Experiencing Darden Internationally: Godwin Marfo Ahenkorah (Class of 2019) Offers Insights on Darden Worldwide Courses, Club Leadership and Life at Darden to International Students
Godwin Marfo Ahenkorah (Class of 2019, left in above photo) came to the U.S. for the first time in fall 2017 to attend Darden. A former management trainee at Vodafone in Accra, Ghana, Godwin’s interests in technology and operations led him to apply for business school in the U.S. At Darden, Godwin joined the technology, finance, consulting, and general management and operations (GMO) clubs, and, in his second year, he now serves as the VP of finance for the Darden African Business Organization (DABO) and the VP of communications for the Darden Christian Fellowship (DCF). Godwin also took advantage of several Darden Worldwide Courses in his first year, including a Kaizen project in Finland and a global immersion course in Germany. Godwin is excited to return to New York after graduation to work for JP Morgan Chase, where he interned this summer in their Digital Products team as part of the Management Associate Program track.
Operations in Finland
Curious about Kaizen projects after hearing Danaher recruiters speak so highly of them, Godwin applied to join the Kaizen team working for Danaher in Finland. The project took place in Tuusula, Finland at a manufacturing plant producing dental machines and equipment. Godwin’s Kaizen team was tasked with improving the products’ repair maintenance issues. “Our team had to re-assess the current process, with the support of engineers, to determine where the machine repairs were not working,” Godwin explained. “Using Kaizen principles, we were able to narrow down the repair issues to certain areas in the maintenance process and present our recommendation to Danaher.” Danaher accepted their recommendation, which ultimately saved the company over one million euros in six months. “I was able to use Kaizen principles in process optimization projects at my internship over the summer. The great thing about Kaizen is that it is universal – you can use those principles anywhere when you are working to improve current processes.”
Technology in Germany
The Germany global immersion course “Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Technological Unemployment” topic attracted Godwin’s interest. “Having worked for Vodafone, a TMT company with IOT and machine-to-machine communications, I was very interested to see how other companies employ these technologies,” Godwin said. “I learned a ton. We went to a Porsche plant in Stuttgart where we saw the combination of robotics and human skill to produce fine, exquisitely-crafted cars. In contrast, we went to the fully-automated port of Hamburg where everything was done with robotics. Robotics were the best way to utilize space at the port and to create efficiency, since there was no room for human error, accidents or safety concerns. The Porsche plant required human input for the depth of detail required in manufacturing luxury vehicles. That is one reason why those cars are as expensive as they are.” The Germany DWC also included a visit to SAP Berlin, where the students saw how SAP leveraged design thinking, artificial intelligence, and machine-to-machine solutions for their clients.
Leadership at Darden
Among the many students clubs in which he is involved, Godwin chose to pursue club leadership positions in Darden African Business Organization (DABO) and Darden Christian Fellowship (DCF). “Joining DABO in my first few weeks at Darden was key to settling down in Charlottesville for me,” Godwin explained. “Everything is different here – the food, culture, the case method style of academics – and it can be very challenging for international students especially. Before you can even find your feet, there are companies on grounds here to recruit you. I joined DABO because the members knew exactly where I came from, the challenges that first year international students face, and how different this environment is from Africa. DABO supported me throughout the transition and even helped secure some interviews for me with companies with whom they have connections. I wanted to join the leadership board to give back to the club that helped me integrate into Darden and Charlottesville, and to support other Africans coming to Darden.”
Similarly, DCF played a key role in Godwin’s first year at Darden. “My dad is a pastor and I grew up in a Christian home. Faith has been one of my biggest supports and encouragements throughout the years. I was looking for a faith family here like I had back home, and DCF offered the space for myself and other believers to come together and encourage one another. It really helped, even in ways like carpooling to church – international students can’t easily bring cars to Charlottesville! I joined the leadership board because of the immense benefits I received through DCF and to offer the same safe space to the students who will come after me and my class.”
Advice for International Students
As an international student, Godwin didn’t come to Darden planning to travel or take part in Darden’s global academic opportunities. However, as the courses came along he found the value in leveraging these opportunities and applied for the Kaizen project and enrolled in the Germany Darden Worldwide Course. “I am glad that I did them,” Godwin said; “They made me appreciate more about Western cultures – even within Europe, cultures vary greatly. These courses help you understand that there is not one set way to drive economic growth in a country; some countries focus on social benefits while others focus on private consumption. I was able to better understand and better appreciate their different models for economic growth, as well as their cultures that are so dissimilar from my own.”
Speaking to future international students at Darden, Godwin advises that “Darden Worldwide Courses are worth it. Leverage all of the resources that you can find available – from professors, student clubs, the Career Development Center, and the larger UVA community, to anybody that you simply meet around. You must leverage these resources to shape what you want to get out of your business school experience. For me, Darden Worldwide Courses turned out to be a significant part of my first year experience in business school.”