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Last modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2011

IU Kelley School M.B.A.s enhance their global business acumen through two travel courses

March 1, 2011

Editors: Students in GLOBASE and Kelley International Perspectives may be available for interviews before leaving this weekend on their trips. Contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or for more information.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Last year, while some of her peers were taking a needed break from studies, Indiana University Kelley School of Business M.B.A. student Jessica Ashley was visiting companies in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.


Kelley students (left to right) Blake Grosch, Jessica Ashley, Keith Hanson and Ayushman Dutta are among dozens of MBAs who will gain first-hand experience in key business destinations worldwide.

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Needless to say, Ashley, 30, a marketing and management major from Derwood, Md., closely watched the historic events that recently unfolded in the Middle East nation of Egypt and now reflects on how quickly things can change. This March, she will be going to Poland and Croatia.

"It was amazing. We stayed right around Tahrir Square," she recalled. "I'm excited to visit Eastern Europe because 15-20 years ago we wouldn't have been able to go to these countries. They've recently become strong capitalist type economies, which will be interesting to see."

Ashley is one of dozens of students in the Kelley School's full-time Master of Business Administration program who are leaving later this week for key business destinations worldwide, including India and Australia.

Two years ago, the Kelley School launched the Global Business and Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) initiative, a social entrepreneurship consulting program that also combines international experience with leadership development. Initially, students and faculty worked on projects for small companies and a not-for-profit enterprise in Peru. This year, the school has expanded the social entrepreneurship consulting program to include similar activities in India and Ghana.

Machu Picchu

Students in the GLOBASE social entrepreneurship program have worked with companies and non-profits in Peru the last years.

Many M.B.A. students also are involved in an older field study course, Kelley International Perspectives (KIP), which allows them to learn more about how business is done in other countries through company visits and excursions to important cultural locations. This year, students are going on KIP trips to Eastern Europe and to Australia and New Zealand (They weren't planning on visiting the earthquake-affected area of Christchurch, N.Z.).

The Kelley School's Center on International Business Education and Research (CIBER) is providing logistical support for the GLOBASE and KIP courses.

Jessica Boyd, 26, a M.B.A. student from Indianapolis who also is earning a law degree from the IU Maurer School of Law, has traveled to Russia and will be going on the KIP trip to Eastern Europe.

"In the short term, I probably want to stay in the U.S. (after graduation), but I think having exposure to all these multinational companies . . . will give me more perspective on how they operate worldwide," Boyd said. "Even if I did not want to work in an office abroad, I hope I'll be able to communicate better with people abroad and understand the cultural differences in global business."

Keith Hanson, 29, a supply chain and marketing major from Rockford, Ill., went to three cities in China and also to South Korea a year ago. He is one of the student leaders for the KIP trip to Australia and New Zealand.

"If there's international opportunities down the road, I want to be able to explore, while I have a chance, some different areas now," said Hanson, who has accepted a position with Ernst & Young.

Ayushman Dutta, 32, a marketing and finance major from Calcutta, India, who previous worked in Bangalore, India, and Japan and Singapore, will be leading the KIP trip to Australia and New Zealand. He has made company contacts for the students and made appointments for visits to offices and facilities. After graduation, he will be working for the international consulting firm Deloitte.

"As a person who is coming from India, Australia and New Zealand get introduced to you more as cricket nations," Dutta said, referring to the wildly popular sport worldwide. "From the new perspective that I've gotten as a business major, I think I'll get to learn more about the countries in a different way . . . I want to learn more about how business is done there."

For example, Australian companies are much more informal than U.S. firms, Dutta said, and "their humor quotient is a little different from what I find here."

Phil Powell

Phil Powell, chair of Kelley's Full-Time MBA Program

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For those involved with the GLOBASE program, students have been working with clients based in India, Peru and Ghana since the beginning of the semester.

Joni Jenkins Lewis, 26, a finance and management major from Hillsboro, Ohio; and Blake Grosch, 30, a marketing major from Summit, N.J., both were part of the GLOBASE trip to Peru last year. This year, Lewis will be working in India and Grosch in Ghana.

Lewis and her fellow students mostly will be in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the village of Sidhbari, near the larger city of Dharamsala, working with a non-profit, Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD).

"There are four groups of us and we'll be working with different aspects of the organization," Lewis said. "My group is working with deaf and mute artists and trying to get their products out to the market a little bit more … Even though we will be in a village, many of our groups will have to travel further out into countryside."

Other teams in India will be working with CORD's efforts, with microfinance, assisting handicraft producers and encouraging natural, organic farming.

As with India, this will be the first year that students in the GLOBASE program are traveling to Ghana. "There's a lot of interest and intrigue in Africa's economy," said Sheri Fella, a lecturer in management who is one of the trip's organizers. "Ghana in particular has a very evident entrepreneurial spirit. You can feel the energy and buzz. There's also a lot of opportunity to help and have an impact."

Phil Powell, chair of the M.B.A. program and a faculty leader for GLOBASE Peru, explained that the primary focus of the program is on building leadership skills in a real-world context.

"You are learning about yourself in a foreign environment," Powell said. "Somebody's depending on you to get the job done, and you're in a developing country where you can't take anything for granted. The stakes are high, and you need to deliver value."

Grosch is leading one of the GLOBASE consulting teams in Ghana and will be working with a small company that produces essential oils and soaps. He and Lewis acknowledge that while it's unlikely that they'll see the people they're working with again, they appreciate that they've been able to make a significant impact for others.

"We're not coming in and trying to change the businesses," he said. "We're coming in and trying to work hand-in-hand with that business owner and come up with ideas that they'll be able to implement. We're not coming in with a Western mindset and saying that 'you're doing this wrong.' We're trying to help them come up with different solutions to counter their business issues, given their capabilities and resources, and make an impact.

"I've been in touch with the client I worked with (in Peru). I formed a good relationship with him," Grosch added. "He implemented the recommendations that we had provided. That, to me, is success for the program."