This fall, 53 students from 20 countries reported to Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus to earn an M.B.A. at the Gabelli School of Business. But before buckling down on courses such as Economic Analysis and Fundamentals of Accounting, a 5,300-mile detour to the Southern Hemisphere was in order.
From August 18 to 26, the students visited Buenos Aires, Argentina, as part of a monthlong onboarding process that emphasized camaraderie, academic excellence, and helping the less fortunate.
Julita Haber, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of communications and media management and director of the full-time MBA program, said this year’s trip, which followed three weeks of orientation both on campus and remotely, expanded upon previous years’ trips, when students did consulting work for local nonprofit organizations. This year, they also brought goods with them to donate to charities and devoted a full day to community service, helping to refurbish a shelter for homeless children.
Serving Local Charities
The three nonprofit groups they worked with were Mensajeros de la Paz, which runs residential homes and daycare centers for underserved children and the elderly; Pilares, which works alongside the families living in precarious settlements in Buenos Aires; and Educar y Crecer, which designs, implements, and evaluates high quality educational programs for children living in vulnerable situations.
“This year, we enriched their involvement and touched on their emotional connection with these populations,” she said, noting that after interviewing the heads of the NGOs about issues such as human resources and marketing, students then presented their findings in person at the NGO’s headquarters.
“Emotionally, students felt a lot more compelled to tap into a social innovation space and do things that open up their ability to give back, which I think is important for MBAs.”
Argentina isn’t the only place the students are traveling; in March, MBA students will travel to London to work with for-profit companies. Both trips are part of a program that emphasizes a global outlook, personalized leadership development, collaboration, rigorous curriculum, and business with purpose.
Forming Tight Bonds
Kostapanos Miliaresis, a member of the class who created to a spreadsheet to track the unassembled bicycles, sheets, towels, rain gear, and other items that the cohort brought with them to donate, said the trip resonated a great deal with him. The mission of Ethelon, the company he co-founded seven years ago in Athens, Greece, is to connect companies with volunteer opportunities. He decided to get his MBA to explore new opportunities, and Fordham’s designation as a Changemaker Campus convinced him to move to New York City. The trip was a great bonding experience, he said.
“We have all these get-to-know kind of gatherings, but when you spend all this time together, you really get a better sense of who someone is,” he said.
Hermann Rinnen, a native of Dusseldorf, Germany, said the trip exceeded his expectations. A 2013 graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Rinnen said he enrolled in the MBA program to strengthen his accounting and finance skills. He was part of a team that addressed human resource management at Mensajeros de la Paz, a project that enabled him to share insights he’s gleaned as co-owner of a family-owned logistics company, Rinnen GmbH & Co.
He said he considers the group’s donations and the service work to be even more important than the consulting projects.
“With the consulting project, we also benefitted from it, not just the organization. We were able to grow and apply knowledge and insight. But doing the community service opened my eyes to how important community work is and how important it is to pay attention to people,” he said.
“I think it was a really great experience to have one day of this kind of community work, I could have done it two or three more days.”
Haber said the trip, which was the third of its kind, has proven to be an excellent bonding experience. This year, the group was treated to a reception at the home of new Fordham Trustee Dario Wertheim, GABELLI ’91. Wertheim also earned an MBA at the business school, and is currently the director of Grupo Werthein, a firm whose portfolio includes mass consumption, energy, insurance, agribusiness, real estate, and technology.
“By having our students travel together, we are actually creating cohesive cohorts,” Haber said.
“That cohesiveness is something that distinguishes us from other, larger MBA programs.”