MBA students in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, find that the skills they learn have uses outside the classroom. In fact, they’re equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to make an impact in communities around the world.
Such was the case in November 2016 when a group of MBA students and faculty members traveled to Uganda for 11 days to lend their business expertise to projects making a significant difference in the area. The trip was in collaboration with the Global Livingston Institute, the organization Daniels selected for its MBA Global Challenge. FirstBank and the Potamkin Family are two donor organizations that helped launch the projects the MBA students tackled.
“We say that preparation for Uganda begins in Denver,” said Doug Allen, associate professor of management who joined the students in Uganda. “This global challenge is actually the culmination of between one and two years of technical, interpersonal and leadership training that takes place in the classroom and outside the classroom at Daniels.”
The trip focused on two projects, with students divided into two groups to work on each. One helped entrepreneur Pamela Tusiime create a sustainable and strategic business plan for her company, Tuspa Enterprises. Her business makes healthy food to support the local Ugandan community. Its products include popcorn, honey and peanut butter.
FirstBank helped support development of the business plan and Tuspa’s expansion through a $2,500 grant to GLI, which then routed those funds to the business in the form of a community loan.
“Our group identified on-the-ground resources that Pamela could take advantage of, including the Ugandan Women's Entrepreneurship Association Limited (UWEAL) and other, more reliant sources of income for her business,” said Katharine Deeny, a Daniels MBA student. “While it is a small, hard-working company, its founder has a lot of big and visionary ideas that make Tuspa's future very bright within Uganda and potentially East Africa.”
The second group of students spent their time assessing the feasibility of a boat business on Lake Bunyonyi in southwest Uganda. The project came about after the community identified a need to get more of their goods to the market — an objective hindered by the absence of a regular boat service.
While in Uganda, students consulted with locals and GLI to address factors key to a reliable and profitable boat service. They looked at how many people would use the service, where the boat would dock, how often it would run and how to make it sustainable.
“We did a good job of starting out high level with our hot topics papers, and kind of an overview of the country, the economy and then getting down into the more regional, local economy, and then working with our partners here in Uganda,” said MBA student Hope Wroblewski.
Following their trip, students presented their recommendations and business plans to GLI.
“The Global Livingston Institute not only offered our MBA students a rich learning experience through projects in Uganda, they also provided valuable input as mentors and teachers along-side DU professors throughout the program, both in Denver and Uganda,” said Patrick Orr, senior director of international partnerships and programs at Daniels. “GLI is helping us co-create the educational experience for our students while providing real value to the marketplace.”
Jamie Van Leeuwen, CEO of GLI, said the students’ work on the Uganda projects is making a difference.
Thanks to their collaboration with GLI, he said, there is affordable access to markets in rural Uganda; two people previously unemployed are now working as boat captains; and Tusiime now has a clear and refined vision of how to grow her business over the next five years. Additionally, the community is in the process of a building a boat named the SS Potamkin, which will launch later this month.
Allen added that while the experience was of great benefit to students, it also provided great value to GLI and its clients in Uganda.
“I think the students demonstrated that not only was the trip a valuable learning experience, but it was an opportunity to add true value not only to GLI but to their two clients on the ground,” he said.
GLI is currently recruiting student leaders and interns for summer 2017. If interested, call Ryan Grundy at 713-306-8570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.