By Jean Yoon
Elise Sidamon-Eristoff (second from left in above photo), from Washington, D.C., focused on Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University before launching her career in economic development. She worked for Chemonics International, an international development firm that implements USAID grant-funded projects. Wanting to expand her opportunities outside of the international development field, she decided to pursue an MBA at Darden.
“I was surprised by all the global opportunities for involvement Darden had to offer,” she reflected. During her first year, Elise enrolled in the Darden Worldwide Course DWC to China. After participating in this program, Elise learned that Darden offers a Global Consulting Project elective to second year students. This course allows students to work with an organization, typically based outside of the United States, on a pressing challenge. The Center for Global Initiatives sources projects every year, but students are also able to propose organizations that might benefit from working with a student team.
“My grandfather, whose father came to the U.S. from Georgia, founded the nonprofit American Friends of Georgia (AFG) to keep our family connected with the country,” Elise shared. “The organization helps underprivileged people in Georgia, such as single mothers and homeless children, by running a shelter community and job training and educational programs, fundraising for scholarships, and offering medical and behavioral healthcare.” Elise believed AFG would be a good fit for a Global Consulting Project and reached out to CGI to make the connection. “Staff and resources are often limited in nonprofits, so there are many opportunities for business students to use their education and to practice what they have learned.”
Elise worked with staff from AFG and CGI over the summer to create a project pitch for the upcoming year. “The project started out as analyzing fundraising efforts for effectiveness. AFG’s fundraising strategies in Georgia work well, but we noticed that these same strategies did not translate their effectiveness into the United States. We observed that donors lacked information about which efforts their contributions were going to in Georgia, and this led to an undeveloped donor base with inconsistent donations from the States,” Elise explained. “For the GCP this past fall, my team and I analyzed data from donor streams and surveyed donors to design a better outreach and communications plan.”
After her experience in two global courses, Elise offered her thoughts on why students should engage with global opportunities at Darden: “The Batten Foundation Darden Worldwide Scholarship program is a unique and a fantastic opportunity everyone should take advantage of.” For the students looking for global learning domestically, Elise recommended enrolling in Darden’s international business electives, such as professor Ming-Jer Chen’s East Meets West in Strategy course. “I took this course with Ming-Jer and loved the opportunity to learn how Eastern and Western cultural and philosophical differences affect business.” Students can also engage with many cultural and global affinity clubs on grounds as well, such as the European Society and the Global Business and Culture Club, to name a few. Elise stated, “Beyond Darden’s many academic offerings, I recommend students attend as many info sessions for global extracurricular events and organizations as possible, even when they may be uncertain about their level of interest, just to learn more.”
After graduation, Elise will join Ernst and Young in consulting in New York. She expressed how the MBA program at Darden is a unique time and opportunity to gain global experiences. “I’m not sure how much international involvement I will have once I start my new job, but the company has global offices and I hope I will have the chance to work globally again!”