By Matt Golosinski
For more than a decade, the Global
Initiatives in Management (GIM) course has proven one
of the Kellogg School’s most popular academic choices.
It’s easy to see why.
Through GIM’s powerful combination of
classroom study and intensive field research, the course gives
Kellogg students maximum exposure to the international dimensions
of leadership and management strategy, while also providing
an outstanding opportunity for them to meet Kellogg alumni
in dynamic corporate and social settings around the world.
What some might find surprising, however,
is that the experience is equally rewarding for the faculty
advisers who accompany their students on this intellectual
— and geographic — journey.
“These GIM experiences are better than
virtually any trip that anyone, either faculty or student,
would design on their own,” says Professor Mark Finn,
appointed the GIM program’s director last year. He explains
that the course provides a specific powerful lens through
which participants view the country and its economic environment.
“You see a lot of things you would never see as a casual
traveler,” he adds, since GIM participants enjoy access
to top business and political leaders. Professor Richard Honack
“GIM is a total learning and leadership
experience, not just a classroom simulation,” says Honack,
a faculty adviser who has lent his insights and guidance on
seven GIM excursions, including a trip to Hong Kong and mainland
China this spring. The classes leading up to the trips prepare
the students and faculty for the business environment in-country,
including the cultural nuances and politics, Honack notes.
“Once in-country, you see the students’ eyes light
up — and I am sure they see mine, too — when what
they have learned comes to life,” he says.
In addition to the rigorous academic component
of the course, students and alumni also enjoy the chance to
interact in a variety of ways, including dinners. “This
is an element of the course that everyone finds especially
valuable, since it helps build strong partnership bonds within
the overall Kellogg School community,” explains Honack.
Each year, some 450 Kellogg students from
the full-time, TMP and EMP programs and their advisers spend
10 weeks designing real-world research projects during the
classroom portion of GIM. Then, the classroom and its participants
essentially scatter themselves to the winds, leaving for two-week-long
field trips to points around the globe where they implement
their projects while meeting extensively with government and
business leaders in their destination countries. Destinations
can be virtually any location on the map, so long as it’s
suitable for the students’ eclectic research agendas.
Vietnam, China, Thailand, Peru, Ghana and the European Union
represent a few popular GIM settings.
In a typical GIM course, students and advisers
may choose to study such phenomena as socially responsible
business practices in Brazil, entry strategies for multinational
firms in China, or the food and fashion industries of France.
Since the faculty and students work together to devise continuously
evolving and relevant projects, GIM reinvents itself each
year based upon its participants’ experiences and aspirations.
One thing remains constant, though: the academic
value offered by the course.
Even seasoned travelers, such as Finn, Honack
or Professor Johannes Moenius, report that GIM offers both
students and the faculty a wealth of knowledge and experiences
they would otherwise never enjoy.
As much as the faculty advisers and student
leaders try to prepare students for the in-country experience,
“it still overwhelms everyone,” says Honack. “When
you see the meetings that are arranged with heads of foreign
governments, royalty, ambassadors, CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, all the
way to the shopkeeper, taxi driver or school children shooting
baskets and inviting us to join in, it’s simply incredible.”
For Moenius, GIM allows him to live out the
plot of a favorite childhood book called “The Flying
Classroom.” In that story, high school students no longer
have mundane classes, but instead hop aboard planes to travel
around the globe for a first-hand intellectual adventure.
“With GIM, an old childhood fantasy
came to life!” says Moenius, who adds that the learning,
research and social interaction provided by the course “makes
it a challenge worth taking for MBA students” —
even those already well-traveled.
Everybody who participates in the GIM experience
wins, he contends, faculty advisers included.
Says Moenius, “When otherwise do we
get the chance to travel with an elite group of highly educated,
motivated people with practical experience to ask the questions
we likely would not come up with?”