In Georgetown McDonough’s effort to provide a global education in every aspect, from undergraduate to graduate education and beyond, the Global Business Experience (GBE) is the centerpiece.
Run by the school’s Global Business Initiative, the GBE is an opportunity for students to work on consulting projects directly with the leadership of multinational corporations, travel abroad to meet face-to-face and immerse themselves in the business community of a foreign country over the course of a week, and then present final recommendations to their clients.
Since the inception of the Global Business Experience more than two decades ago, students have worked on more than 1,600 projects and travelled to 32 cities and 22 countries. The course currently is a requirement of all McDonough graduate students and an elective for the undergraduate business students.
According to Ricardo Ernst, Baratta Chair in Global Business and director of the Global Business Initiative, the goal of the program is to create global-ready leaders who can take on business challenges at companies across the world, from international businesses to smaller entrepreneurial firms. The program is modelled after the case method, Ernst said, with the exception that the students themselves are participating in real-life cases.
“The Global Business Experience will allow you to live, to perform your own case,” he said. “That is a unique experience you might not get unless you’re doing the GBE.”
Traveling abroad to meet face to face with the companies from their cases is a highlight for students in the program. Lauren Cosgrove (MBA’19) visited Ghana as part of her partnership with Mondelez International Cocoa Life initiative, an effort to promote sustainable sourcing of cocoa and support the communities that grow it.
Cosgrove said she and her team looked at cocoa sustainability through the lens of women’s empowerment, meeting with local nonprofits, government agencies, and a cocoa-growing community. Visiting the cocoa farm was a standout experience, she said, where she received face-to-face instruction in growing cocoa and cooking with local ingredients.
“After spending a week in the capital city of Accra for my Global Business Experience, I feel so fortunate that I was exposed to such an interesting, friendly, and delicious culture,” she said.
Matt Allgeier (MBA’19) was similarly impressed with his experience travelling to South Korea, where he rode the bullet train from Seoul to Busan and visited his partner company’s factory. He emphasized that in-person contact was key in providing useful help to his client.
“The in-country insights, coupled with our pre-residency research, equipped us with the granular level detail necessary to provide an impactful final deliverable,” Allgeier said.
The collaboration with Georgetown students sometimes leads companies to make concrete changes, and they often are appreciative of the partnership.
“We are grateful for the hard work by the team and their commitment,” said Magnus Olsson, chief executive of Careem. “It is always thought provoking and insightful with outside perspectives.
“Our entire team enjoyed interaction with the team here in Mumbai,” said Karan Malhotra, senior manager of business strategy and product management at Mahindra. He added that Georgetown students’ research was pertinent and that it would inform the company’s planning process.
In the end, Justus Pugh (B’20), who completed his GBE in France, said that being on-site with his client opened his eyes to the impact Georgetown McDonough students can have on an organization through these projects.
“I really understood the value of the work that we were doing,” he said. “I knew I also was changing the business and adding to their development program and engaging with the CEO of the company in a way that will likely impact their business for years to come.”