Sri Lanka Maryland-USAID Program Sees 2nd Straight Year of
MBA and MPP (Masters of Public Policy) students from the University of
Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and School of Public Policy
traveled to Sri Lanka as part of an annual summer internship program (June-July
2012). The program is delivered by the Center for Social Value
Creation, Center for International Business Education and
Research (CIBER), the
School of Public
Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) program of the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID), and the
International Executive Service
Corps (IESC). The internship is a consulting based opportunity and focuses
on improving competitiveness and economic revitalization in Sri Lanka. The six
students selected consulted with three distinct clients— the
Jesuit Academy of
Trincomalee, an aquaculture business called Aqua ‘N Green, and VEGA’s BIZ+
job creation grant delivery platform in Colombo.
After a month of preliminary research in the DC area, the students traveled
abroad to visit their clients first hand and conduct on-ground research.
Students conducted interviews, examined supply chain mechanisms, and analyzed
the efficacy of business processes and procedures. Once analyses were complete,
the teams delivered recommendations to the clients on the ground and then
returned to the U.S. to complete more formal presentations and reports.
Participating students had the opportunity to apply principles they learned
in the classroom to real-world situations in a developing country, an experience
they all reported was invaluable to their educational experience. The students
said the project was both professionally and personally fulfilling, providing
critical thinking skills and new insight into career possibilities in the fields
of consulting and international development.
“This project was a very important complement to my academic education at the
University of Maryland,” wrote one participant in an evaluation of the program.
“It provided me with a level of regional understanding that I can apply to other
areas going forward. Similarly, the firsthand experience of working in the field
offered a variety of skills that I truly believe I would not have been able to
experience with such depth in any other capacity.”
The participating consultants were, left to right: O'Reilley and Andres
Feijoo (MPP '13), Jesuit Academy of Trincomalee; Valerie Lubrano (MBA/MPP '13)
and Martha West (MBA '12), Aqua 'N Green; Caitlyn Zachry (MPP '13) and Sergio
Pinto (MPP '13,) BIZ+.
The program culminated in a series of afternoon presentations in the Smith
School suite at the Ronald Reagan building to stakeholders from USAID, IESC, and
a number of University of Maryland entities.
In the case of the Jesuit Academy, the team focused primarily on digital
marketing strategies as it related to attracting new students. By introducing
processes and training on social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and
YouTube as well as search engine optimization and user-friendliness advice on
their main website, the Academy should be better positioned for customer
retention going forward.
“Since the conclusion of the civil war, internet use has skyrocketed,” said
Genevieve O’Reilley (MPP ’13.) “One of the first things we looked at was
Facebook. We converted them over to a business account, which kept them in
compliance with Facebook regulations and granted them access to Facebook
insights. We believe this tool will be extremely helpful in helping them
understand what generates interest in the organization.”
The team working with Aqua ’N Green analyzed fish industry trends and
practices in the United States to create step-by-step recommendations for the
aquaculture company to enter the U.S. market. The students working with BIZ+
assessed its evaluation process and tools, reviewed the business operations of
the program’s first grant and other applicants, and interviews potential
business development service partners, as well as provided training for regional
At the conclusion of the presentations, audience members offered constructive
feedback, reminding the consultants of the effect that political environments
can play on the relevance and feasibility of business advising.
“All of you were focusing on one dimension, focusing on these terms of
reference working with these projects. As foreign service officers, we face
another dimension, the political dimension. … A lot of people think of AID as
this altruistic organization, but it’s really a tool in the foreign policy
toolbox,” said Paul Richardson, director of Economic Growth in the USAID Sri
Lanka Mission. “In addition to dealing with technical issues in the field, you
always have to deal with the political dimension. Foreign policy involves the
wishes of the U.S ambassador, who is a personal representative of the President
of the United States, so we have these other angles we have to play with.
Development in and by itself is indeed very challenging, but you throw in the
politics as well and it’s even more interesting.”
About the Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader
in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the
University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate,
full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive
education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The
school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning
locations in North America and Asia.