Global Food Festival 2017

By Lauren Wallace

One Darden Week ended on Sunday with Darden’s largest global event, the annual Global Food Festival. Sponsored by the Global Business and Culture Club and supported by the Center for Global Initiatives and many of Darden’s affinity clubs, this year’s festival attracted nearly 600 attendees who enjoyed cuisines from 21 different cultures and countries, including Indonesia, Germany, Georgia, Brazil, India, Turkey, France, Colombia, Spain, Korea and more. The festival also highlighted the global diversity of Darden’s community through song and dance performances by Darden students and staff, including professor Marc Lipson.

Check out some photos of the festival below, courtesy of Darden’s Photography Club!


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One Darden Week 2017

By Lauren Wallace

This week Darden celebrated its diverse global community through various events, workshops and discussions, and with lots of free food! Many of Darden’s affinity clubs hosted the events of the week, some of which included First Coffees sponsored by Asia Business Club at Darden (ABCD) and Pride at Darden (PAD), panel discussions led by Global Women in Business (GWIB), Black Business Student Association (BBSA) and Darden African Business Association (DABO), and cultural events hosted by Darden South Asia Society (DSAS) and Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC). Olamide Alli (Class of 2018), Darden Student Association’s VP for Diversity, shared more about the purpose One Darden Week:

“One Darden Week is hosted yearly in order to provide a great opportunity to the students, faculty, and staff to get involved in Darden’s community, as well as to get to know other people at Darden through diverse and inclusive events that highlight the various cultures represented here in our community.”

See below for pictures from the week and a recap of some of the global events of One Darden Week!

One of the first club-sponsored events on Monday was GWIB’s panel discussion, “Gender Goes Global”. The panel of more than ten students from countries all around the world, including Indonesia, Colombia, India and many others, shared the similarities and differences of growing up as women in their respective communities. The events concluded Monday with a panel discussion co-sponsored by DABO and BBSA on identity exploration. Students from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the U.S. made up the diverse panel that answered questions about the different cultural identities found within the Darden community.

On Tuesday, Asia Business Club at Darden sponsored First Coffee and served different teas commonly used in Asian countries and communities. Net Impact and Hispanic American Network at Darden (HAND) served paletas on Tuesday afternoon, a common Hispanic dessert made with frozen fruit similar to popsicles. DSAS served up some classic South Asian cuisine at their evening showing of Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King, a stand-up comedy special about his experience of growing up in an Indian family in the U.S.

Pride at Darden hosted Wednesday’s First Coffee, followed by another GWIB-sponsored discussion centered on “Why Women Should Opt Into Finance”. The European Society took over the lawn on Wednesday afternoon for their Ice Cream and Siesta event, encouraging students to take some time to relax, relieve stress and take an afternoon nap in Flagler Court. On Thursday, Latin American Student Association (LASA) and Wine and Cuisine Club organized a cold call on that served up some traditional Latin American foods.

One Darden Week is not yet over! Be sure to attend Darden’s largest global event of the year, the Global Food Festival sponsored by GBCC, on Sunday 17 October to sample cuisines from over a dozen countries and an assortment of cultural presentations and performances, all by Darden students and staff!

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Julian Forero (Class of 2018) Shares Global Internship Experience and Advice

By Lauren Wallace

Julian on the Darden Worldwide Course to Sweden in May 2017

Julian Forero, a second-year student from Wellington, Florida, interned for McKinsey & Company in Bogotá, Colombia this summer. His interest in Colombia stemmed from his family ties to the South American country where he grew up before he relocated to the U.S with his family at the age of eleven. Julian is a Consortium Fellow and is involved in the Latin American Student Association, Consulting Club, and Soccer Club at Darden. Prior to Darden, Julian worked in asset management as an investment analyst. Julian took a few minutes to share about his global internship experience this summer.

Please tell me more about your summer internship in Colombia. How did find out about this opportunity?

This internship opportunity came about through a Darden coffee chat with McKinsey’s campus recruiter. Towards the end of our conversation, we somehow got to talking about a vacation I was planning to Colombia during winter break to visit my family. The recruiter asked me if I had any interest in working in Colombia and put me in contact with the McKinsey office in Bogotá. After speaking with members of McKinsey Colombia and reflecting about what I wanted out of my career, I decided to apply to the Bogotá office. I have always had a desire to go back to Colombia, and once I got the offer I knew that going back was the right move for me.

What skills do you think you gained or improved upon through this global internship? How would you compare learning in an internship setting to learning in the classroom?

McKinsey does a great job of formalizing their internships across all of their offices so that every intern has a similar global experience while still retaining the offices local feel and culture. Working in an engagement in another country allows you to see differences in how businesses operate and how people conduct themselves in different cultures. I experienced a completely different work culture in Colombia from what I had experienced in the US. People tended to be more open and friendly and took the time to get to know one another on a personal level but it also tended to be a little less efficient. Because businesses and people operate differently in Colombia than in the U.S, I saw many possibilities for growth and opportunities to improve businesses, both in the US and in Colombia, by applying the perspective learned from my experience in each country. Additionally, even though I speak Spanish with native fluency, I had never gotten to practice speaking Spanish in a business setting. Working in a Spanish-speaking office and being immersed in the culture certainly helped improved my Spanish language skills.

One skill I learned this summer that cannot necessarily be taught in the classroom is how to adjust to changing requirements, plans, and demands. In a classroom setting, the facts and problems are set and there’s very little ambiguity to what must be accomplished. In the “real-world”, information can be hard to get, objectives can be unclear, and requirements can change as new information is uncovered. An internship allows you the opportunity to really bring out your creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making skills to tackle these issues in a timely and efficient manner to deliver real lasting impact to a client. It’s an experience that can’t really be replicated in the classroom because there are real and tangible implications to your decisions and actions.

Describe your experience on the Darden Worldwide Course in Sweden. Were you able to incorporate anything you learned from this DWC into your internship in Colombia?

One of the reasons I chose the Darden Worldwide Course was its focus on sustainability. Knowing that I would be interning in Colombia over the summer I thought it would be interesting to compare sustainability practices between Sweden and Colombia. In Sweden, sustainability efforts are seen everywhere; in government policies, city infrastructure, and most importantly, in the way citizens live their life. Sweden is very conscious of proper waste management and energy conservation practices and it is evident everywhere you look. While sustainability is prevalent in the social mindset of Sweden, it does not seem to be a top priority for a lot of Colombians.  That being said, Colombia is starting to be more aware of the issues and there are many opportunities and new initiatives to help elevate sustainability efforts in the country.

Also, a big initiative in Sweden is it’s push to become a cashless society by relying on electronic transactions (credit cards, payment apps, etc.). At my internship, I had the opportunity to work in digital strategy for a financial company and was able to bring some of the lessons learned from Sweden into our problem-solving sessions.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from these global experiences? Are you interested in working abroad after graduating from Darden?

One of the most valuable things about going abroad is returning with an expanded   mindset. When you get to experience another culture, it allows you gain a different perspective that you can use better yourself, your company, and your community. This summer, I had an opportunity to constantly interact with different cultures (my team was made up of Peruvians, Argentineans, Chileans, and Colombians) which is a skill that is imperative in today’s globalized world.

I am definitely interested in international work experience after I graduate from Darden. I have always wanted to pursue a global career and my experience in Darden and at my summer internship in Colombia further solidified that.

Before attending Darden, did you plan to participate in Darden’s global academic programs? What would you tell students who are considering participating in a global opportunity?

Before coming to Darden, I looked into Darden’s global opportunities and was impressed and excited by Dean Beardsley’s emphasis on global learning opportunities for students in the MBA program. I wanted the opportunity to study abroad to learn about different cultures and Darden’s global academic offerings cater to that.

For students on the fence about interning in another country (or studying abroad), do it—especially if have not had the chance to experience another country in depth. A global internship is a 10-week learning course that sharpens your skills, expands your mindset, and gives you a great excuse to travel.

Enjoying the sunset in Cartagena, Colombia

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Hugo Rodriguez (MBA ’92) Shares Global Career and Leadership Insights

Hugo Rodriguez (MBA ’92) leads a team of 320 individuals as the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay. Rodriguez and his wife, Karen, also a U.S. Foreign Service officer, and their two daughters moved to Asunción from Mexico City, where Rodriguez served as consul general and acting minister counselor for consular affairs beginning in 2014. He has also served at U.S. missions in Lima, Rome and Baghdad since joining the State Department in 2000.


What were your early years like?

My dad was a doctor in the Philadelphia suburbs, but his hobby — his passion, really — was agriculture, so I grew up on a small farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. I am one of six kids, and the expectation was always that we would seek professional careers beyond the farm, but it was an idyllic way to grow up. We were surrounded by animals and had miles of fields and woods to explore and enjoy.

Could you share a favorite memory or moment of growth from your time at Darden?

Unsurprisingly in my job, I rely most heavily on the lessons I learned in Organizational Behavior and Negotiations, but one of my favorite things about the Darden faculty was their flexibility. What other business school would let you sign up for a creative writing class (in one of the best programs in the country) instead of taking business writing? I am also grateful to one of my classmates, Steffen Lauster (MBA ’92), for encouraging me to start running. I haven’t really stopped in 26 years!

When did you discover your passion for diplomacy and how has earning a Darden MBA played a role in your career progression?

After Darden, I went to work for Dole Fresh Fruit International, first in Colombia and then in Honduras. Darden prepared me to be successful at work — to understand the needs of the enterprise and lead teams to accomplish what was necessary — but it turned out I was also able to adapt quickly to different cultural contexts and be effective in challenging environments. What attracted me to diplomacy was the chance to put my operational abilities and cultural adaptability in the service of the country. From my first day doing visa interviews as a newly minted U.S. Foreign Service officer, I felt connected to a larger purpose, and that feeling has grown over the past 17 years.

What has the move from Mexico City to Asuncion been like? Any surprises or lessons learned along the way?

Mexico City and Asunción are about as different as two cities in the same hemisphere can be, but both have their charms. My responsibilities are likewise very different. In Mexico, I was responsible for consular operations covering 10 locations and 750 employees spread around the country. As Chargé d’Affaires for the U.S. embassy in Asunción, I lead a team of 320 — from a variety of U.S. government agencies and offices — most of whom are co-located on the embassy compound. In Mexico, my job was operational and inward-looking, keeping everyone focused on progress toward our objectives. In Asunción, I am also the face of the embassy, representing the U.S. to the government of Paraguay, the business community, the media and civil society.

What kind of impact do you aim to make through your work? What does success look like to you?

I have two overarching goals. The first is to further U.S. foreign policy objectives — generally speaking, creating relationships with partner nations that protect American interests while promoting the values like rule of law and respect for human rights that make for strong, productive partnerships. My second objective is developing my people and connecting them to the mission. What we do is challenging even under optimal conditions, and we ask a lot of our teams, whether they are the U.S. Foreign Service officers or our talented local staff. I want to make sure they are prepared, engaged and excited about tackling the challenges we face.

How do you manage a global career and work-life balance? Do they complement one another?

I think we all struggle with this throughout our careers. I love what I do, so I’ll admit that my ‘balance’ has generally skewed toward the work end. However, in my current role as Chargé, I have been better about setting aside time to recharge and stay connected with my family. I urge my employees to do the same, and I think it’s easier for them to take that advice when they see me practice what I preach. I really believe we are more creative, flexible and resilient if we unplug regularly. Running and non-work reading are key for me.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?

I have had great role models and mentors throughout my life, starting with my parents, but I owe the deepest thanks to my wife, Karen. It’s a cliché, but she knows me better than I know myself, and her advice is invariably spot-on. She has always encouraged me to take on the big challenges, and even though she works as hard in her career as I do in mine, she somehow finds the time to make my burden lighter. I could not imagine a better partner.

What advice would you give to future global leaders?

Two things: First, be humble. It is ok to make mistakes and to admit you don’t know everything. Ask lots of questions! Second, your ability to succeed in your mission rests with your people. Invest in them. Take the time to build a bond of trust with them. Help them understand the importance of what the team is undertaking, and then turn them loose with the knowledge you are there if they need resources, guidance or support. Offer lots of encouragement and freely forgive errors — that’s how people learn.

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Meet Sergi Pereira (Class of 2018), President of the European Society

By Kate Beach

Sergi Pereira, originally from Barcelona, Spain, is a second-year student at Darden. Sergi holds two bachelor degrees in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration. Before coming to Darden, Sergi worked as a management consultant at Deloitte collaborating with top financial institutions in Europe.  At Darden, he serves as an admissions ambassador and as the President of the European Society.

Sergi (center) with other leaders of the European Society at Darden’s First Year Club Fair. From left to right: Jon Mchattie (VP Finance & Technology), Josep Martinez (VP Admissions), Sergi Pereira (President), Alma Bissembiyeva (VP Events), Shota Loria (VP Career & Alumni Relationships)

What attracted you to Darden? How did you hear about it and what tipped your decision to attend?

I wanted to do my MBA in a place where I could get to know my classmates. The tight-knit class of Darden within the prestigious University of Virginia and the beautiful college town of Charlottesville created the best educational environment for me.

Also, I was very attracted by the emphasis that Darden puts on the case method. I believe that it is the best study approach as students learn from the most practical business view while they enhance their communication skills.

But what really tipped my decision was the students I met. They were incredibly supportive and passionate about Darden and I saw that they were seeking the same kinds of career paths that I was.

Regarding European Society, what attracted you to this club? What inspired you to pursue leadership in the club?

I wanted to give back after an amazing first year at Darden. I identified some areas where I could contribute to the community and the European Society seemed like the best platform for me to make a difference in those areas.

As a European student, I feel incredibly privileged to be here and want to extend that possibility to more prospective European students. Also, I want to provide all students at Darden with more opportunities to engage with European culture here on grounds, as well as broaden recruiting opportunities for Darden students in Europe.

How does Darden foster a global community and what role does the European Society play in that process?

Darden has tons of affinity clubs that all play a key role supporting different cultures, religions and minority groups and enhancing the global experience for all students at Darden. Courses include cases from all regions of the world and foster lively discussions among students with different mindsets. Most students also participate in global courses and consulting projects that take place in countries like South Africa and Argentina.

The European Society is committed to providing all students with a forum to pursue cultural, social and professional activities related to Europe. The organization works alongside the Career Development Center to provide resources to students seeking for job opportunities in Europe and partners with Admissions to attract talented European prospective students.

What are your plans for the European Society for this next year? Any new goals or programs?

The European Society brings the best of European traditions and customs to students. For example, we will organize cheese tastings at European Professor’s homes, cooking classes led by European chefs and board game nights. We’re even thinking about how we might introduce “siesta” on Grounds and we will celebrate the end of the year at the Bavarian Chef.

We guide students exploring careers in Europe. We provide key resources like an updated handbook with key topics about recruiting and working in Europe. We also collaborate with Darden alumni in Europe to create new and strengthen old recruiting opportunities for students.

The European Society carries out several activities throughout the admissions journey. We host coffee chats in Europe and webinars to tell prospective students about Darden. Additionally, we gather European admitted students to support them in their transition to Charlottesville.

How has your involvement in the European Society shaped your experience at Darden?

As newly elected President, I put into practice some of the general management skills that we acquire at Darden. Based on a member survey, I established a new vision for our club that included expanding our role to the careers and admissions fields. Part of the initial challenge as a leader was motivating the right people for the right positions within club leadership and to make them accountable for this new vision.

How did you make the decision to attend the China DWC at the end of your first year? What were your major takeaways from the course?

As an avid traveler, I wanted to experience a different way to explore the world and cannot be more satisfied with that experience. China was the option that interested me because of its impressive growing economy managed by an authoritative government.

In one week we visited more than ten organizations from a wide range of industries learning directly from Darden alumni and other top executives. They provided us with unique insights as they were able to compare China with the U.S.

One of my key takeaways is that China is moving so fast that there’s almost “no time” for long-term business plans. The market changes from week to week require companies to be extremely flexible with new customer preferences. However, the market is so big that many new companies are born by simply “copying” other business models.

Can you share about your internship over the summer? What did you do? Did you use what you learned on the China DWC and being involved in European Society during your internship?

I had an incredible experience at American Express in NYC this summer. I discovered a place that has such a strong corporate culture based on relationships and that provides employees with endless growth opportunities. My role within the Global Decision Support Unit of Finance was to develop a forecasting framework that better informs management decisions and to provide business insights for revenue growth.

My recent experience in China helped me not only to contribute with a first-hand understanding of the payments space in that country but also to better empathize with Chinese colleagues. As President of the European Society, I reached out to leaders of employee networks at American Express to discuss best practices that could enhance the dynamics of our organization.

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Darden Welcomes Fall 2017 Exchange Students

Darden welcomes 11 exchange students from leading business schools around the world during the fall 2017 semester. We are pleased to host students from the following universities and countries:

  • Bocconi University in Italy
  • CEIBS in China
  • ESADE in Spain
  • Hitotsubashi University in Japan
  • IESE in Spain
  • IPADE in Mexico
  • University of St. Gallen in Switzerland

While at Darden this semester, these students will take various elective courses and will be involved in Darden’s community and co-curricular activities. We are thrilled to welcome them into Darden’s global community!


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Kelly Sullivan (Class of 2018) Shares Experience from Global Internship in Israel

By Iqra Razzaq

Kelly Sullivan, a native of the D.C. area, is currently a rising second year at Darden. After graduating in 2011 from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, Kelly worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for five years before applying to Darden. She ultimately decided to pursue an MBA at Darden because it embodies all the qualities she values in an MBA program – a tight-knit community whose students somehow strike the perfect balance between relentless ambition and unwavering support and collaboration, as well as exceptionally engaged and invested professors.

Kelly with members of Section B on the Japan DWC in May

This past May, Kelly traveled to Japan on a Darden Worldwide Global Immersion Course. She spent a week and a half traveling to across Japan, exploring technological innovation, and observing business practices specific to Japan. “I knew I definitely wanted to do one of the Darden Worldwide Courses. I really like traveling and I’m also interested in international business,” Kelly stated regarding her decision on the course. Kelly ultimately decided on Japan because it focused heavily on innovation and technology, an industry she plans to pursue after graduation.

Kelly chose to further develop her international business experiences by accepting an internship with Beverage Analytics™ by WeissBeerger in Tel Aviv, Israel. This summer, Kelly has incorporated lessons learned from her course in Japan into her current internship work. “One of the key themes from the Japan course I found was that business norms are very subjective to [the local] culture,” Kelly stated as one her major takeaways. She learned firsthand that the Japanese business culture and U.S. business culture are different from one another. For example, Japanese culture focuses more on consensus and agreement than what Kelly has seen and experienced in the U.S. “Having that perspective coming into my internship in Israel already had me in that mindset of thinking, ‘What’s the culture? How does it tie into the workstyle here? And how may it be different from the U.S.?’” Kelly explained.

Kelly at the Weissbeerger office in Tel Aviv

Kelly reflected on the importance and need for having such global experiences incorporated in an MBA program. “I think as much as professors can teach concepts in the classroom about nuances of other countries and the value of cross-cultural leadership, you really don’t understand it until you see it for yourself. All of that is resonating with me now,” Kelly explained regarding her global experiences during her time at Darden so far. Kelly found the differences between the classroom and working abroad quite distinctive and eye-opening. She explained, “You really get to see how things actually get done [working abroad]. I’m working in a startup and things change every day. Also, how you get things done one day can change the next. It’s important to see and understand the limitations and capabilities companies have in different environments and cultures.” She further stressed how this experience can sometimes be lost in a classroom where everything is slightly more idealistic, controlled, and different from actually drafting a plan and executing it in a foreign country.

Kelly spoke about her transition to a different lifestyle in Tel Aviv. She connected to a few people in Israel before she even arrived; however, she found herself pleasantly surprised at her own ability to navigate independently and integrate into the new culture. “People in Israel are really warm and very inclusive. From the very first day, colleagues in my office were inviting me to get dinner with their friends and setting up a girls’ trip to go see Wonder Woman.” Although Israel quickly felt familiar and comfortable for Kelly, she did notice some differences that made her internship experience distinct. Although most of the company speaks English and language didn’t hold Kelly back, she quickly realized that you miss the opportunity to learn from the conversations and debates happening around her when people spoke in their native tongue, Hebrew. It is a learning opportunity she took for granted previously. Another unique aspect of the work culture in Israel is that the work week is Sunday through Thursday, due to Shabbat (Sabbath) being celebrated Friday evening through Saturday evening. These and other nuances of the Israeli culture reinforced the message she had taken away from Japan – the local culture has a huge impact on the business norms and values of any country.

Kelly maintains her commitment to global experiences as a CGI Ambassador for Darden. She took on this role to encourage more students to enroll in global experiences – whether through Darden courses or international internships/careers.

Post-Darden, Kelly hopes to pursue her interests in both technology and international business by joining a U.S.-based technology product company with a global footprint. She would love to continue to travel to international locations, gain an understanding of their unique cultures, and use that understanding to shape and develop products for diverse market audiences.

On a visit to the North of Israel

A segway tour of Jerusalem with coworkers

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Ari Katz (Class of 2018) Shares Insights About His Career Transition

By Sydney Chakalos

Ari Katz (’18) spent his summer interning at Barclays in New York City as an investment banking summer associate on the Natural Resources team. Katz, who was born in Israel and grew up in Canada, came to Darden with a strong sense of what he wanted to do next in his career and how he wanted to leverage the Darden MBA. Katz took some time to share what drew him to Darden and how his experience has helped him take his career to the next level.

Prior to Darden, Katz worked for an executive search firm in Toronto and wanted to switch careers into banking. He always knew he wanted to pursue his MBA. When he began looking at programs, he wanted a diverse international experience. “Darden held a great reputation for banking recruiting, and I knew that was what I wanted to go into,” said Katz.

He worked to get a jump-start on preparing for recruiting early. “I spoke with the Career Development Center (CDC) over the summer in my career kickoff meeting, and got tips for what I could be doing in the summer to get prepared,” Katz recalls. Once he arrived on Grounds in the fall, he continued to receive support from his CDC Second Year Coach and the Darden Finance Club. “The banking recruiting process is a very structured and proven path at Darden, and with the Second Years and the Finance Club guiding you through it, it was pretty easy to pick up on what we needed to be successful.”

Training sessions from the Finance Club on skills that are valuable to have for banking and the rigor of academics at Darden, helped Katz feel prepared to tackle his internship.

Katz offered a few pieces of advice to the incoming First Years, after going through the recruiting process this past year. “If you’re not sure what you want to do early on, go to the industry briefings, as there are a lot of common misconceptions about what it’s like to work in different industries. Also there are Second Years, CDC Second Year coaches, student clubs and the CDC that are all valuable resources and here to help you.”

Learn more about the career support offered at Darden here.

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Lois M. McEntyre (MBA ’95) on Global Leadership and Impact

Lois McEntyre (MBA ’95) has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the airline, automotive, banking and consulting industries, including three years living and working in Shanghai. Driven by a desire to bridge the world, help people and make a difference both personally and professionally, McEntyre currently directs General Motors North America Contact Center Operations and oversees contact center operations for GM Customer Care, Dealer Assistance and OnStar for multiple sites in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Philippines. Her team delivers OnStar safety and navigation solutions in vehicles as well as customer assistance — nearly six million customer interactions each month. During her time leading the Shanghai OnStar customer service organization, McEntyre’s team won multiple awards, including top honors for call center service and customer service management from the China Service Trade Association. While living in Shanghai, McEntyre also contributed to the local community through a literacy and English language program.

What interested you in working/volunteering globally?

I was appointed as the director of subscriber services at OnStar-Shanghai, a division of General Motors in China, in 2011. One of the main reasons I accepted the role is because of the increased scope of work and level of autonomy that would allow me to develop my leadership capabilities. I felt that the experience would be beneficial for my long-term career at General Motors. The decision to accept the role was not difficult because in addition to the professional benefits, the benefits for my daughters were my primary motivation to pursue the position in the first place. I knew my daughters would get to experience new cultures, see new and exciting things, go to beautiful places and make new friends with children from all over the world. These experiences are invaluable in terms of the contribution to their education and to their relationship with the world. It has positively changed their lives forever.

Please describe your involvement in the Sunflowers literacy program in Shanghai.  How did you hear of the program and what made you decide to take part?

I learned about the Sunflowers during a conversation with one of my employees at General Motors China. I had been living in Shanghai for about six months, and I was talking to her about how I really wanted to find a way to work with the local community in a way that would allow me learn more about Chinese culture, while at the same time giving me the chance to share American culture. The lady I was speaking with told me about this community initiative she was involved in where she and other Chinese people were mentors to children of migrant farmers and that they really wanted to teach them English, but needed someone who spoke English as their primary language to help. This was my introduction to Sunflowers and I seized the opportunity because I have a passion for helping people.

As a volunteer with Sunflowers, I facilitated the design of the English curriculum for school age children from the ages of 8-12. Every week for several months, we had volunteers from the Girl Scouts of America, Shanghai chapter, read to the children and teach them an English lesson and some aspect of American culture. The work was extremely fulfilling because I was working with children of families who were in need and had minimal resources. I knew that I was helping to enhance their skillset so that they would have more personal, education and ultimately professional opportunities in their future. In addition, I was helping them build bridges globally.

What were some early leadership lessons you learned?  What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Some of the early leadership lessons I learned during my assignment in Shanghai were about truly understanding the Chinese culture and on the realization that it is critically important to learn the culture in order to work successfully in China. As a non-Mandarin speaking American in China, I had to approach my Chinese partners with humility and demonstrate my best efforts to learn their culture in order to show that I care about their way of life and the way they do business.

Generally speaking, one of the best leadership lessons I learned during my career is that everyone has their own way of doing things, and that it is important to understand and respect others styles. The more one understands how others operate and what’s important to them, the more it can lead to greater and better outcomes. It is important to be able to utilize situational leadership in order to build strong working relationships and highly effective teams.

The best advice I’ve ever received is that the people that I manage and work with are my best assets. It’s important to invest time in building relationships with colleagues and in developing individuals on my team because its take the entire team to be successful.

Describe a time when you realized the true value of your Darden education.

I realized the value of my Darden education when I initiated the conversation with my manager about my interest in working in China. At the time, OnStar in China was about two years old. I explained to him why I felt I was qualified, how I thought I could contribute and why I was interested in working overseas. During the conversation, he asked if I understood that the scope of the role would require me to have knowledge of different business functions because Shanghai OnStar was still in startup mode.  When I explained to him that I had received my MBA from the Darden School and that my degree was in general management, he was pleased. That was when I realized the value of my education.

What advice would you give aspiring MBA students or recent MBA graduates?

Based of my global experience, the advice I would give an aspiring MBA student or recent graduate would be to find an opportunity to study or work abroad. The business world is truly global and you will not get a true appreciation for how other parts of the world operate — which in some cases is in a manner even more advanced than in the U.S. — if your perspective is only from U.S. soil.

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Paloma Bengoechea (Class of 2018) Reflects on Darden Worldwide Course to China

Paloma enjoys her time exploring China with Darden.

By Iqra Razzaq

Paloma Bengoechea is a rising second year at Darden from North Bethesda, Maryland. For her undergraduate degree, Paloma earned her B.A. in Art History and minored in both psychology and Italian at Georgetown University. She additionally worked as the Operations Manager at Atlantic Media Strategies before enrolling at Darden. Paloma fully involves herself in both academics and extra-curricular activities, serving as the Vice President for Technology for the Darden Student Association, Vice President of Finance for the Hispanic American Network at Darden, and plays soccer through a student club at Darden. Currently, Paloma is interning with Hewlett Packard Enterprise as a Strategy & Planning intern in Houston, Texas.

Paloma traveled to China in May, participating in a Darden Global Immersion Course alongside classmates and professors. She studied both the culture and business practices of China through meetings, company visits, and interactions with alumni. Paloma, who traveled often growing up due to her dad’s employment at The World Bank, knew she always wanted to travel globally as part of her MBA and had been considering a trip to China for some time. Paloma found global interactions very transformative at Georgetown, so finding global opportunities at Darden played a huge factor in her enrollment at the school. The course to China appealed strongly to Paloma.

“I wasn’t expecting to feel the culture shock as much as I did,” Paloma said. Paloma comes from a Spanish and Puerto-Rican background and lived in South America for a few years in her childhood. She previously visited many countries where she couldn’t speak the language, however her time in China felt different from her prior experiences, where she found even ordering food to be a complicated task due to communication barriers. Paloma reflected that Darden alums, who were involved throughout the program, helped to bridge the divide as they became like cultural translators in conversations and meetings. She stressed “strength in numbers” also helped and stated, “I was always with at least one other classmate exploring Shanghai.”

When comparing her experience learning inside the classrooms at Darden and learning in an experiential setting abroad, Paloma found her trip an enlightening complement to her time at Darden especially in regard to the case-method curriculum. “I thought [the teaching methodology] would be different going into the field, but it’s funny how it just felt like a natural extension of the case experience.” Paloma shared that classmates often assumed the role of  case protagonists as they determined what they gained from conversations at the companies they visited.

Paloma and a classmate enjoy the visit to Shanghai Daily.

Due to her previous experiences working in the media industry, Paloma found the company visit to Shanghai Daily, an English language newspaper in Shanghai founded in 1999, to be personally valuable and interesting. She also noted how even a social excursion, such as the one on her last day to the markets, ended up being a great opportunity for learning as well. Along with course staff coordinator, Angie Simonetti, and some of her classmates, Paloma said the trip to the markets was an excellent crash course in negotiation as they haggled with sellers for better prices, which she said involved heavy group work and visits to multiple stores. Paloma also recently found parallels from the course in China to her current internship at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as the manufacturing floor at her office reminds her of the visit to TE Connectivity in China.

“I learned a lot of different facts and figures in China, but the main lesson I took away on a personal level is the incredible caliber of the people I go to school with,” Paloma said. Paloma witnessed her classmates in action in a global setting and she found it enlightening to view their dynamics outside of the classroom. She developed a new appreciation for her classmates and enjoyed the ability to really know them outside of the classroom.

Paloma stated the entire course, running for its fourth consecutive year, went smoothly, like a “tight-ship”.  Paloma found the trip unlike any other as it truly showed her how businesses run in China, takeaways she determined would have been difficult to grasp so completely without this trip. She urges present and future classmates, regardless of their decision to partake in a Darden Worldwide Course or not, to look to their international Darden friends and professors as resources for gaining insight into global business.

The course to China served as a jumping off point for Paloma to Asia and she can’t wait to continue exploring.  She stated, “While I hope to continue visiting different parts of the world, I feel lucky to have gone while at Darden and with a program that has been tried and tested…I hope it’s the first of many such applied business experiences.”

(Photos below provided by Angie Simonetti; photos above provided by Paloma)

All of the China Global Immersion students on location!

Darden classroom experience in China

A visit to partner school CEIBS in Shanghai

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