“Cultural Dexterity” on Display at International Business Development Conference

MBA Students from more than two dozen teams that traveled to 18 countries showcased their International Business Development consulting projects Friday—giving a window into a program that Dean Rich Lyons calls a cornerstone of the Haas "learning by doing" curriculum.

"This is about cultural dexterity," Dean Lyons told the crowd of students gathered at International House. "We're trying to help you develop skills to lead and manage people no matter what their background. It's about developing confidence without attitude."

IBD works with clients around the world—from multinationals to homegrown nonprofits—who hire teams of MBA students for consulting projects. Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA students prepare for months, under faculty guidance, and then travel to their project sites for on-the-ground work.

Arman Zand, MBA 2009, who was honored at the conference as 2014 Alumnus of the Year, said the Haas team he hired for a Silicon Valley Bank project in Shanghai "exceeded our expectations."

"Our CEO said he'd be happy to 'hire Haas' again—and he's from Oklahoma," Zand said, in a pre-recorded video address from China.

Students often cite IBD as one of the highlights of their MBA experience. Each team is required to blog about their project, and often it's the insights into international business culture that they find most memorable.

David Lashley, Joe Regenbogen, Kory Vargas Caro, and Andrew Lee, all MBA 15, went to Kazakstan to help the International Academy of Business develop an entrepreneurship program.

"We had no concept of what Kazakhstan would be like, and we found it to be an incredibly warm and welcoming culture," Regenbogen said Friday.

"Every day was a curveball," Lashley said, adding that several times the group was asked to talk to a "few" business students, only to find themselves being escorted to the front of an auditorium with several hundred students waiting to hear what they had to say. They were also featured in a 15-minute segment on Kazakh TV.

Teams were honored Friday for best presentation, best photos, and best blog posts.

Best presentation: Team Bombay Teen Challenge, for their work with a nonprofit that helps young women saved from Mumbai's red light district.

Best blog post spring (FTMBA): Team Africa Chemist and Beauty Care, Kenya

Best blog post summer (EWMBA): Team Bombay Teen Challenge

Best blog photo: Team YY's shot of nap time at Chinese internet company YY.com.

Best team photo: Team Beauty for Ashes, Nepal

Best landscape photo: Team Clault, Singapore