MBA Global Business Experience Stays Local Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Takes Advantage of D.C. Connections

Students at IDB Invest

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business hosted a Vietnam residency in early March for a group of Full-time MBA students in Washington, D.C., to take advantage of the university’s location and connections in the city.

Each year in the spring semester, MBA students embark on the Global Business Experience, a global business consulting project culminating in presentations abroad to senior leaders of their client organization. Clients include multinational corporations in nations such as Brazil, Ghana, India, China, and Vietnam. As a result of COVID-19, however, Georgetown created an alternative for students who were unable to travel or who were uncomfortable with the developing COVID-19 situation at that time. 

“Considering the circumstances, I was impressed with how flexible and proactive the Georgetown McDonough and Global Business Initiative leadership were. While you cannot replicate actual client visits and cultural experiences in a foreign country, the program leadership quickly developed a D.C.-based plan to add value to students’ global experiences,” said John Leatherman (MBA’20), who was originally scheduled to travel to Germany.

Many MBA students participated in their Global Business Experience trips as scheduled in early March, but the sudden spread of the COVID-19 virus quickly caused the China trip to pivot to Australia, and everyone had the option to select the D.C.-based, Vietnam-themed residency instead. 

“At Georgetown McDonough, we are fortunate to be able to offer students many ‘only-in-D.C.’ experiences that capture life in a global capital city. Because we have had to alter global course work in the past, we were able to draw on this experience and leverage our D.C. advantage for our students,” said Prashant Malaviya, senior associate dean for MBA programs.

The Vietnam residency in D.C. consisted of site visits to various D.C. organizations, discussions with experts on the Vietnam economy and management and marketing practices in Vietnam, and visits to cultural attractions of Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine.

“The D.C.-based experience provided great exposure to interesting organizations and institutions that I would not have otherwise known existed in D.C.,” Leatherman said, such as IDB Invest, an organization that assesses project and portfolio risk in developing countries. Students had the opportunity to meet with senior leaders at the organization during their visit.

Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C., allows for strong relationships with U.S. embassies, which the university utilized to ensure MBA students could still participate in the Global Business Experience amidst COVID-19. Time also was set aside for teams to work on their virtual client presentations.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, it is Georgetown McDonough’s mission to care for the whole person, including their health and well-being in addition to their educational goals. We will continue to ensure that the coronavirus does not cause setbacks in our students’ experiences, but rather enhances them,” Malaviya said.