Broader horizons

Overseas trips open a world of study to MBA students

Daniel Medico, ’14, MBA ’20, studied abroad as an undergraduate at Loyola and spent some time teaching English in Thailand. When he returned to his alma mater for his MBA, he knew he wanted to build upon his global education by taking part in an international field study offered to part-time MBA students in the Sellinger School of Business and Management.

This past spring, he traveled to Chile with other classmates and their professors.

Group photo of Loyola team in Thailand.

“This was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Medico, currently a business intelligence analyst at T. Rowe Price.

Like Medico, other students have spoken to the transformative nature of these international experiences, which enhance students’ business scholarship, enrich their worldwide career networks, and illustrate how to lead in a global world. The field studies center on tours of local businesses, alongside conversations with company representatives.

In Chile, Medico and the Loyola cohort toured Ignisterra, a forestry company that makes goods from its own sustainably grown timber. “Ignisterra cuts down trees to make furniture like garden benches, and they talked about how in the 2008 economic crisis in the United States, they lost 60% of their business,” Medico said. “They had to rework their entire business model to selling doors and shelving because no one was importing luxury furniture.”

Only by traveling to this South American country and interacting with the Ignisterra team, would Medico have experienced the aha moment he did.

This was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It was pivotal,” Medico said of his in-depth, insight-rich exchange with the Ignisterra team.

Government building with Georgian style architecture in Chile flies three flags. in front of its colonnade entrance.

The conversation had two critical effects on his business education. “Too often American companies get caught up in greed and the bottom line, and we don’t see how our decisions are felt downstream,” he noted. In his work now, Medico is more mindful of how a business’s decision-making has a ripple effect, from his clients in Baltimore to people he hasn’t yet met across the globe.

“Second, I’ve never had a full-on conversation with a company that had to change its entire business model to survive, and I found it really interesting. The key to success in business could be adaptation,” he said.

The MBA program’s international field studies provide these immersive platforms for personal discoveries that translate into professional know-how.

While the Chile trip is a keystone program, the part-time MBA program also offers other field study trips abroad.

In 2018, a cohort of students in Loyola’s finance, international business, and management specializations traveled to Berlin and Prague to look at the impact of Brexit on global economies. Students on that trip to the capital cities of Germany and the Czech Republic toured embassies, stock exchanges, and multinational companies to examine Brexit from a business perspective. Incorporating international study into the MBA attracts students to Loyola's graduate program.

City skyline around midday.

Professors design these field studies in order to bring the business curriculum to life in dynamic, global settings. It is applied learning at its best. The trips highlight, in a very real and hands-on way, the mechanics of international economies. They also debunk any myths about American exceptionalism that students may have heard.

“There’s an understanding that things are done differently in other places in the world, and we have a lot to learn from other companies and other countries,” said Gerard Athaide, Ph.D., professor of marketing and the Chile trip’s co-designer, along with Nan Ellis, J.D., a professor of law and social responsibility.

“Professors Athaide and Ellis are very passionate about the Chile trip and they do an outstanding job fostering relationships with the partners in Chile,” said Matt Bielecki, MBA ’16, administrative vice president at M&T Bank in downtown Baltimore.

Ignisterra warehouse filled with materials.

“The work they’ve done over the years to build relationships with our hosts and business partners in Chile was very apparent while we were there. We received a warm welcome from everyone we met during our company visits.”

Michelle Oosterwijk, MBA ’19, also traveled to Chile in the spring. Now back home, Oosterwijk can use the firsthand lessons she learned in Chile—such as incorporating end-user research into marketing plans—in her work in Baltimore, where she works in marketing at the Center Club.

She also appreciated that the company representatives in Chile were not only willing to share with students their techniques for gathering data, but also the research itself. A tour of Codelco, the largest copper-producing company in the world, particularly impacted Oosterwijk. “Being able to go to Codelco and learn about their sustainability strategies as well as how they remain competitive as the No. 1 exporter in the world was one of the trip highlights,” she said.

Team sitting in on a presentation.

The Codelco operation is state-owned, and students like Oosterwijk and Medico interacted with executives there and discussed a wide variety of topics—from marketing practices and pricing strategies to ethical considerations like fair wages and sustainability.

The Loyola group also toured Viña Undurraga, Chile’s oldest winery. Over glasses of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, students and vintners discussed climate change and water resource issues.

“The most important requirement is that the students interact and ask thoughtful and insightful questions,” Athaide said.

The trips are capped at fewer than 25 students, and they last about nine days. Before the Chile trip, students engage in intensive class work to learn the history of the country and to study the companies they will visit. Once they arrive, they spend the majority of their time in Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city, with a few days in the port city of Valparaiso.

Loyola team in lobby, gathered around to listen to their guide.

The trip begins with a welcome reception, where students meet with Chilean alumni, followed by days of site visits. Loyola had a joint MBA program with a Jesuit institution in Chile, so when the concept of a study trip emerged in 2005, collaborating with the country was a natural fit.

Loyola has more than 300 alumni in Chile who are willing to welcome students and faculty to their businesses.

Students experience the overseas operations of American companies such as Under Armour and General Motors, as well as Chilean companies with a global reach. This year professors Ellis and Athaide received Loyola's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching for the outstanding quality of the trip’s design.

“While in Chile, spending time visiting different companies, I was able to see firsthand the differences in business norms and customs compared to the U.S.,” Bielecki said.

City skyline in the evening.

“Experiencing this in person was a lot more impactful than simply reading it in a book or hearing about it in a lecture.”

Ultimately, the international field studies centers on relationships. Time and again, students returning from these trips underscore how closely they bond with their peers, and how much they learn from business executives abroad.

“This experience isn’t a requirement, but it is a pillar of Loyola to offer these programs,” Medico said.

“These immersion programs have an effect beyond the class itself. They help people learn about culture, understand about people and society, and network and build lifelong friendships they’ll carry across their careers”—wherever in the world their careers may take them.

Photos courtesy of Nan Ellis and Brian Hatcher, MBA ’13.