Learners Abroad: Cross-Cultural Lessons In Kellogg’s Global Initiatives In Management Courses

Participants in the 2022 Kellogg Social Impact trip to Peru

Ignore the increasing connectedness of the world at your peril. To keep up with the globalization of business and the ways in which the intersection of cultures impact commerce, it’s crucial that MBA students understand different regions’ cultural, political, and economic landscape.

That’s the underpinning of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management’s Global Initiatives in Management elective courses, which each year have sent around 250 full-time, Evening and Weekend, dual-degree, and executive MBA students abroad to get first-hand knowledge of a country’s business practices. Now, as pandemic travel restrictions loosen, the GIMs have returned to the road, offering students deeper insights into impact investing and market dynamics in distant lands.

“It can be tough to get global exposure, depending on your job,” says Andrew Van Alstine, an Evening and Weekend MBA student. “Having the opportunity to travel, talk to global business leaders and become a more well-rounded professional is one of the things that attracted me to the GIM program.”


Lacey Johnson: “Excited to expand my definition and toolset of what impact investing can look like”

GIMs begin every winter term in-class and involve a 10-day trip abroad over spring break. In class, students work in small groups of four to five students designing a business plan, research question, industry analysis, or business case around a topic of interest that relates to the country they’re visiting. Each team is responsible for building their own connections with stakeholders prior to the trip.

Once abroad, students get the opportunity to conduct first-hand research by speaking with those they connected with before the trip, as well as government officials, and business and industry leaders.

Expanded networks, insight into a country’s macroeconomic trends, and an understanding of a region’s opportunities and challenges are just a few things this year’s GIM students took away from the immersive GIM experience. Poets&Quants sat down with a few students who recently returned from three trips – Social Impact (Peru), Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (The Netherlands and Germany), and Branding the Nation (Spain and Greece) – to learn more about their experience.

For Lacey Johnson, Kellogg JD-MBA student, GIM was an important milestone. “I was the first person in my family with a passport; I’d never been around the world before,” she explains.

Johnson came to Kellogg with a community development background. Eager to explore social impact from a business perspective throughout her degree – and learn more about emerging markets – she joined the Social Impact trip to Peru, where her team worked on a project that involved studying the development of education

technology. “This was fascinating since I’ve been studying venture capital so heavily at Kellogg,” she says. “The venture capital industry in Peru is new and growing quickly.”


Emmanuel Adu-Darko: “This is what I’m really passionate about, and this is what I want do”

Johnson says that her team brought a broad set of consulting skills to the organizations that they talked to, and many organizations asked for advice on how to position and market themselves in the education tech space. The experience showed her the differences between impact investing in the U.S. and Latin America. “Being able to borrow and learn from other radically different models has been such an amazing experience,” she says. “My experience in this country has shown me that sometimes creating impact is simply starting a regular business. We don’t think about that as much in the U.S. I’m excited to expand my definition and toolset of what impact investing can look like.”

Emmanuel Adu-Darko, first-year MBA student, joined Johnson on the Peru trip. Before coming to Kellogg, Adu-Darko worked in sustainability consulting. He describes the GIM experience as ‘crucial;’ with plans to work in social impact consulting following his degree, the Peru trip was going to equip him with new, relevant tools.

Adu-Darko’s team project involved looking at small and medium enterprises and helping to make their business models more effective and sustainable, both financially and operationally. Turns out, this project solidified his vision for his future career. “This experience has reaffirmed the fact that this is what I’m really passionate about, and this is what I want to do,” he says.


Kate Reis: Learned about venture capital and “cultural nuances from being in the country”

For first-year, dual-degree MMM student Kate Reis, the GIM experience also reaffirmed what she wants to do following Kellogg: pursue a global role in innovation. She joined the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems trip, where she traveled to three cities: Amsterdam, Cologne, and Germany. “One of my goals when I came to Kellogg was to get as many international opportunities and exposure as possible,” says Reis.

Reis’ team project was focused on venture capital, which provided her first exposure to the venture capital ecosystem. Like Johnson, she found it interesting seeing the differences in how firms in Europe invest in startups compared to firms in the U.S. “Not only did I learn about the venture capital ecosystem, but also these cultural nuances from being in the country,” Reis continues. “Speaking to firms abroad and being able to apply the learnings domestically has been a really cool experience.”

Her favorite part of the experience was being amongst a cross-pollination of ideas and experiences across the full-time, evening and weekend, and executive MBA students. “I loved being part of these conversations that enriched the whole experience,” she says.

Plus, she was pleasantly surprised by the applicability of what she was learning at Kellogg. “It was interesting to understand how some of the things that I’m learning in the MMM program can be applied in a global context,” Reis continues.

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