Virtual Global Business Experience Draws Distinguished Leaders from Across the World

A screengrab from a zoom conference with the Global panel for the GBE.

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Each year in the spring, Georgetown MBA students embark on the Global Business Experience (GBE), a signature course with a global business consulting project. Midway through the course, in early March, students typically travel abroad for the Global Week, during which project teams work face-to-face with their clients. Due to the pandemic, Georgetown McDonough created an alternative version of the GBE Week to replicate the week abroad. 

“The fact that the GBE was virtual this year gave us an opportunity to bring in some exceptional people with exceptional stories, which would have been hard to pull off during a regular year,” said Sezer Ulku, associate professor of operations and information management and academic director, MBA Global Business Experience. 

The virtual format of the Global Business Experience’s Global Week included a number of plenary speakers such as Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya and Jose Maria Alvarez, corporate development director, Inditex Group (Zara). Also, the week incorporated various other cultural events such as cooking lessons and panels meant to provide students with the full global experience and learning opportunities, even in a virtual environment. 

“GBE without travel was a big challenge,” said Ulku. “It forced us to experiment with new ideas, some of which we will keep even when travel becomes possible. The GBE is about the global mindset. It is about developing the self-confidence to operate in a global context, in a foreign country where one has never been. It is about the understanding of country and regional differences, whether from a business, economic, political, societal/cultural, historical, or religious perspective. It is about open-mindedness and respect for new cultural contexts.”

Cooking experience during MBA Global Business Experience

Apart from the plenaries, every group participated in country specific events and activities. For example, during Settlers, Traders, and Invaders, Chef Aaron Butler (C’00) took the MBAs on a culinary adventure across India, Vietnam, and Brazil. There also were samba and percussion sessions for the students working with organizations in Brazil, with Meninos do Morumbi.

The student consulting projects addressed a wide variety of business issues in finance, general management, marketing, operations, and strategy. This year, students virtually delivered their final presentations to the senior leaders of their client organizations, which included multinational corporations in Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Panama, Singapore, Spain, and Vietnam. 

“The Global Business Experience provided me with unique insights on how to conduct cross-cultural engagements in a virtual setting,” said Courtney Joline (MBA’21). “While I wish we could have traveled together for the final presentation, it was great getting to know the client and working on some of the most complex challenges facing the workforce today.”

Completing the project remotely prepared students to manage and build virtual teams with a sense of community. Managing cultural nuances through technology provided students with valuable experience of what global business interactions would look like outside of McDonough. 

“We were able to adapt to the new reality of how companies are adjusting to globally managing their businesses,” said Ricardo Ernst, director of the Global Business Initiative and Baratta Chair in Global Business. 

Students were able to make the most out of their experiences by building lasting relationships with their clients and leveraging the strengths of their diverse and enthusiastic teams.

“The Global Business Experience was a real consulting experience where we had complete autonomy in how we tackled the problem,” said Kirby Horvitz (MBA’21). “This was a chance to exercise all we had learned in business school and make our own decisions about how we interacted with the client and completed current state research to find a solution. This experience has given me the confidence to scope a global business problem and lead a team to deliver fantastic results without any hand holding.”   

Students utilized the content they learned from their classes and other projects in the MBA curriculum to deliver the best solutions for their clients. 

“In working with Technicas Reunidas for my GBE project, I was able to leverage everything from Leading Teams for Performance and Impact, which is our very first class, to Environmentally Sustainable Operations, one of my last electives, to build out value added recommendations and opportunities” said Leena Jube (MBA’21). “It truly was a capstone project where I further developed my knowledge in the hydrogen economy, my leadership skills in teams, and my relationships with my fellow Hoyas.”

“We believe that global business has no boundaries, and the Global Business Experience allows students at McDonough to gain firsthand experience dealing with managers across different countries and industries,” Ernst added. “The invaluable experience students gain during the program provides them the opportunity to make a real and significant change. It is something that will stay with them long after they complete their studies at Georgetown.”