Darden Launches New Global Business Experiences

March 4, 2010 — How has Starbucks achieved success in China, where locals have been drinking tea for 2,000 years?

This week, more than 30 students from the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business traveled to China as part of the Global Business Experience program. The students will tour the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Great Wall and Shanghai's Old Town, and they will also be asked by faculty leader Peter Yu, a native of Shanghai and associate dean of students at the University, to analyze China's booming auto market, its highly competitive cell phone market and the rapid expansion of Starbucks.

Global Business Experiences – or GBEs, as they are known at Darden – are one- to two-week courses that take place in countries around the world each spring. This year, Darden students will travel at midterm break to Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, India, Mexico, Spain and Sweden, and – for the first time – to Egypt and to Israel in May.

The courses highlight how to do business in each country and introduce students to both cultural and business protocol through classes at partner schools, company visits and meetings with prominent political and business leaders. 
"We view GBEs as exceptional learning experiences that help students understand the world's economic, political and cultural environments," said Peter Rodriguez, Darden's associate dean for international affairs and director of the Tayloe Murphy International Center. "The students bring their experiences back to the classrooms, where they enrich the learning of all Darden students and help shape them into tomorrow's global business leaders."

Darden professor Andrew C. Wicks, director of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics, will lead the new GBE to Egypt. He has collaborated with Moustapha Sarhank, a fellow of both the Olsson Center and Tayloe Murphy International, to plan the trip, which will include a visit to the Valley Temple housing the mysterious Sphinx; the Khan el Khalili Bazaar, reputed to be the Middle East's largest; and a camp dinner in the desert to experience the culture of the nomadic tribe of the Red Sea and Sinai Peninsula, the Bedouins.

"I look forward to bringing Darden to my part of the world: Egypt," said Sarhank, who is honorary chairman of the Sarhank Group for Investments, a regional holding company with dual headquarters in Egypt and Geneva.

Also new this year is a 10-day GBE to Israel in May, led by professor Gal Raz, who teaches operations and supply chain management at Darden. "What's unique about this GBE is its focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel," Raz said. "The students will work on an actual project to develop a business plan to bring a product to the U.S. market." 

In addition to touring Jerusalem's Old City and the Israeli Parliament, the students will meet with Israeli government officials (including a planned meeting with Israel's finance minister) and will head north to visit some of Israel's high-tech headquarters, including the company ISCAR, purchased by Warren Buffet as his first major acquisition outside of the U.S. in 2006 for $6 billion.

The students will also head south to view sustainability projects such as a solar power plant and Netafim Inc., the world's largest water drip irrigation manufacturer.

"The GBEs are an important component of Darden's full-time MBA program. While Darden is justifiably proud of its superb teaching, experiential learning can also play an important role in understanding how business is conducted in different cultures," Rodriguez said. "Many of the GBEs bring together Darden students with their counterparts from local partner schools both in classroom and social activities. These interactions provide the foundation for personal friendships as well as future business opportunities."

— by Julie Daum