Business students gain global consulting experience through travel

Aug 17, 2023 | Business, Innovation

Through international travel, students in Louisiana Tech’s College of Business are gaining real-world knowledge of the global business world.

Last month, online and traditional/on-campus Master of Business Administration students came together in Santiago, Chile, to learn about the culture and business environment of the South American country’s rapidly developing and diverse economies.

“Above the obvious benefits of increased awareness of different cultures, practices, and perspectives, students who work and study abroad gain exposure to unique challenges and opportunities, especially in emerging markets, that spark innovation, boost problem-solving skills, and uncover avenues for greater investment and business growth,” said Dr. William McCumber, associate dean of graduate programs and research for the College of Business.

McCumber accompanied the team of 11 graduate students on the trip and taught BUSN 540, a new graduate-level course designed to facilitate the global consulting component of the immersive experience.

The students were paired with three Chilean companies: Simplo, whose mission is to eliminate single-use plastics through a 100% compostable product line that serves as alternatives for stationary goods; Coderhub, a no-code data analytics company that helps municipalities better serve their citizens; and Mappin, a map art company that rescues old works to give them value in present-day and develops educational material with cultural and identity themes.

Charles Anderson, an online MBA student, worked with his classmates to advise Simplo on how to successfully kickstart their launch in the U.S. market. The team conducted a full market analysis, researched critical success factors for a crowdfunding campaign, and advised on marketing, financial, and PR strategies.

“The way Louisiana Tech structures the MBA program truly set me up for success to consult with international businesses,” Anderson said. “Although our deliverables were focused mainly on financial objectives and raising capital, there were considerations throughout the project that overlapped with the classes we take in the MBA program. This includes marketing, management, economics, and accounting. I am confident that having a mastery level understanding of all these fields of business contributed to our success advising in Chile.”

Sharon Jackson, a traditional MBA student, used the global consulting experience as a chance to set her degree apart from others. She was part of the team consulting with Coderhub.

“I learned cultural and language barriers are real aspects of business, but the issues and challenges are the same irrelevant of the country of origin,” Jackson said. “We were able to provide Coderhub with ideas on how to strengthen their company by identifying a RFI, RPQ, or RFP and the information each of these is seeking, sharing some of the challenges of the procurement process, strategic initiatives, and a roadmap for next steps.”

McCumber noted that though the learning outcome for BUSN 540 was singular, it was incredibly complicated.

“Our students had to successfully complete a professional consulting project on behalf of a foreign company in a foreign nation in a foreign language,” McCumber said. “I am pleased to report that not only were the MBA consultants successful, they are being sought as consultants and/or employees of the firms they served.”

This learning outcome was one of the reasons many students — like Gafe Gibson, a traditional MBA student — decided to travel to Chile.

“I initially went on this trip to gain experience in a real-world consulting environment,” Gibson said. “It’s always best to meet with people face-to-face so you can grasp the reality of the situation they’re facing in the business world. Our MBA courses are challenging. Still, they are also informative in practical situations, allowing us to reach beyond the books and seek out real-world environments in our consulting tasks.”

Anderson’s reasons for participating were similar.

“You can gain knowledge and insights in the classroom, but there is no substitute for real-world involvement and problem-solving,” Anderson said. “Louisiana Tech’s College of Business has emphasized the value of critical thinking and providing solutions to prospective clients, and I feel this trip was a unique opportunity to further craft those skills.”

In addition to practicing these skills in a real-world environment, students also enjoyed the bonding experience of traveling as a cohort.

“My favorite part was building a team,” Jackson said. “Dr. McCumber effectively brought together people with common goals and helped us unravel the puzzle to provide a solution. The team structures were developed through interactions with our partner companies, the cohesiveness of the MBA students in developing budding relationships, and our ability to think as a unit.”

The shared cultural experiences of the trip — from seeing the Andes Mountains to learning about Chilean winemaking — allowed the students opportunities to connect with their classmates, some of whom may have never otherwise met in person due to distance learning.

“We had a very diverse group that worked together exceptionally well. Having the opportunity to learn about the backgrounds, careers, personalities, and goals of the rest of the group was tremendous,” Anderson said. “I feel we all came to Chile a little uncertain of one another, which is normal when you first meet people, but left as a group of real friends with a shared experience that can’t really ever be duplicated.”

As international travel continues to enhance the College of Business’ academic offerings, undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to take advantage of future global consulting opportunities as well as the College’s exchange program with IESIG in France.

“We need business leaders with a global perspective in a global economy, especially as international relations and global contracts are increasingly fraught with competing ideologies, politics, and complications,” McCumber said. “How many times in life do we allow ourselves a truly life-changing experience? Watching online and traditional MBAs come together, in person, in Santiago was amazing — a truly Bulldog bonding experience. Seeing friendships made, networks expanded, seeing the joy of discovery… you just can’t put a price on these experiences.”