Sweden Global Business Experience – an evening focused on Sustainability & Social Entrepreneurship hosted at the U.S. Ambassadorial Residence

Twenty-two Darden MBA students, led by Darden faculty member, Andrea Larson, spent a week on a Global Business Experience (GBE) in Stockholm, Sweden in May 2014, investigating the theme of  “Sustainability, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Scandinavia.” Students gained insights into the business successes and opportunities associated with products, products, systems and services informed by sustainability principles. Swedish companies and municipalities have pioneered these principles, inspired by realities and parameters of pollution limits, ecological system laws and the conscious human aspiration to reduce if not eliminate social inequities, creating a seedbed of innovation that has influenced markets worldwide.  

On the first night of their GBE program in Stockholm, the group had a very unique opportunity to be hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Mark Brzezinski, and his wife, Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski, for a panel discussion on “Sustainability & Social Entrepreneurship “at the Ambassadorial Residence.  The Brzezinskis arranged for a wonderful panel of successful Swedish entrepreneurs to have a dialogue with our students. The panelist included:

  • Sarah McPhee, CEO of Storebrand SPP
  • Martin Lorentzon, co-founder & Chairman of the Board for Spotify
  • Sebastian Siematowski, founder & CEO Klarna
  • Carolina Sachs, Secretary General for Axfoundation
  • Ben Gorham, founder and CEO Byredo

In her role as part of an Ambassadorial couple, Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski  has worked in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy team to promote women’s empowerment in business, youth engagement on diversity issues and entrepreneurship. As part of these efforts, she has explored in detail Sweden’s high-tech startup scene and innovation ecosystem.

She frequently speaks publicly on the value of both ethnic and gender diversity in business, women’s leadership and how the values of the millennial generation will shape the future workplace. She recently visited Darden in January 2014 to speak with our various student groups on these topics.

Natalia began an interview series with The Huffington Post focusing on Swedish female leaders in politics, business and the arts. She also co-writes with her husband a personal blog on U.S. State Department’s web site, geared to sharing their experiences in Sweden.

Natalia recounted the fantastic evening with our Darden students in her Brzezinski’s Blog.  Please read her full blog post here. 


Photo courtesy of the Brzezinski’s Blog.

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South Africa Global Business Experience 2014–Student Reflections

Over spring break, 80 Darden students went on Global Business Experiences (GBEs). Students took these on-site courses led by Darden faculty in Shanghai, China (Prof. Marc Lipson); Barcelona, Spain (Prof. Jeanne Liedtka); Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa (Prof. Mary Margaret Frank) and Copenhagen, Denmark (Prof. Elliott Weiss).

RohanGuptaFirst Year student, Rohan Gupta, recently shared his reflections on his South Africa GBE in our Darden student newspaper, The Cold Call Chronicle.  The South Africa GBE was comprised of thirty-one First Year and Second Year students and led by Professor Mary Margaret Frank. Rohan’s article is re-posted below.

Its 4:30 AM, I am out of bed and I am already late. I quickly change my clothes, brush my teeth, grab my camera and run out of the cottage towards the reception where everyone is hopefully waiting for me. It’s still dark so I stumble a couple of times. Thankfully everyone is still here, I get in one of the jeeps and we are off!

This was my first morning on the South Africa GBE in March 2014. We were in Kruger National Park, one of the largest and most famous game reserves in Africa. That morning we saw a leopard, giraffes, elephants, rhinos and hyenas. We saw these animals closest to their natural environment. It was a truly remarkable experience. Once on that jeep, I quickly forgot about my struggle getting out of bed in the morning.

If I start describing the amazing experiences I had in South Africa, I would need this whole newspaper! So I am going to tell you about the three main reasons why I loved this GBE. The first was the sheer variety of experiences we had. It all started with a couple of days on safari. In the next seven days, we learned about South Africa’s history with a focus on apartheid and its impact on the country. We visited nine companies in industries as varied as boat building, wine making, telecom and the Department of Agriculture. And we found time to climb Table Mountain, take in a sunset cruise and explore Cape Town in the middle of it all. There was not a single minute to get bored!

The second reason I loved this GBE was the people – our hosts in South Africa, the people we met over there from various companies, and the most amazing group of people from Darden. We were hosted by the Stellenbosch University, which basically meant that they helped setup a lot of the logistics and meetings for us in South Africa. Someone from the university was with us throughout the journey and their local knowledge and anecdotes made us feel at home. I was totally floored by the friendliness and openness of South Africans. We asked lot of questions and received honest replies and reflections. Sensitive issues such as race were energetically and openly discussed. Given South Africa’s painful history of apartheid, it looked to me that South Africans have learnt to tackle these issues head-on. Hearing about and discussing these unique challenges was very different from the USA or other parts of the world. Before I went on this GBE, I probably knew only five of the thirty students who were with me on the trip. By the time we finished, I knew all of them.  Ten days of intense learning and fun bought us together.

And lastly, I took away some important lessons of doing business in a global context. Multi-national companies face unique challenges in serving local customers. Africa has a very different customer base than USA and Europe. They also have different environmental, socio-economic and regulatory conditions. The difference is perhaps most apparent for a cosmetics company. We had a conversation with the CEO of Elizabeth Arden South Africa. The typical customer for them in USA is a white, relatively older female. But their typical customer in Africa is the black young female. For the first few years, they did not have the rsouth africa gbe 2014equired color products to serve this local customer! They were convinced that what sold in USA will sell in South Africa. We learned that even for a company like them, it was difficult for the South Africa managers to convince the HQ managers in USA to innovate products and processes to specifically serve the local customer.

South Africa’s rich history, diversity and natural beauty were a treat to explore. Though we only scratched the surface, it was an experience to remember. It has inspired me to visit South Africa again in the future, this time for much longer than ten days.

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In London, U.Va. President Highlights New Strides in Global Programming

In a  UVAToday article released on 29 March, 2014, the new global programming at the University of Virginia is highlighted.  President Sullivan recently  travelled to London to welcome newly admitted students and to promote U.Va’s new global internship program and the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation.  It  is wonderful to see that U.Va is committed to creating opportunities and experiences that will help instill a global mindset into students and help students develop  the necessary skills to be successful in the global economy.  Read the full article here.

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How MBA Students Are Getting ‘Out There’ with Global Experiential Learning

Photo-Herz-2012-200x300[1]Erika Herz is the Associate Director of Sustainability Programs for the Darden School of Business and Managing Director of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS).  She recently wrote an article for Triple Pundit on how Darden MBA students are making an impact on the world around them while still in the midst of their MBA program.  She highlights four of Darden’s Global Field Experiences (GFEs) that our students have worked on recently.  By participating in these hands-on  international projects,  students are gaining crucial skills to be “sustainable-savvy leaders”. To learn more about the impact our students are making, read the full article here.

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Darden Student’s Experience at the IPADE Global Case Competition in Mexico City

Rohan Poojara-DardenDarden was invited to participate in IPADE Business School’s 4th Global Case Competition which was held this past February 2014.  Darden and IPADE have enjoyed a 20+ year partnership and this event is one of the ways Darden and IPADE strengthens their relationship.  The event was held at IPADE’s beautiful and historical campus in Mexico City. Rohan Poojara and Jefferson Bates were the two lucky Second Year students from Darden who were selected to attend this multi-school event.   Participating students received the case one-week in advance and when they arrived to Mexico, they were split into different teams with students from different schools, nationalities and backgrounds to analyze, discuss and come to a solution of a real business case. This event gives students the opportunity to apply their newly minted MBA skills to work and lead across cultures to solve real business problems.  Rohan, pictured above,  recounts his experience at the IPADE Global Case Competition on his blog.

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Darden Community Celebrates Lunar New Year 2014

2014′s celebration of the Lunar New Year, which begins on 31 January and ends on 14 February, ushers in the Year of the Horse. And the Darden community celebrated with traditional performances and cuisine in Darden’s PepsiCo Forum on 23 January 2014. The event was sponsored by the Asian Business Club at Darden (ABCD).

Watch a great recap of the Lunar New Year event on the Darden MBA YouTube Channel.


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Darden’s Inaugural Global Conference to be held 31 January, 2014

Darden’s seven regional affinity student clubs have combined forces this year to host the inaugural Darden Global Conference.  It will be a full day of engaging discussions on the current and future challenges and opportunities with slow growth economies.  Featured speakers include: Fernando Merce: President, Nestle Purina Latin America and Caribbean; William J. Antholis: Managing Director, Brookings Institution; Thomas Gibson: President of the Institute of SME Finance at the World Bank; and Frank E. Warnock: the James C. Wheat, Jr. Professor of Business Administration, Darden.

The theme of the conference is:

As a result of the U. S. Financial Crisis, the Euro Crisis and the slowed growth in developing countries around the world, we have entered a period in which most major economies will have to bear slow growth.

As young rising leaders with a globalized mindset, we will face different challenges in the coming years but also are presented with diverse opportunities in the global arena. How should we approach these challenges and seize the opportunities? This conference will bring together perspectives from global business leaders, economists, and faculty, as well as students, to create a platform to discuss and exchange ideas on this important and timely topic.

Please visit the Darden Global Conference website for more information on speakers and agenda. We hope to see you there!

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We are pleased to present Darden’s new interactive brochure that highlights Darden’s range of global activities!


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U.Va. Darden School Students Embark on Global Field Experiences

So far this academic year,  Darden has launched seven Global Field Experiences (GFEs) in all corners of the globe, ranging for Tunisia, Sweden and Indonesia.   There has been a high demand for these types of international experiential projects from our Second Year students, as it gives students the opportunity to assist international clients in solving real-time business issues they are currently facing in their specific country and culture.  Second Year student,  Leslie Viano, who participated in the Tunisia GFE, stated:

“What most resonated with me was how much I learned about a country through a one quarter-long project. Building a financial model and presenting a new venture to potential clients are skills we learn in class. Yet, these skills are only useful if you know the cultural context, and I quickly realized I did not. It’s up to us to ask the right questions, do the research, and most importantly, adapt quickly to the circumstances to provide the most effective recommendations.”

Read more about the current GFE projects here.

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Shanghai Investing Summit



Darden is pleased to announce the launch of the inaugural Shanghai Investing Summit (SIS) to be held in Shanghai, China on 9 May 2014. This conference will bring together top practitioners and thought leaders in the global investing arena to share ideas and discuss new ways to approach business challenges in emerging markets.  China is a dynamic and growing economy and will serve as a great setting to discuss what and where the next  breakthrough opportunities in emerging markets will be.   The Darden Center of Global Initiatives and the Center for Asset Management are proud to sponsor this event.  Please listen to a recent Darden Business pod cast that features Marc Johnson, Executive Director of the Darden Center for Global Initiatives, on what to expect and learn from attending the SIS.

For more information, visit the Shanghai Investing Summit website to learn about the featured speakers and the schedule of events.

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