You always learn something when you travel, about yourself as well as the places you travel to. For MBA students at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the learning doesn’t stop there. All MBA candidates go abroad to complete an experiential course known as TuckGO, a for-credit immersive educational experience that comprises Tuck’s global learning requirement. That can mean undertaking a Global Insight Expedition, meeting locals and local businesspeople in places like Morocco, Armenia, and Vietnam; or it can mean doing a First Year Project overseas, working at an on-site consulting project outside the U.S., or completing a one-term exchange with a foreign partner school. Whichever they choose, Tuck MBA candidates and alumni have been vocal about their love of the program.
Now, one Tuck alum can be said to be much more vocal than the rest. Zdenek Bakala, a 1989 MBA and member of the Tuck Board of Advisors, has made the biggest gift commitment in school history as a way to ensure the solvency of the TuckGO program for many years to come. His $25 million foundational investment will endow TuckGO and create the Bakala Global Suite, the future home to the TuckGO offices and “a hub of student, faculty, and staff collaboration,” the school announced today (September 28).
“At Tuck, we believe it’s critical that every student has the skills, knowledge, and global mindset to successfully navigate the different cultures, economies, and industries in which they will work,” says Peter Golder, professor of marketing and faculty director for TuckGO. “This wonderful gift strengthens our ability to develop those capabilities.”
“Tuck provided me with tremendous opportunities throughout my life and career,” says Zdenek Bakala, a Czech-born investor and philanthropist who is also a member of Tuck’s European Council. “As future classes of Tuck students pursue global careers of their own, this program will be essential to their preparation—giving them tangible skills and a better understanding of the world and of themselves. We are thrilled to support such meaningful experiencesat a school that has meant so much to me.”
‘THE VERY MODEL OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT’
Part of The Tuck Difference: The Campaign for Tomorrow’s Wise Leaders, the $25 million gift will go to “strengthening existing TuckGO offerings and fund new and varied educational experiences that take place in locations and industries that students seek,” the school announced, adding that practically speaking, the funds will help cover operational and logistical costs — but, by making it possible for the school to continue to have small cohort sizes, the gift will also enhance the “personal scale” that Tuck is well known for. According to the school, The Tuck Difference is targeting a $250 million investment “in support of Tuck’s people, programs, and places,” part of Dartmouth College’s $3 billion comprehensive campaign, The Call to Lead.
“This is an incredible moment for Tuck and for the generations of students who will benefit from the Bakalas’ extraordinary generosity,” Dean Matthew J. Slaughter tells Poets&Quants. “Their gift ensures that TuckGO, already a vibrant and innovative part of learning at Tuck, will connect students even more to the world’s diversity, dynamism, and innovation.” Dartmouth Tuck is currently ranked No. 9 in Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking of U.S. schools. The school was ranked No. 6 in the U.S. in the recently released Forbes ranking.
Michaela and Zdenek Bakala founded their American family foundation, the Bakala Foundation USA, in 2007 to award scholarships to Czech Republic students to study abroad at leading institutions. Along with many other organizations and causes, Bakala is a benefactor of the Vaclav Havel Library, which serves as a center for the documentation and research of modern Czech history, the Aspen Institute Central Europe, and the Design Museum of London.
“Zdenek’s life and career is the very model of global engagement,” Slaughter says. “This wonderful gift ensures that our graduates will embark on their careers with the cross-cultural abilities and acumen to engage with our diverse world of business.”
GIFT WILL HELP CREATE ‘LEADERS WHO CAN WORK EFFECTIVELY ACROSS CULTURES’
TuckGO is short for “Tuck Global Opportunities.” It has been a distinctive part of the Tuck curriculum since it was launched in 2015. Students must take one of three immersive experiential courses in a country that is new to them, whether it is a qualifying First-Year Project; an OnSite Global Consulting assignment; a Global Insight Expedition (GIX); or an international exchange student with a partner institution. Regardless of which they choose, all experiences are designed, taught, and assessed by a Tuck faculty member or faculty adviser. In 2019, 216 students fulfilled their TuckGO requirement by participating in a GIX; since 2015, 70% to 80% of students in each class participate in a GIX. Among the offered destinations for students’ next departure in March 2020 are China, India, Israel, and Peru.
Bakala, known as a committed philanthropist, began his career in investment banking in New York at Drexel Burnham Lambert and Bank of America, later joining Credit Suisse First Boston in London. In 1994 he founded Patria Finance, the first private investment banking group in the Czech Republic. In 2004 he was one of several founders of BXR Group, an international private investment group with a global portfolio of assets.
The $25 million gift is not Michaela and Zdenek’s first to Tuck. In 2009 they endowed the Bakala Professor of Strategy, currently held by Richard D’Aveni. The Bakalas have also contributed to Tuck’s global offerings in the past, with Bakala-affiliated organizations sponsoring more OnSite Global Consulting projects than any other organization; and they have provided support for Tuck Executive Education programs and the campus master plan guiding the transformation of Dartmouth’s West End.
“Solving humankind’s most complex challenges requires leaders who can work effectively across cultures,” Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon says. “Through Michaela and Zdenek’s inspiring investment, Tuck will remain at the forefront of developing such global business leaders. We are all tremendously grateful for their vision and commitment.”