The stated goal of the MBA Capstone Field Study is to “afford students the ‘live case’ experience of developing a market for a product or service. Working with a sponsoring company or organization, students will assess the market, the environment, and competitors.” The intent is to have students broaden their perspective by examining the issues from multiple interdisciplinary and cultural viewpoints.
Last fall, nine MBA students had the opportunity to do just that. Along with their instructor, K. David Hirschey, these students had the opportunity to work with Hope for the Child, a nonprofit organization based in Woodbury, Minn. This organization runs the Arise N Shine school in Kisumu, Kenya. The students were divided into two groups, one that worked with on-the-ground operations for the school and one for the nonprofit here in Minnesota.
Hirschey has led several of these capstone experiences over the years and he believes that this international format is a hallmark of Saint Mary’s.
“Travel can’t be replicated and is fundamentally important for the globalization of the students,” said Hirschey.
Jeff Helgeson, a 2012 MBA graduate who traveled with the group, agrees. Helgeson has had the opportunity to travel as a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. But he noted that visiting a devel- oping country such as Kenya changed his perspective.
“The delta between how they live and how we live is so different and so vast. You find yourself reflecting on what you have here, and how blessed you truly are,” said Helgeson.
The students had some time together on a safari when they first arrived, as a team-building experience as well as a chance to understand African culture. The group also traveled to Maryknoll Institute and had the chance to spend time with some Saint Mary’s students studying there.
“The most interesting part about our time with them was all of the similarities that we had with the Maryknoll students. Even though the cultural differences were still there, during our time with them, we discovered how similar we really are,” said Sarah Jo LePage ’10, M’12, an MBA alum who traveled with the group.
Upon their return, the team presented their recommendations to the Hope for the Child leadership team in December, some of which already have been adopted successfully. In addition to media and knowledge-sharing, these recommendations have simplified and streamlined accounting and business processes for the organization in the USA and in Kenya today.
According to Hirschey, the on-the ground time the class spent in Kisumu was probably the most impactful for the students and the non-profit.
“This experience completely changed my perception on life and taught me how to value the opportunities and education that I have been so fortunate to have,” said LePage. “I never go one day without thinking about those children and how Hope For the Child continues to give back with unwavering love and commitment.”
Feature Photo caption: MBA capstone students met with administration of Christ the Teacher Institute for Education and Maryknoll Institute of African Studies. Pictured are, from left: back, Father Michael Kirwen, Karen Malden, Denis Odinga Okiya, Kelly Walsh, Paula Sonsalla, Sagal Mohamed, Sarah LePage, Jeffrey Helgeson, David Hirschey, Yussuff Shonibare; front, April White, Brother Paulos Welday Mesmer, FSC ’90, M’91, Sister Jane Gikonyo, IBVM, and Velnisha William.