Now that I’m just a few weeks away from graduation, I’m thinking about the experiences I have had during this amazing MBA adventure. In less than 2 years I moved to a different country (from Bogotá, Colombia), started a challenging program at a top business school, in a language different from my own, shared my learning experience with outstanding people hailing from all over the world, and participated in all sorts of activities, many of which took me way out of my comfort zone. One of the most challenging and fulfilling was organizing Fuqua’s first Global Week.
When I was selected as the International & Diversity Executive Officer of the 2012-2013 Duke MBA Association (MBAA), I knew that many challenges were ahead of me, but little did I know that those would involve coordinating the first edition of a school-wide event of such importance as Global Week. The idea for the event came out of a task force organized by the outgoing 2011-2012 MBAA members. A 1-day Global Conference was suggested to serve as a platform for the discussion of global business issues and to foster greater collaboration among international diversity clubs. One of the key reasons I applied to Fuqua was because of its commitment to being a global business school, so I thought the conference would be a great avenue to further advance this vision. Deborah Costa, the incoming President of the MBAA, was also convinced of the importance of a global conference, so both of us decided to move forward with the initiative.
We started the planning process in April 2012, by connecting with the co-presidents of the 6 international diversity clubs, the Dean of the Daytime MBA Program, the Director of the International Programs Office, and the Global Sector Leader of the Career Management Center. We agreed on January 30, 2013, as the event date, and put a team of 4 MBAA leaders together to hit the ground running. And then the summer came. And it was really tough to coordinate things over email. But we kept doing as many things as we could, while we were learning a big lesson: once people are not on campus, no matter how great everyone’s intentions are, things are just not going to move forward as quickly as expected.
However, this “delay” actually played out in our favor. When we came back to school, officially as second years, our class voted during C-LEAD 2 that the global aspect of our MBA experience was so important that it deserved a whole week of events. And that’s how the Global Week idea was born.
Given that we still had some time before our conference date, we decided to move forward to transform our original 1-day event into a week-long one. Given that the event had expanded, we put together a larger team of organizers led by Dima Hwaidi, a fellow outstanding second-year who stood up to the challenge of becoming the general coordinator, with Deborah’s and my support.
Week in Review
The results were amazing. During the week of January 28 to February 1, we put a big global map in the Fox Center, and Fuquans put stickers on the places where they were born and had lived. After a few hours, I was amazed that there were stickers on every continent (well … all of them except Antarctica, which is still pretty good, if you ask me).
On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday we held Lunch Fairs, led by the international diversity clubs, featuring delicious food from different regions of the world. On Monday we had our weekly Language 2 Language program, where Fuquans practiced speaking Spanish or French. On Tuesday we had a Distinguished Speaker Series session focused on global leadership, with Mr. Bill McDermott, Co-CEO of SAP.
On Wednesday there were panel discussions on Business Trends in Emerging Markets and Global Supply Chain, with high-level speakers coming from private equity, diplomacy, retail, and management consulting. I personally had the most interesting takeaways from these panel discussions, as they provided incredibly valuable perspectives on the growth drivers by region and on the skills needed to effectively tap into those opportunities. Wednesday also included the annual Exchange Fair, informing students about the great variety of study-abroad opportunities available at Fuqua.
On Thursday we encouraged students participating in our weekly Diversity Tables initiative to talk about the regions and cultures they come from. And, then Friday’s finale included Fuqua Discovers South Africa (a student-led presentation about the country’s culture and economy), Fuqua Friday celebrating the Lunar New Year, and the annual Fuqua’s Got Talent Show (featuring acts that showcase our student body’s richness of cultures). I had the most fun performing during Fuqua’s Got Talent, as part of an act called “Culture Shock,” where 8 of us came up with choreography inspired by music from different parts of the world. After the show, we closed the week-long event with a Global Party where attendees were encouraged to wear clothes that are traditional of cultures other than their own.
I know I speak on behalf of the student leaders who made Global Week happen, when I say that we see this as part of our legacy at Fuqua. We believe this was the first edition of many Global Weeks, where Fuquans and the bigger Duke community, will continue to discuss global business trends and bring to life the global nature of our community. As a leader, this experience taught me that collaboration requires a lot of work and, at the same time, is one of the most powerful ways to generate impact. Global Week will definitely provide a lot of stories that I will be able to tell my children one day, when they are faced with a big challenge that is aligned with their passions.