MBA Students Advise Clients Worldwide in Record Numbers

At a time when many U.S. business ventures are still shrinking and taking financial hits, the Haas School's International Business Development (IBD) course is defying the trend.

IBD has grown by 50 percent since last year, bringing the number of students in the course to an all-time high of 120 and the number of projects to a record 30, according to program manager Elizabeth Kovats.

New clients range from for-profit companies such as Sybase and SunPower to nonprofits such as the Clinton Foundation and World Health Partners. New countries this year include Honduras, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Fiji. Next year, Kovats says, the goal is to enroll 160 students.

One reason for the expansion of IBD is the recent overhaul of the Berkeley MBA curriculum, which has an increased focus on developing innovative leaders. Changes include a new requirement that all Berkeley MBA students take an experiential learning course that prepares them to solve real-world business and organizational problems. IBD is among a menu of choices from which students can fulfill that new requirement.

Another reason for the expansion is that IBD charges $30,000 client fee per project for work equal to that of a “McKinsey and Co., Bain, or Boston Consulting Group,’’ which would charge far more, Kovats says.

“More clients than ever are realizing the excellent value of working with the IBD Program,’’ adds Sebastian Teunissen, the program's executive director.

Alan Lock, MBA 11, helped SunPower analyze residential solar consumer preferences in Japan and Taiwan this summer. "I spoke to local consumers, and got a good idea of the culture,'' Lock said. "I'd never been to Asia before. It was fantastic. Face-to-face learning is always better than sitting in a class and learning from a book.''

Paul Collins, MBA 11, who is now interning at Google, adds that his IBD experience in Zambia this summer was “eye opening’’ and “inspiring.’’ He helped COMACO, a nonprofit, work on its branding in order to help consumers realize that when they eat a jar of “It’s Wild!’’ peanut butter, they are also helping give former poachers a living wage as sustainable farmers. COMACO engaged two IBD team this year.

“I saw how a small company came out of an individual’s vision, and how we shouldn’t take for granted the things we do here,’’ Collins says. “That has had such a positive impact on me that I will take with me wherever I go.’’

COMACO employees (left and right) in Zambia stop for a photo during a tour of a peanut butter factory with Paul Collins (second from left) and Dan Parker (third from left), both MBA 11.