Pratik Dixit BS ’13 (finance, information systems) could have chosen a glamorous study-abroad locale such as Amsterdam, Dubai or Paris. Instead, he jumped at a 12-day consulting opportunity in rural Nicaragua.
Calling it a “perfect blend of service and business,” Dixit says, “Having this experience on my resume helped me say I’ve done real consulting work. … Companies are very impressed by that.” Deloitte evidently was — Dixit has been working there as a consultant since graduation.
Over the past five years, hundreds of Smith School students have consulted on projects across the globe, but nowhere has their impact been felt as in Latin America. Since 2009, more than 300 students have consulted for Smith projects throughout the region.
Professor Susan White has led an undergraduate short-term course, “Doing Business in Nicaragua: Microfinance in Action,” for the last three years. So far 45 students have participated in this experience in the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Students have assisted local business owners such as grocers, taxi operators and seamstresses scale up their enterprises.
“They gain real-life understanding of microfinance — how a small amount of money makes a deep impact on people,” White says. “Several of the entrepreneurs very emotionally told the students that this experience changed their lives and made their dreams come true.”
Professor Paulo Prochno has led 240 MBA students to Brazil since he inaugurated his annual “Doing Business in Brazil” course in 2009. Students consult for small, Rio de Janeiro-based start-up companies.
The students’ expertise has impressed the Brazilian beneficiaries. “It was beyond what I expected,” says Sheila Souza, CEO of Brazilidad. “The students were very professional, and their report will help me a lot in decision making. Working with the University of Maryland was a very positive experience. For me, it made a huge difference.”
Seven students, including four MBAs currently advising a Brazilian NGO that promotes gender equality, have consulted in Latin America through a Center for Social Value Creation program that matches student consultants with international nonprofits.
In 2012, three graduate students consulted for the Institute for Self-Reliant Agriculture (ISRA), an NGO focused on sustainable agriculture in Ecuador and Peru. The students developed fundraising and marketing strategies to support the organization’s five-year expansion plan.
“I volunteered for the ISRA project because it was a unique opportunity to sharpen my leadership, project management and consulting skills,” says Amadou Cisse, EMBA ‘13. “It was inspirational to visit families at the deep end of poverty striving to provide a better future to their children. I came back with a different purpose, and since then my leadership has reached new heights.”
More than 30 MBA students have consulted in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay on a variety of Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) projects. Students have consulted for a leather company, milk cooperative and winery as well as 3M, DHL, KPMG, Monsanto, and Syngenta.