News at Smith

Social Value Creation in the Context of Contemporary South Africa

Jan 13, 2017
Experiential / Reality-based Learning


Victor Mullins, associate dean of the undergraduate program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, is in Cape Town, South Africa, with 20 students participating in a two-week course: Social Value Creation in the Context of Contemporary South Africa.

Victor Mullins

For the past several years, Dean Mullins, along with Jeanette Snider, assistant director and academic advisor of Smith Undergraduate Program, have led students to South Africa. Before winter break, they worked with the Smith’s School Center for Social Value Creation and the Office of Global Initiatives and now, while in Cape Town, they are coordinating with the University of Cape Town. The purpose of the three-credit course, in addition to expanding their global mindsets, is to understand social innovation and challenge students to conceptualize "Who am I?" and "How do I show up...and how does this make change possible?" The program is funded in part by the Center for International Business Education and Research at the University of Maryland. 

Students were placed into teams and have been posting about their experiences. Here are some excerpts from the students’ teams:

We were given a quote by Albert Einstein … which said, "imagination is more important than knowledge." This stood with us greatly because no amount of knowledge can bring social innovation if you are not able to create and connect with humans. Socrates once said, "I know one thing: that I know nothing." This is important because humility and empathy is a building block for social innovation. We have to be willing to adapt, adjust, change and learn.

Macassar Pottery

Julian Colicchio

We also visited Macassar Pottery located in the Western Cape. We learned about the challenges individuals in Macassar have faced, as well as how the history/land of many has been lost. We were challenged to question our own values and perception on collaboration. Our discussion lead us to understand that the history and lives of everyone in a community are important. Even when everything seems to have been taken away, humans must come together and collaborate to create beauty, progress, and value.

Submitted by Malik Sulieman, Smith, Junior in Finance | Julian Colicchio, Sophomore in Management | Olivia Garcia, Sophomore in Management | Nicolette Wolfrey, Junior in Government and Politics | Gabriella Can, Senior in Information Systems

Robben Island

Robben Island

Today we experienced Robben Island, which is the maximum-security prison where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela were imprisoned during Apartheid. It is a place of true beauty but was used for hideous purposes. Our tour guide was a former political prisoner from 1986-1991, and he was imprisoned for a laundry list of unreasonable charges, such as high treason, and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Hearing firsthand about his experiences and the areas that we walked through made it a visceral encounter. We admire his strength to willingly relive his past everyday in order to teach a new generation about preventing such horrible things from happening again.

Submitted by Drew O'Connell, Sophomore Business Undecided| Sam Mensah, Sophomore in Management | Elizabeth Amare, Sophomore Undecided | Allie Friedman, Senior in Criminal Justice | Nayib Kalendar, Junior in Finance

Cape of Good Hope

South Africa's inequality is a consequence of its centuries of racial oppression. This became more apparent today when we went to Signal Hill, Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, and many more unique view points. All of these places were beautiful and intended to be tourist destinations. Despite these amazing views, the real takeaway [is that] many, if not all of the people, in the townships, such as Langa and Khayelitsha, don't have the accessibility and opportunity to go to these places, and some even don't know they exist. While on the other end, many of the people on the wealthier side of the mountain have never stepped foot in a township and don't know the struggles and living conditions of the people that live there. It comes to show how fortunate we are as students to experience a new culture and relate it to many of the issues we have discussed in class.

Submitted by Rashad Johnson, Senior in Finance | Nyajei Vandi, Junior in Public Health | Doron Tadmor, Freshman in International Business and Finance | Anna Lee, Sophomore in Business Undecided | Nikhil Talwar, Junior in Finance

High tea

Today was the last official day of class at the University of Cape Town. Melanie concluded the program with tips on how we can use a reflective lens to better ourselves for our future endeavors in the professional world. We then had the opportunity to enjoy high tea with each other at Mount Nelson, where we witnessed the same apartheid racial stigmas of the workforce and the patrons. As a group, we noticed that a majority of the employees at the hotel were either black or colored, whereas those who were staying in the hotel were white. This further proves that even though the apartheid is over, there is still a significant amount of economic imbalance that is present in South Africa. Ultimately, we would have not had a real sense of Cape Town’s culture without having the chance to experience both the townships and one of the wealthiest areas in this city.

Submitted by Rashad Johnson, Senior in Finance | Nyajei Vandi, Junior in Public Health | Doron Tadmor, Freshman in International Business and Finance | Anna Lee, Sophomore in Business Undecided | Nikhil Talwar, Junior in Finance

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About the University of Maryland's 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, online MBA, specialty masters, 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.