Montclair State University Feliciano School of Business MBA students gained perspective into the challenges South Africans have endured in the face of daily power outages – a crisis so large that the country’s president declared a nationwide state of disaster – when they too experienced rolling blackouts.
With global experience a required part of Montclair’s Master of Business Administration, the international trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg was designed to give students on-the-ground experiences that go beyond what can be learned in a classroom – broadening their thinking and developing knowledge in a globalized economy.
“Whether you’re talking operations, supply chain, marketing, finance, you need to understand it on a global scale,” says MBA Director and Professor Nicole Koppel. In South Africa, that meant the students also came to understand what it’s like to adjust to life in the dark.
“The trip opened my eyes and put in perspective how grateful we should be to live where we are in the world,” says Justin Martinez ’22, a member of the accelerated 4+1 MBA program and an operations partnership manager for a sports memorabilia company.
International experiences are integrated into the curriculum at the Feliciano School of Business, with the MBA program remodeled 12 years ago to expose students to experiential opportunities in the global environment, says Natalie Jones, Feliciano’s assistant director of global programs. Over the past decade, nearly 1,000 MBA students have taken part in immersion trips.
“Not only do they familiarize students with live business environments, but by taking them to emerging or reemerging markets, they’re really learning about companies, both local and multinational, and how their operations exist and adapt within a different country,” Jones says.
The most recent trips in January presented opportunities to understand world cultures and business customs in South Africa; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. During their 10-day visits, the MBA cohorts visited multinational and regional companies and cultural landmarks.
In South Africa, that included visits to a diamond mine to learn about the industry and a local nonprofit literacy project. The group experienced “loadshedding” – as it’s known locally – the rolling power outages that occur across the country and saw firsthand how it impacts business operations. In Tel Aviv, a focus included telecommunications and smart mobility, and in Dubai, its sustainable city.
That visit especially impressed Joe Balestrieri, an MBA student who works in banking in an anti-fraud governance and investigative department. “It was almost like, if the world ended, this place would stay alive. It ran on its own solar energy, reused the water. Sustainability was through the roof.”
“I think employers really like the idea that our graduate students have this global experience,” Koppel says. “Understanding business in a global economy, you can’t do it reading a textbook or watching a video. It’s not until you’re seeing it live in action that you can understand the underlying things that are happening.”
MBA student Joanna Choinska, who works as a small property manager and developer of housing in New York City, says the visit to Dubai was enlightening. “Visiting the city definitely brings it to life. It’s like your five senses – you could read it and see it. But then you go there, you feel it, you hear it, you smell it.”
Kathryn Fellin ’22, a combined BA/MBA student, says gaining cultural sensitivity was among the takeaways from the trip. “This was definitely a big learning experience both personally and professionally in understanding cultural differences and what life is like outside of our bubble.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos courtesy of Feliciano School of Business.
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