appreciation of solidarity and democratic management back into favor?

I feel that our changing employment demands could possibly create a scenario where people will appreciate the work and be willing to sacrifice the funds for the greater good. Gallop in May 2016 reported that 13.7% of people are underemployed in the US. Underemployment is a form of cooperative tenets taking place in the sense that people want to work so much they willing to take jobs beneath their skill level in hopes of future mobility. As our economy continues to be disrupted by technological Mondragon 15advancements, our employment avenues are changing rapidly. Will there be a time of retraining workers? How long will that take? Will workers, in hopes of belonging to a community and making a contribution, consider a cooperative model? Possibly, only time will tell. I truly concur with Dr. Herrera’s belief regarding man’s need to contribute and evolve through his work. The cooperative model may be one of the more acceptable means of providing full employment when jobs are declining in availability. Allowing more people to work for less and spread the opportunity to work, might be one of the solutions to keeping people engaged, contributing and connected. I also believe that the cooperative pay scale could be one of the quickest ways to solve income disparity if applied in corporate America. That being said, capitalism is one of the founding pillars of American society, but my hope is that we can dial back our consumption in an effort to put people before profits, which is the foundation of the MCC.

Mondragon 6I am so thankful for the enlightening week in Mondragón. The cooperative tenets align with me philosophically, and I believe corporate America has an opportunity to integrate some of the best tenets of the cooperative model: equity, democratization, participatory leadership, and education. Some of our best companies in the US (ie. Google, Wegmann, Boston Consulting Group) maintain some of the cooperative tenets. They receive high marks from their employees on “best places to work.” Utilizing a system similar to the cooperative model, these American companies have created a strong, unified culture where people take pride in their work and collaborate. I believe this engaged dynamic occurs because the companies strive to put their employees before their profits similar to the cooperative principles of people before profits. In America, we have leadership that implements similar philosophies; we just need other leaders to be inspired as well.”

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

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

Tips for Traveling to Lisbon and Madrid

Shreyas Sreekanth visited two locations, Madrid and Lisbon, and gave us some tips for what to do and see in both locations. Read on to find out more!

Since this was the first time I was visiting Europe, my excitement before leaving was overwhelming. We had a large group of people from different programs joining us in these wonderful locations, which made it even better to meet new people and hang out together. The pre-departure session that my classmates and I had with the Ahler’s Center was very helpful to prepare ourselves for the locations we would be traveling to, as we had speakers present who are from Lisbon as well as a person from the US currently studying in Madrid. They were kind of enough to give us a broad picture of what the locations are like, safety tips, appropriate traveling means, as well as suggestions of different restaurants and places to visit.

Lisbon is a great city in terms of the people, locations, food, and places to visit. The opening dinner on the first day was a great opportunity to meet everyone in the program. The authentic Portuguese cuisine was to die for, as I had the best sea food and wine. Our class was held in Catolica School of Business and Economics, which was a 10-minute cab ride from our hotel. The professors and students from the school were very receptive and catered to our needs in the best way they could, which made us feel more comfortable in our new environment. The class schedule was perfectly balanced between attending class and completing school work before we went out to explore the city.

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The city tour that the Ahler’s Center planned was what opened my eyes to what Portugal has to offer, as well as its prominent history. We had a certified guide who took us to the oldest part of the city, gave us information about how the city had been destroyed by an earthquake, and described what had to be done to build it back up to what it is today. It involved quite a walk, so it is highly recommended to be in comfortable attire and shoes (which will be stressed by Allison the day before). Everyone was quite tired after the session, but the highlight was going to an amazing pastry place, Pastéis de Belém, where we were served the best chocolate tarts I have ever had until now. This is a must try in Lisbon, as I ended up having a few every day after the tour.

The other must visit place is Sintra, where beautiful castles are located, as well as a breathtaking view from the western most part of Europe. The hike is through some wonderful small waterfalls and various ancieimg_20160604_013729nt castles. Again, it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and attire, as it is almost a 4-hour hike to see all of the sites. The city also a lot of small little restaurants and boutiques that are interesting to peruse in, the restaurants are perfect to go with friends after a long day’s trek in the evening. A peculiar trend that I observed in Lisbon is that dinner time is usually around 10 PM, and hence, the places are open quite late. The language is not really a problem, as all the restaurants have English menus, and the minimal English that the cab drivers know is sufficient to get around the city without much difficulties. However, it is recommended to learn a few basic words in both languages, but if not, it is very important to carry a business card of the hotel with you at all times in case of an emergency.

After a week in Lisbon, we headed towards the city of Madrid in Spain. The most prominent experience I had in Madrid is the Tapas tour. Tapas is img_20160530_174244a must try in Madrid, as there so many variations to the small dishes and tapas is available in a lot of different places. The Dean also joined for us the event, making it that much better. We were lucky enough to be in Madrid during the UEFA finals between two of the most prominent clubs in Spain, Real Madrid and Atlético. The craze about soccer in Spain is real, as it is widespread throughout the city, and it seemed like the city came to a halt for those entirety of the game.

We were also fortunate enough to have guest speakers at both the locations who were from Europe to give presentations on their respective regions. The opportunity to learn about the history of both countries, the EU, and the Eurozone in general was fascinating. The industrial visits to We Do Technologies in Lisbon and the Google campus in Madrid was very useful to understand how business functions in Eimg_20160603_202749urope, and the experiences described by the founders of We Do technologies was very informative. They explained the challenges they faced in their industry, as well as how different it is to run a business in Europe in comparison to the US. The industrial visits are a core part of the program and it is mandatory to attend both of them. On a final note, the logistics and program itself were carried out very efficiently, with many thanks to Allison from the Ahler’s Center, as she coordinated with the local schools and kept us informed regularly through Whatsapp. Both of the cities were wonderful places to visit, to experience the European culture as well as to gain new knowledge, and a few credits, at the same time!

Social Entrepreneurship in South America

Timothy Mullen and his MBA class took the opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, examining the prominent role of the cultural and social environment in regards to business and entrepreneurship. Please enjoy reading about Timothy’s experiences and perspectives.

“Our USD MBA went truly global early in 2016, with a group of us electing to travel for coursesmullen2 offered in South America. Argentina was the destination for a course in Global Entrepreneurship followed by Rio De Janeiro where we undertook a team based consulting project for real businesses. Argentina was particularly enlightening as we got much closer as a student body, living under the same roof in close quarters, sharing the same frustrations with taxi availability and exploring all the culinary and cultural nuances of our unique location together as a group. Even if by the end we couldn’t face another empanada or religious cut of beef for weeks to come, we were all so thankful for the experience.

The journey of discovery began when Dr. Meyskens set us the task of reading Bornstein’s “How to Change the World” and it set the tone for what was to be an amazing voyage of societal reflection throughout the inspirational excursion. David Bornstein through his book “How to Change the World” (2007) really opens the readers mind to the possibilities social entrepreneurship presents through business for social innovation on a global scale. It was an incredible read filled with heart-warming tales of idea champions struggling against adversity mullen1both systematic, economic and social. Bornstein uses ten case studies of individual social champions to strengthen his views about what defines a success and how the Ashoka organisation in particular, plays a role in developing small scale ideas into world changing visions with notable results. I think the book in general opened my eyes up to the kinds of innovative work individuals (in often really trying geographical regions) were performing, towards their own respective causes. Some of the struggles these individuals have overcome to render completely rewarding and often thankless results is astounding and often tugged at the heart strings. I was thrilled to learn about Ashoka’s individual based funding model recognizing elite contributors. I will keep with me, from this point forward, the six qualities of social entrepreneurs particularly a willingness to self-correct, and try to apply those principles to future strategic plans I try to enact whether socially beneficial or otherwise. I highly recommend anyone interested in civil sustainability or innovation pick up this book for a great timeless read or inspiration.

mullen3Following on from our exploration of the book we were fed valuable classroom insights into the social inequality currently facing Argentinians in their everyday lives due to a failing economy and job and welfare shortages. We visited and heard from many organisations in the Argentinian business landscape each championing a cause to correct social inequality. We were inspired by the likes of the Alamo co-operative employing those of less means to recycle and collect trash for sustainable employment, Idel who were training mentally disadvantaged adults by providing them with social training and employment possibilities, Acinder, a large steel corporation and the voluntary efforts they promoted through direct programs and government liaising and the almost militant worker groups at La Base and Chilavert printers championing the voice of the downtrodden.
mullen4We were further equipped with entrepreneurship tools and tasked to apply them to a venture of our own invention. Armed with a social entrepreneur geared business canvas model, the lean start-up philosophy and funding options and scaling principles for social ventures, we were ready to develop our own concepts. Wanting to better understand the class division and with an avid interest in healthcare already, our team decided to see what we could propose for healthcare in the Argentinian slums. I was really keen to understand the lives the residents and pitch our idea to the people who lived there to see if they recognised benefit. Filled with curiosity and a desire to help myself and the professor did a private tour of Villa 31 led by a mullen5volunteer evening school (Casa Abierta) teacher who lived there. She explained that our assumption that slum residents wanted to elevate themselves out of that living situation was somewhat misled. Most of the residents had moved to Villa 31 from the likes of Ecuador and Paraguay, as Buenos Aires in fact was a positive move even if it was the slums where they ended up. They weren’t looking to educate their children with the dream of ever leaving those communities but instead continue to work tremendously hard to make their communities a comfortable, viable and healthy lifestyle choice for all. It was share economy in the rawest form, they owned their predicament and weren’t seeking handouts, pity or sympathy. The slums were much more civilised than expected with running water, power, telephone coverage with internet access, security and functioning businesses. Issues remained like a lack of on-call emergency health services, police corruption and crime and drug proliferation, but these weren’t enough to dissuade the residents of Villa 31 from their intention to remain there and better their life in the slum. The professor and myself were even shown an adult evening education centre which was self-funded and volunteer steered, and we were also told of sewing co-operatives which had been developed recently. It was a very positive experience completely transforming my opinion of class inequality in Buenos Aires.

Our team’s concept MedRed was a non-profit healthcare app for the slum areas. Villa 31 had recently built a little medical room regularly attended by volunteers inside the slum so as to bring health care to the residents rather than have them walk up to one hour to the nearest facility, but it was manned to a schedule not around the clock and required one particular medical professional to champion the cause. Together with the adult evening school, he had begun a program of education for medical technician volunteers living in the villa who had access to the room and could perform minor duties. Our idea was to develop an app to connect those volunteers with a virtual network of logged in, on-call health professionals who would mullen6volunteer from local hospitals medical schools and universities and other practices. In the event of an alarm, the app would connect the volunteer with the professional to pseudo triage and treat the patient any hour of any day. Basically, an uber for volunteer doctors and their advice to the volunteers. The plan then was to expand the volunteer program and app to other slums in Argentina and then possibly the other slums of the world. Potentially a paid service for a GP on call could be rolled out to regular citizens in those countries to help fund the expansion. Our app concept was met with supportive praise from both the residents of the villa and the Argentinian business mentor whom we had to pitch it to and we felt rewarded that we’d developed a tangible solution to a very real issue.

I’m unsure as to whether our successful pitch will ever lead to a manifestation of the app in the real world, providing residents with a better standard of healthcare coverage, but nonetheless our journey to Argentina was tremendously rewarding and eye opening. We learnt much about ourselves as a student group and left inspired by real community efforts and ventures we’d both read about, visited and interacted with. It was amazing to learn that innovation in business didn’t have to be confined to the realms of efficiency and cost, but, all in all, I hope to remember that fantastic commercial opportunities exist outside of the regular “for profit” business world to strategize and innovate for real social change and balance.”

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

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