Alumnus Reflects on Global Business Experience in China

Andrew Rose (MBA ’03) shares one of his favorite memories from his Darden Global Business Experience in China.

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Darden International Film Festival

By Sara Lettie

The first ever Darden International Film Festival kicked off on April 21st at 5PM. The eventadmit one hosted a variety of international films including Les Intouchables, Dor, A Simple Life, and Asu Mare. The Film Festival had a food truck, drinks, and great movies at the Pepsico Forum.

The Darden International Film Festival started as an idea by Professor Marc Lipson and Saranya Sundararajan (Class of 2016), VP International Darden Student Association in the professor’s office for ways to get people together. Saranya really wanted an event that would bring all the students, faculty and staff together at Darden connecting them through something common. She felt that Darden has a rich diversity that could be showcased through movies, food, drinks etc. She said “Could you imagine French, Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish movies all being played at the same time? This was my dream for Darden! The team behind the festival was instrumental in making it happen. Arturo Urueta, Clark Wang, Suramya Munshi, Graeme Birrell, and Roshini Rajan. The event couldn’t have happened without these people. Special shout out to Arturo Urueta who played multiple roles for this event.”

popcornThe movies shown were internationally acclaimed and provided insight into diverse perspectives through their storyline and cinematography. The movies were screened simultaneously from 5-7 PM with food and drinks after. All the movies screens were nominated by students who also served as the movie hosts. These movies were picked by the students because they highlighted a certain aspect of each of their cultures.

Les Intouchables highlights social problems in France by following the lives of two men signfrom very different backgrounds who form a friendship against all odds. This film effectively addresses deep cultural issues within France with a light humor to keep it upbeat. The Hindi drama, Dor, portrays life in India for a woman and the relationships that are formed and ultimately tested for by societal restraints. This movie offers character depth that helps to capture the emotions and realities of single or widowed women in India. The final film playing is “A Simple Life” was directed by Abb Hui and follows the life of a family caretaker after she suffers a stroke. Ah Toa, the caretaker, makes life changing decisions after this near death experience leading to several realizations. Asu Mare is a 2013 Peruvian comedy motion picture. It’s a movie adaptation of the stand-up comedy that follows the adventures of Carlos Alcántara on his way to fame from his childhood in the “Unidad Vecinal Mirones”. It is a recreation of his youth and experiences with his mother.

Following the film screening were the food and drinks. Saranya explained,  “A Food truck from Blue Ridge Pizza offered wood fire pizza and drinks were served. Many insightful discussions happened during that time. The movie hosts were all around speaking more in depth about the underlying themes in the movies. Overall this was a great way to end the Spring term!”

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Alvaro Mendizabal (Class of 2016) Compares Three Global Business Experiences

By Sara Lettie

Alvaro Mendizabal (Class of 2016) appreciates the importance of a global education and has taken full advantage of global academic opportunities offered to him while completing his MBA at Darden.  Alvaro has gone on three Global Business Experiences (GBEs) to Barcelona, China, and Cuba. These global academic programs gave Alvaro a chance to participate in more in-depth discussions about international strategies, challenges associated with international markets, and the importance of culture which helped to create a tighter bond with fellow students. Alvaro grew up in Peru before coming to the United States for his undergraduate degree. He then spent two years in Germany where he got a master’s degree in music before coming to Darden.

The “Strategy as Design” GBE led by Jeanne Liedtka in Barcelona offered Alvaro a better understanding of the relationship between the arts and business strategies.  Although Alvaro had spent time traveling in Spain before attending the Barcelona GBE, the discussion about the historical importance helped him gain a better understanding of the history of art and culture and its relation to the business world. The majority of course abroad involved hands-on learning by exploring Barcelona and applying the observations and historical conceptions to business strategy as a design. “Spain provided an ideal backdrop because it offered significant and unique historical context, the professor was both interesting and effective in her teaching methods, and the topic provided and alternative way to interpret problems,” shared Alvaro. As a classical music scholar, Alvaro found these strategies equally helpful and relatable.

As China becomes an increasingly significant economy, Alvaro also wanted to learn more about both the Chinese culture and business environment. “The GBE to China led by Professor Lipson was unique to any other experience because of the insightful look into Chinese factories and business ethics” say Alvaro. While in China the class visited a GM factory and the third largest steel factory in the world. Discussions with top executives at both companies offered insights into how China influences conduct. Professor Lipson facilitated discussions that dove deeper into Chinese policy like the 50-50 public private partnership in effect for companies operating in China. Alvaro also commented on the differences in work ethic, “the Chinese work ethic is all encompassing and cannot be understood without being there.” The pre-departure class led by Lipson established that everyone has a misconception about China on some level which can only be exposed through direct interactions. While on the walking tour the class saw different parts of Shanghai and were able to get of feel of the culture and consumers that make up the Chinese economy. This tour offered a more in-depth look at the Chinese culture that helps to influence the business environment, like the fish markets and everyday lives of Chinese citizens.

Alvaro also saw the relationship between business and culture during his time on the Cuba GBE. Professor Fairchild led second year students in exploring different entrepreneurial start-ups and the challenges of economies in transition. Before leaving for Cuba, Darden faculty discussed their research to the GBE class. These sessions offered different perspectives on the non-western economic policy instituted by Cuba. As in China, Alvaro met leaders, like the Governor of Virginia and other government officials who helped to illustrate the challenges of doing business internationally. Through the lens of a cab driver, Alvaro was able to explore the problem-solving tactics used by many Cubans in order to make a living. For example, the cab driver was using a car from 1956, described as a “Frankenstein car” because it was held together from an assortment of parts that only slightly resembled the original model. Although the government valued the car at a relatively affordable price the actual cost accumulated to beyond a reasonable amount from extensive taxes. As a result it was nearly impossible for the cab driver to make any profit. Due to the lack of access to a foreign market, he was only able to gain a competitive advantage because he had relatives abroad who could send cheap car parts. By utilizing his family network, the cab driver was able to create a profitable business. “These things nurture your strategy thinking. It is valuable to think about how people maneuver their business environment. With only 207 sanctioned jobs outside the Cuban government business owners and entrepreneurs have to think outside the box to be effective,” says Alvaro, who ultimately found that “it’s all about the people. In the end, businesses are made by the people. In Cuba you can have the best plan but if you don’t have an understanding of the people or the government you won’t be successful.”

Alvaro Mendizabal concluded his reflections by stating that “Everyone should go on a Global Business Experience. We can’t assume people will act like American consumers.”

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Go Global: Darden’s Academic Opportunities Abroad

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“Best of Darden Talent” Showcased Student Talents and Cultures

Story by Jessica Hirsch

Photos by Manish Rathaur (Class of 2017)

This past Tuesday, April 5, Darden hosted the inaugural “Best of Darden Talent” event to showcase the different talents and abilities of Darden students.

Outgoing president of the Darden Photography club, Shweta Sangani, organized the event as a means for students to express themselves and celebrate diversity at Darden.

“I felt that with the rigorous Darden academic environment and recruiting pressures, students can become stressed and they might not have an outlet to express their hobbies,” Sangani said. “I wanted to give students a platform to show their peers their talents and display some of Darden’s sub-cultures that students may not be aware of.”

The event took place in the Abbott Auditorium from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. It featured a wide array of performances including a traditional Indonesian music and dance presentation focused on unity and diversity, stand-up routines from two student comedians poking fun at a variety of topics, a guitar rendition of a classic Latin American tango piece celebrating spring, and many other fantastic displays of Darden student talent. The event culminated in an Indian-style dance performance in which many audience members participated by joining the performers on-stage.

“The event had a good mix of talents to showcase,” Sangani said. “It was initially hard to coordinate and get everyone on board, but I had a lot of support from my friends. I hope that the audience members saw a unique side of the Darden community.”

Darden has over 50 different student clubs, many of which are centered on various professional, cultural, athletic, and other interests, as well as seven student advisory groups which provide a forum to students to share their thoughts and ideas for improving the student experience. The several student organizations that helped bring the talent showcase together included the Darden Music Club and the Darden Photography Club, which has plans to transition to a combined photography and hobbies organization to give students the chance to explore a wider variety of passions.

Prior diversity-focused events include the inaugural Diversity Week which occurred this past October 26-29 consisting of five days of panels, events, and workshops exploring how diversity affects business in an effort to bring diversity-related issues to the forefront of discussion.

“There are already great initiatives happening at Darden,” Sangani said. “I’m working with my junior counterparts to plan similar events next year, so that current and prospective students can have a richer and deeper experience.”

Sachin Dixit (Class of 2017), incoming president of Darden Photography Club, echoed Sangani’s thoughts. “We plan to continue organizing this event in the coming year,” Sachin said. “With timely publicity and buy-in from more affinity clubs, we should be able to get even more students showcasing the diversity of Darden next year.”




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Darden Student Shares Experiences on Exchange, Global Business Experience, and Consulting Project

Dani at Teide Volcano, Canary Islands.

By Jessica Hirsch


Darden student Dani Bchara (Class of 2016) has sampled each global academic program

Darden offers as part of his desire to take advantage of international opportunities and expand his perspective.

Last May, Bchara visited Israel as part of a Darden Global Business Experience (GBE) in which students learned about innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of IT, bio-tech, and sustainability through academic lectures and experiential learning as well as visits to local businesses in a variety of fields.

“One of the most surprising things about Israel was how safe I felt,” Bchara said. “In the news, you see such a negative side of Israel with constant conflict, but I felt very safe and I mostly saw people just getting along with their lives.”

Bchara particularly enjoyed the opportunities to tour historic sites and learn about their significance, such as when the group traveled to the Dead Sea, hiked up Masada, and visited the Golan Heights, where guides claimed that they could almost hear the fighting going on in Syria due to its close proximity. Bchara’s opportunities to experience Israeli life helped him realize how their culture relates to their business practices, particularly in terms of innovation and resilience.

Following this experience, Bchara decided to undertake a Global Consulting Project (GCP), in which he worked remotely for a company in Brazil in the healthcare technology sector before going onsite to present his deliverables with the rest of his team.

“We visited hospitals because those were some of the company’s major clients and met with CEOs and higher-ups,” Bchara said. “We got a ton of info that wouldn’t have been possible to see without going onsite. The small team nature of the project was a benefit- there was the right amount of work to go around. They were considering launching a new product, and I think we gave them a good framework to think about how to approach the market and which analyses to consider.”

Although Bchara had a great deal of prior experience working with counterparts in other countries, he was less familiar with the healthcare industry as his previous work had been in financial services.

“The business environment in Brazil was pretty similar to the United States, maybe more laid back compared to when I used to work in New York,” Bchara said. “There was a big social aspect, like starting every meeting catching up and taking big lunch breaks. I was surprised at how similar the business is, and in some ways, the technology they were using was better that what we’re doing in the United States.”

Most recently, Bchara went on exchange to ESADE University in Barcelona, Spain.  Bchara chose this location for the ability to travel around Europe, and he only returned to Darden a few weeks ago.  He also experienced a very different academic environment from Darden because lectures at ESADE can be over three hours long, and many classes do not use the case format.

“The students at ESADE were very friendly and open to new people,” Bchara said. “I also made friends with exchange students from other universities in the U.S. One of my favorite experiences was when a group of six of us took 10 days to travel throughout Central Eastern Europe; we visited Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. We took trains the whole way and just had a great time.  All of the cities in Europe were great for different things.”

After trying each of the global academic programs Darden offers, Bchara highly recommends that students take advantage of the diverse international experiences available.

“Hands down do it,” Bchara said. “I’ve visited 16 countries over the past two years in some way related to a Darden program. You may never have this opportunity again, and there are so many experiences and places you wouldn’t get to see as a tourist, especially on the consulting projects. These experiences taught me not to be scared to go anywhere. Without question, I want to spend a few years overseas later in my career.”

Photo by Dani looking out across Lisbon, Portugal.

Photo by Dani looking out across Lisbon, Portugal.

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Bonnie Xu Shares Her Thoughts on Darden’s Global Academic Programs

By Jessica Hirsch

Bonnie Xu (Class of 2016) embraced the opportunity to explore Darden’s global programs by attending Global Business Experiences (GBEs) in both Sweden and Spain, participating in the Cannes Film and Business Program in France, and going on a quarter-long exchange to Hitotsubashi University in Japan.

Although Xu decided to pursue her MBA degree abroad, since her native country is China,

Bonnie in Sweden on her Global Business Experience.

Bonnie in Sweden on her Global Business Experience.

she had a desire to broaden her perspective and expand her worldview even further during her time at Darden. Her first global academic program through Darden was the “Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Socially Oriented Society” GBE which traveled to Sweden last May. This program appealed to Xu because of its focus on sustainability and equality, as well as the different company visits and opportunities to meet entrepreneurs that the trip offered.

“I’d never been to Europe before,” Xu said. “The EU is such a big economy, and I wanted to expose myself to that. I really benefited from the Darden network to be able to attend presentations and visit places like the U.S. Ambassador’s house that I wouldn’t have been able to arrange if I went on my own.”

Following the GBE, Xu jumped right into another global experience with the Cannes Film and Business Program, which she chose because of its unique focus on art and film.

“The timing worked out perfectly for the Sweden GBE and Cannes program in France,” Xu said. “I needed a visa for France anyway, and Sweden took place only one week beforehand. The Cannes program introduced me to the movie industry. I didn’t always understand the business perspective or why certain movies had been nominated or won awards, but the program provided a lot of answers and insights.”

This past winter, Xu expanded her international travel from short-term GBEs to a quarter-long exchange at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan.

“A larger portion of the classes in Japan were lecture based, and we learned more from the professor’s perspective,” Xu said. “It was different because at Darden, professors engage students and we mostly learn from our peers. I really enjoy hearing my classmates’ insights from different industries.”

Aside from the differences in classroom style, Xu encountered several cultural norms she had not expected, especially during her trip to the Western part of Japan, near Kyoto.

“It’s impressive how well culture is preserved in Japan,” Xu said. “The ancient Asian architecture is preserved for many of the temples and religious sites. This is very different from my own country.  I was also surprised that so many people still wore kimonos and other traditional clothing. I always had wanted to go to Japan but I never took action before this exchange.”

Bonnie enjoying a meal in Spain.

Bonnie enjoying a meal in Spain.

Upon her return, Xu recently participated in the GBE to Barcelona, Spain, this past March.

“I had never been to a city with such interesting architecture,” Xu said. “For some of the buildings, I needed time to really digest and appreciate them, but some I liked at first glance.”

Xu feels that these opportunities for global exposure have greatly benefited her personally.

“I highly recommend that all Darden students take at least one GBE,” Xu said. “These programs provided me with skills and insights to leverage in future work environments. Learning about different countries and cultures helped me make connections with different types of people and work well in a team. The experience will help me view things from different perspectives, generate superior insights, and communicate more effectively to deliver better business results.”


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Christine Thach Shares Global Experiences and Impact

By Jessica Hirsch

Darden student Christine Thach (Class of 2016) always knew that she wanted to travel abroad and have an international career.

“Thinking about where business is going, it’s just becoming more and more global,” Thach said. “To be a successful global leader, I believe people need to embrace challenges outside of their comfort zone and see how business is done outside of the United States. These experiences create incredible insights you can bring into a job to add value.”

Thach’s desire to study abroad began during her undergraduate education, also at U.Va., when she spent a summer studying at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Her first global program through Darden was a Global Consulting Project (GCP) Thach completed this past fall, working remotely in a small-team format for a client based in Uganda.

“The combination of the organization and location led me to this GCP,” Thach said. “I’d been to Africa before, and I knew I wanted to go back, so that was a primary driver.”

Thach explained that the onsite visit portion of the GCP greatly enhanced her understanding of the obstacles facing organizations in Uganda, such as high youth unemployment, but also the immense opportunities for entrepreneurship and sustainability.

Thach and her GCP teammates during their onsite visit to Uganda.

Thach and her GCP teammates during their onsite visit to Uganda.

“The onsite experience really helped me understand the barriers in the Uganda market and empathize with the challenges the organization faces moving forward,” Thach said. “It’s easy to diagnose from afar but with the GCP, you don’t really understand until you experience the challenges face-to-face. It’s so important to listen and ask questions before giving recommendations or advice.”

Thach’s experience with the GCP inspired her to study abroad further to gain insights into how culture affects the business environment. She spent a quarter this spring on an exchange at CEIBS in Shanghai, China, where she also began learning Mandarin.

“China is a very large and growing economy,” Thach said. “Therefore, I knew I wanted exposure to the Chinese market. Studying at CEIBS was a great opportunity to learn new ways of approaching business problems and to challenge my existing perspectives. The Asian education system is more lecture-based than the Darden model, and there’s an emphasis on different skills from the Western education environment in terms of expectations and conduct.”

Thach also enjoyed the opportunity to build influential networks abroad that will be helpful in future endeavors.


Thach met up with Darden alumnus Victor Xiao at UPS.

“I attended an event where I networked with current Darden students, prospective students, and alumni,” Thach said. “It was incredible to see how strong the U.Va. and Darden presence is in such a major international city. I will be working at UPS after graduation and was able to connect with Darden alumnus Victor Xiao, China District Marketing Director at UPS, who was able to speak with me about working for a U.S. based company in a foreign market and how this can affect management and communication among teams.”

Outside of the classroom, Thach was able to enjoy a wealth of experiences that she thinks would have been impossible to have if she had spent all of her time at Darden in Charlottesville.

“I got the chance to travel to South Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and so many amazing places,” Thach said. “I tobogganed down the Great Wall, I’ve been seeing the world, and it’s been an opportunity to keep challenging myself and learning the extent of my capabilities.”

To students who may be wary of going abroad, Thach advises that they won’t miss out on anything by embracing this experience.

“The opportunity to go abroad offers new personal development gains that truly broaden your perspective and enhance your appreciation of global diversity,” Thach said. “Darden definitely instills the values needed to go into an ambiguous situation and excel. If there is ever a time to take a risk for a new experience, why not go now? With two years to shape and mold ourselves, why not see how far you can go and what you can accomplish?”


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Scholar Showcase: Francisco Pinto (Class of 2017)

By Kate Beach

Francisco Pinto, currently a first year residential MBA student at Darden, is originally from Matosinhos, Portugal. He received his bachelor of science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Porto in 2013 and previously worked in a tech start-up in Porto. During his time at Darden, Francisco has been involved with the Finance and Net Impact clubs and took a few minutes to share his reflections on his time at Darden thus far:

Could you tell me a bit about why you chose to come to Darden and how you heard about the school?

  • Initially, I was thinking about doing my MBA in Europe, in Spain or France, but then I decided to do something completely different and so I came to the U.S. instead. I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone, meet people from very different cultures and experiences and moving to the U.S. seemed like a once in a life time opportunity. I visited a few schools and I really liked Charlottesville and Darden. The current students I spoke with were extremely helpful, down to earth and seemed genuinely happy to be here. The case method was also something completely new to me so I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Have you been working closely with any particular faculty member at Darden?  Please explain.

  • Professor Pedro Matos has been a great mentor. He is also from Portugal so it was easy for us to get together and he has been extremely helpful ever since I arrived in Charlottesville in August.
  • The faculty at Darden is simply amazing. Here, I found the best professors I have ever had.  I’ve learned tremendously from each of them. They are clearly very happy and motivated and that enthusiasm shows up in the great environment they create during classes.

What have been your top three takeaways from the Darden experience so far?

  • I feel that my communication skills have improved immensely. The case method is fantastic and it forced me to speak up and improve the way I articulate my ideas. At first it was extremely challenging and I struggled a lot, but half way through the first quarter I was doing much better.
  • The Darden experience also helped me improve my time management skills. The core curriculum is very challenging and balancing it with recruiting and extracurricular activities was, at times, daunting.
  • Finally, working with people from all over the world, with different cultures and points of view, has been such an unique and wonderful experience. Portugal is a very homogeneous country, so my interactions at Darden really broadened my perspectives.

What part about living in the U.S. has surprised you the most so far? How have your experiences compared to your expectations?

  • Living in the U.S. has been a great experience and I really like the people I’ve met. I do think that the European and American cultures are very similar so my adaptation was very smooth. I was really surprised, however, by the different perception of distances. In the U.S. driving for 5 hours straight is nothing special, whereas I was never more than 30 minutes behind a wheel at home. Many cities in the U.S. are very spread out, such as L.A., and tend not to be very pedestrian friendly, which is a bummer for people who don’t like to drive, like myself.

What are your plans for the summer?

  • During the summer, I will be working in investment banking with Jefferies in NYC. It will be a completely new experience and I look forward to it. I feel extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity.
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Matt Krieg (Class of 2016): Becoming a Global Leader

By Sara Lettie

The importance of a global business and the challenges of effectively working across cultures and borders can best be seen on the ground. During Matt Krieg’s time as an undergraduate student he studied abroad sparking a desire to travel. Following graduation he also spent a year teaching English in Cambodia. These experiences inspired Krieg to learn about other cultures and impressed the importance of a global education, which he continued to pursue during his time at Darden.

Over the past two years, Krieg has taken advantage of numerous global academic programs at Darden including Global Business Experiences (GBE) to South Africa and Normandy and a Global Consulting Project (GCP) in Uganda. Each of these programs offered unique insights incomparable to a typical classroom setting or each other. The GBE in South Africa, for example, met for several class sessions before the group departed.  These meetings served as valuable preparation for departure by allowing the students to prepare a briefing book on South African history, geography, culture, economy, government, healthcare, and education. “Public-Private Partnerships was an interesting topic to study in South Africa because it highlighted important factors of managing a global business, the importance of understanding the historical backdrop and cultural norms, and why the culture is the way it is today from both a political and economic perspective” shared Krieg. “The Global Business Experience to South Africa provided firsthand insights into the culture and an in-depth history of the region through the extensive Darden itinerary. The Darden experience helped emphasize the significance of understanding the foreign environment.”

While in Normandy, students became teachers to develop leadership skills. The majority of the group was from the same Darden section, so the group was already close when they started the adventure and grew closer throughout. As Krieg reflected back on his Normandy experience he noted that the format gave even more insight than even the material itself. Students were each given a topic to talk about at one of the 12 stops that the class visited.  This challenged them to provide interesting and accurate information about the site and be prepared to answer questions from other students. Krieg noted that it was interesting to learn from his peers and to have the opportunity to able to teach them as well. “Any opportunity to lead is helpful” said Krieg.

During the GCP onsite visit to Uganda, Krieg observed the entrepreneurial spirit prevalent across the developing world.  While working with Nile Breweries he saw leaders making use of innovative techniques in order to make best use of limited resources. “The developing world is full of talented people in a business environment that they have little control over. This entrepreneurial spirit is important for business – there is incredible talent to be found in the developing world, not just new consumer markets” said Krieg. “The people in Africa will take advantage of opportunities to succeed given the chance.” The opportunity to work with a local company in Uganda allowed Krieg to experience firsthand the various challenges of running a business in a developing country, such as poor roads and unreliable communications infrastructure. “Understanding these challenges in advance will be incredibly useful as we begin careers as global business leaders” reflected Krieg.

These global experiences, all unique to each other, provide perspectives into managing a global business that cannot be learned without spending time on the ground. “Not unlike the Darden experience, the key takeaways were not just the content and course material, but the cultural diversity and the opportunity to practice good leadership throughout our studies.”

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