¡Viva Colombia!

Barbara Siegel

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Earlier this month, a group of ambitious MBA students made the journey to Bogotá, Colombia, as part of Lake Forest Graduate School of Management’s Global Focus program. Selected for its steadily built infrastructure and solid potential for economic growth, Colombia provided participants with a meaningful, on-the-ground experience of its business, political and social climate.

The trip was led by faculty, Juan Rocha and the Dean, Ellen McMahon. Both Juan and Ellen felt this trip, from both an academic and professional perspective, enriched students’ business acumen through knowledge that can be applied to current or future organizations. The memories made were too many to count.

In association with BizCorps – an NGO that connects high-potential businesses with talented and experienced recent graduate degrees – LFGSM had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with an immensely talented pool of newly minted MBA’s as they worked to support local businesses. The extensive professional resumes of the LFGSM students highlighted the importance of experience in making change in any organization. Through connections unique to this trip, LFGSM students were invited to partner with graduates from top-tier business schools including Yale University, Tufts University, University of Virginia, and Babson College to make a difference in Colombia’s developing economy.

In addition to supporting businesses in Colombia LFGSM also met with representatives across a variety of industries:

  • ProColombia – International trade
  • Bancóldex – Banking
  • Ashoka – Social responsibility/foundation
  • HubBOG – Entrepreneurship and start-ups
  • Universidad Javeriana – Education
  • Grainger – Industrial supply

Divided into teams of three, LFGSM students were able to exercise their knowledge in specific areas of expertise by completing three projects. Two projects were designed to improve an area of business for a company, specifically Grainger, while the third focused on a social issue. Team one developed a pricing model to maximize sales and profitability, while team two created a customer order process for Grainger to implement. Team three focused on a social entrepreneurship initiative helping scholarship students earn their undergraduate degrees through grants by the Colombian government.

LFGSM student Thomas Hess participated on team three and found the experience both rewarding and challenging.

“Our primary goal was to diminish social inequality by increasing access to education and removing barriers for prosperity in this country,” said Hess. “Despite government funding on initiatives like women’s education, there are still holes in the infrastructure that prevent the successful implantation of these programs. There are many non-profits that will continue to do the work we started during our visit.”

The practical, hands-on advice offered by LFGSM students to their clients’ senior leadership allowed the teams to not only achieve, but exceed their goals. Upon completion of the week long Global Focus, several LFGSM students were asked to come back to participate in consulting opportunities. And the team focused on the social entrepreneurship project will continue beyond the academic course.

As faculty leader, Juan was impressed with the amount of knowledge, expertise and passion students applied to their projects. He also enjoyed seeing how amazed they were at how far this country has come, both socially and economically.

“Students were able to see first-hand the transformation of a country that, in the last 50 years has been dealing with issues like guerillas and major drug trafficking to what it has become today,” says Rocha. “In the past 10 years, Colombia has experienced incredible economic growth due to its open trade policy and free trade programs backed by the country’s leadership. It has been great to hear students’ positive feedback and shared memories of our experiences.”

The deadline for the next Global Focus trip to Istanbul, Turkey, is Friday, March 6. To learn more, visit the Global Focus page on our website.



Barb Siegel Senior Director Marketing, LFGSM



Barbara L. Siegel
Director of Marketing,
Lake Forest Graduate School of Management


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