Business and Global Affairs Students Explore Global Value Chains During Two Week Immersion Experience
As part of one of its inaugural on-location experiences, the Dikran Izmirlian B.S. in Business and Global Affairs (BGA) program partnered with the Gap Inc. to analyze the global value chain of the apparel industry. The Class of 2023 BGA students traveled to California, North Carolina, the Dominican Republic, and Tennessee to examine the impact of global value chains through the lens of both lower- and higher-income countries.
Students followed the multinational clothing company’s value chain – Gap Inc.’s headquarters in San Francisco, third-party cotton and yarn suppliers across North Carolina, free trade zones and a deep-water port in the Dominican Republic, and a Gap distribution center in Tennessee – to view various stages of the company’s supply chain and deepen their understanding of how policy and international relations impact business processes at every level.
This unique opportunity was designed and developed in conjunction with Gap Inc. employees and Georgetown alumni: Katrina O’Connell (SFS’90), chief financial officer, and Sally Gilligan (B’94), chief growth transformation officer. Gap Inc. hosted tours, visits, and panel discussions about various elements of the value chain, including the creation of clothing, imports and exports, ESG considerations, and government affairs and public policy.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for our students to tap into such a vibrant community of alumni during this trip,” said Brad Jensen, McCrane/Shaker Chair in International Business at the McDonough School of Business. “To see all the stages in a value chain makes the foundational learning students do in class seem real. They can see how regulation, trade policy, international relations, tax policy, and immigration policy all affect the business, and learn a little about how companies try to influence that policy environment.”
After visiting San Francisco, the BGA cohort traveled to Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, to tour a cotton processing plant and examine the economical, social, and environmental issues surrounding the harvesting and transformation of cotton into fabric. Students also learned about Gap Inc.’s corporate sustainability strategies and how they are working with stakeholders across the globe to maximize their ESG and business-related objectives.
“This immersion experience showed me how each part of a value chain is individualistic and collaborative,” said Genevieve Domenico (B’23), a current BGA student enrolled in the signature course. “While they all have a specific role to play in the broader chain, they are impacted not just by other parts of the value chain, but also by governance, society, and the environment. This experience also demonstrated the human experience behind global operations — the day-to-day livelihoods that contribute to a broader global process.”
Students then returned to the Dominican Republic to meet with government officials and local private companies in the logistics and apparel industries to learn how multinational companies and the Dominican government are working to strengthen the country’s assets and capabilities with respect to global supply chains in order to collectively achieve their goals.
The Dominican Republic programming concluded with a Georgetown Dominican Republic Alumni Reception, hosted by Steven Puig, CEO of Banco BHD León and practitioner fellow in the School of Foreign Service’s Global Human Development Progream, as well as Georgetown University alumni who are located in the Dominican Republic.
At the event, BGA students connected with members of the Georgetown-affiliated Dominican Republic community and the current cohort of Georgetown McDonough’s Master of Arts in International Business and Public Policy program (MA-IBP). The MA-IBP students – a set of professionals with a wide range of global backgrounds and expertise – help serve as mentors and role models for the BGA students given their similarity in academic interests and personal backgrounds.
“It was very special to gather as a Georgetown community with our BGA students, MA-IBP students, and fellow alumni in the region,” said Mario Ramirez, professor of the practice and managing director of the BGA program. “The reception was a microcosm of the Georgetown experience – the ability for our students to come together as a global community and share experiences, engage in important discussions about business and international affairs, and connect on a deeper level with new friends and colleagues.”
The final stop of the trip was in Tennessee to tour Gap Inc.’s distribution center in Gallatin and visit storefronts for three brands – Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta – in Nashville. Students explored the impact of automation and what the future of work may look like for the apparel value chain and in particular, the labor and operational challenges and trade-offs faced by employers and workers.
After returning home to Washington, D.C., students reconvened to present their findings and showcase their business and policy perspectives to an expert panel of internal and external stakeholders.
“Taking classes and going on immersion trips with a small group of people helped us learn not only from the experience itself, but also from our classmates’ belief systems and viewpoints as we go through new experiences together. It was an incredibly valuable experience,” said Domenico.