Grad Students Build Community and Connections in Peru

  • By Kelsey Skic
LeBow MBA and MS students in Lima, Peru

Situated between the Pacific Ocean and both the Amazon rainforest and the Andes Mountains, Peru has experienced political upheaval throughout its modern, post-colonial history, with numerous government scandals and presidential resignations—yet it’s still now one of the fastest growing and prosperous democracies in Latin America.

Through the online course INTB 790: International Business Seminar, a group of LeBow MBA and MS students spent the summer term studying the unique history, economy and politics of Peru, before traveling to the capital city of Lima for an international residency that combined business problem-solving with community-service projects.

In Lima, the group met with industry and political leaders in the region, including visits to the U.S. Embassy, Ajegroup beverage company, Pan American Silver Corp and Laboratoria. Themes ranged from poverty and the informal economy, to mining and opportunities for growth in technology and education. On the last day of the trip, students presented case studies to Unilever, drawing on their coursework, industry visits and cultural excursions. The class formed three groups to conduct projects on sales and operations planning, data visualization and consumer product marketing.

“Our team was tasked with using data analytics to help Unilever better segment their customer base,” said MS Business Analytics student Will Crowley. “It was a fantastic opportunity to leverage the techniques I’ve been learning in my analytics program at LeBow.”

The groups presented their insights to Unilever Peru staff, including CFO Jorge Bohorquez. “We enjoyed a productive session with them, sharing our views on managing a company with a social purpose for doing business,” said Borhoquez. “They all were very reflective and shared ideas to contribute to our main concerns. It has been a pleasure to meet the LeBow delegation and get fresh ideas on our plans.”

Earlier in the trip, students took time to interact with the local community, including a visit to the “shantytown” Monte de Israel, part of the Pamplona neighborhood in Lima where residents lack running water or electricity. Students worked alongside locals to paint staircases, build a retaining wall and cook lunch for over 100 members of the community. The projects will provide long-term benefits to the neighborhood: Staircases must be the same color to designate the limits of the community before electric companies will offer services, and the retaining wall will allow a road to run closer to the community and provide better access for trucks to bring water and other supplies.

“It was great to apply our leadership skills to figure out the best way to organize ourselves in order to complete the task as soon as possible,” said Rita Santos, a full-time MBA student who participated in the wall-building project. “It was a valuable teamwork experience but the most important part was seeing the community’s reaction.”

“The international residency undoubtedly highlighted the degree of adaptability and open-mindedness required for success in this challenging environment,” added Associate Professor of Economics Christopher Laincz, PhD, who taught the course. “The students performed admirably when asked to develop a presentation on short notice, get out of their comfort zones and be open to new experiences.”

Offered annually, INTB 790 is an online course that culminates in a week abroad for a comprehensive experience in international business.

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