By Kate Beach

“All of these trips have left me with more questions than answers – they’ve made me want to learn and travel more.”

Emma Causey, currently a second year student in Darden’s residential MBA program, has participated in three Global Business Experiences taking her to South Africa, France and Cuba. These faculty-led academic programs provide opportunities to explore a particular business theme in a specific country or region.

Emma and two Darden classmates on the South Africa Global Business Experience.
Emma (right) on the South Africa Global Business Experience.


Emma explained, “In South Africa, we had the opportunity to interact with entrepreneurs and were able to see first-hand how creative they are in their environment. They are incredibly motivated and driven. While they want our questions and feedback on their ideas, they are truly the best equipped to deal with the challenges at hand because they know their culture. What we value can be so different across cultures and though we can and do talk about it in class, experiencing it in person makes that reality much more tangible.”

Darden’s South Africa Global Business Experience, which focuses on public-private partnerships and is led by Professor Mary Margaret Frank, allowed Emma to also better understand the ways in which a country might choose to address conflict and political unrest. There she was able to see the direct and continued impact of Mandela’s efforts, including the reconciliation trials, and the ways in which confronting history head on publically can help a country progress. Emma was able to contrast South Africa’s approach to addressing historical challenges and how public-private partnerships have positioned the country to move forward, with approaches taken in Latin American countries she previously visited.

As a child, Emma started learning Spanish at a young age and developed an interest in Latin America due to family friends. This early exposure to other cultures and perspectives grew deeper throughout college, as Emma studied abroad in Spain, Cyprus, Argentina, and Paraguay. “It was both enriching and eye-opening to compare vastly different cultures and to learn that everyone has a different story, though there are a lot of similarities in basic humanity as well.”

Emma brought her interest in travel and culture with her to Darden pointing out “when else am I going to get a chance to see these places? And, not only see them, but learn from renowned faculty and gain access to opportunities and individuals that would have been nearly impossible to arrange on my own.”

The Normandy Leadership Ride brought together military and business leaders who shared stories of World War II battles, took the students to actual locations, and brought the leadership lessons full circle back to business applications. “A Darden alumnus, Bill Utt (MBA ’84), was on the ground with us. At every stop, Bill and [now former] Dean Bruner drew direct parallels from military leadership to the boardroom and general management strategy. Together with our War College faculty, our group walked away with tangible and distinct leadership philosophies.” shared Emma.

The Cuba Global Business Experience, focused on the economy in transition, invigorated Emma’s interest in Latin America and the complexities of political, economic, and social challenges in the region. While in Cuba, Emma worked on a project with a daycare center. Though skeptical of what a true “value add” would be to her client given the daycare’s existing success, she found that her team’s honest approach and insights resonated. “It seemed as though it was the first time that our client had outsiders who thought highly enough of her business to question her assumptions and think not only about alternative revenue streams, but how to preserve and enhance her relationships with the children she cared for and their parents. We offered her our ideas and I think our genuine interest in her and her business shone through – our perspective was important, but so was the way we presented it.”

“For me, global trips are an opportunity to broaden your perspective and worldview. If you go in with an open mind, you walk away with rich experiences and learnings.”

Following graduation in May, Emma plans to return to First Annapolis Consulting, a boutique consultancy focused on the payments industry. Even though First Annapolis is primarily U.S. based, Emma plans to apply what she has learned from her global academic experiences to her new position and beyond. “Having an open mind and being genuinely curious can be instrumental in serving clients effectively. I feel so fortunate that I have been able to further develop these skills through Darden’s Global Business Experiences.”

Emma with classmates on the Darden Cuba Global Business Experience in January 2016.
Emma with classmates on the Darden Cuba Global Business Experience in January 2016.