Students Deliver Consulting Projects Virtually for Undergraduate Global Business Experience Class

A group of Georgetown undergraduate business students at the entrance of Durga Temple in Northern Virginia

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Twenty-two undergraduate students at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business were preparing to travel to India over spring break earlier this month when, two days before their scheduled flight, the trip was cancelled amid growing concerns over the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The one-week trip was intended as a culmination of the Global Business Experience course. In this elective, students conduct a substantive consulting project for an international business or organization, then travel to the client’s host country and present their findings to senior management.

Instead, the students successfully presented their projects virtually and, before large gatherings were discouraged domestically, learned more about Indian culture locally through visits to a Hindu temple and Indian restaurant.

“I had been looking forward to traveling to India for months and was saddened by the loss of what could have been a phenomenal experience,” said Jacob Werden (B’21). “That being said, I am grateful that Professor Ramamurthy and the administration acted swiftly to cancel the trip in order to guarantee our safety. It’s impossible to believe how much has transpired within the last week alone, and the last place I would want to be during this time is away from my family.”

“Losing the opportunity to present the group’s hard work in person was upsetting,” said Isabelle Fuchs (B’21). “I initially feared that presenting over Zoom would lose its effectiveness, but my group still presented well, and I am very proud of how we overcame this obstacle.”

Consulting Teams Focus on Real-world Challenges

This spring’s Global Business Experience course also included sections consulting for organizations in Tel Aviv, Israel, focused on innovation and technology; in Lille, France, and Brussels, Belgium, focused on the retail industry; and in Mendoza, Argentina, focused on the global wine industry. 

Werden, Fuchs, and their classmates worked in teams with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a global leader in IT services, consulting, and business solutions, under the guidance of Rama Ramamurthy, teaching professor of accounting. They analyzed verticals in the global media and communications industry and proposed opportunities and new business models.

“The high level of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that students demonstrated from Day 1 with one another and with their client was remarkable,” Ramamurthy said. “They embodied the sentiment ‘learning is fun’ throughout the course.”

The week of March 16, the students had an overwhelmingly positive experience presenting their recommendations to TCS leaders via Zoom conferencing.

“My group was responsible for the entertainment and broadcasting industry, so I learned a lot about the value chain and integration of over the top systems while presenting to my client virtually,” said Lydia Kao (B’20). “I also appreciated the questions we received from our client throughout the presentation. This was a great example of how consulting cases would occur in the real world and what type of information we should look for in future projects.”

Developing Virtual Presentation Skills 

The students also learned that with virtual presentations, it can be more difficult to rely on visual cues for audience engagement like facial expressions. But they found silver linings, such as the ability to reference notes while speaking and allowing more people to participate, since physical space constraints are not an issue.

For one student team, the implications surrounding the global pandemic led them to rethink the business opportunities they presented to TCS.

“The COVID-19 situation forced us to suddenly reevaluate some of our solutions,” Werden said. “One involved a ‘boots on the ground’ marketing campaign to demonstrate emerging 5G technologies in a hands-on, interactive format. With the massive changes that COVID-19-related disruptions have brought to the business world, we brainstormed opportunities that may arise for the telecommunications industry to cater to this unforeseen rise in demand for virtual working capabilities.”

“Businesses are realizing that digital strategy is no longer the way of the future,” he added, “it’s the way of right now.”

TCS leaders were impressed with the substance and delivery of student presentations.

“The quality and content of their presentations is incredible, rich with insights about industry, business models and the companies within them. We also liked their recommendations,” said a TCS executive. “The bar has been set very high.”

Student Community Adapts to Changes with Resilience

Georgetown McDonough students have shown overwhelming resiliency and optimism during this rapidly evolving situation.

“Despite this being a challenging time filled with uncertainties and change, it has been interesting to see how flexible learning can be, from taking classes online to discussing global events as they unravel,” said Katie Glaser (B’20), who also expressed gratitude for her professors for “providing us with a sense of normalcy as best that they can.”

For Kao, the university’s response to the coronavirus has reaffirmed her appreciation of its commitment to Jesuit values.

“I applaud Georgetown’s response to the rapid updates of COVID-19, especially Georgetown’s dedication to campus workers, international students, and our overall safety,” Kao said. “I have never felt prouder being part of the Georgetown community.”