Tag: Global Immersion

Members of the MBA class of 2024 on the floor of the Kingston Family Vineyards wine production facility during their tour outside of Santiago, Chile.

WashU Olin’s first-year MBA students have returned to St. Louis for the first time since leaving on their global immersion July 10—but not before touring a Chilean winery with a markedly contrasting business model than what they encountered in Spain. Plus, they presented operational recommendations for three other businesses.

The 2022 global immersion—conducted as designed for only the second time, and the first since the pandemic—drew to a close as students made their way back to St. Louis on August 22. The program was launched in 2019 and gained immediate positive attention for its novel (and, of course, immersive) approach to instilling global business awareness to first-year MBA students.

The view from the Kingston Family Vineyards headquarters overlooking its vineyard and the Casablanca Valley.

The excursion carried the entire cohort from St. Louis to Washington, DC, then to Barcelona and Paris, and finally to Santiago, Chile, where student groups dissected the business operations of three companies and examined a winery and vineyard 90 minutes outside of Santiago in Chile’s lush Casablanca valley.

Weeks earlier, the students had done project work related to two wineries near Barcelona—businesses that market their wines to consumers through their distributor networks. In Chile, Kingston Family Vineyards presented a contrast.

Nashad Carrington, MBA ’24, exploring the grapevines during the class’ tour at Kingston Family Vineyards.

The small family-owned businesses indeed produces its own vintages of five different wines—Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah—but that’s not where it focuses its business. The wines themselves are essentially proof of the quality of the grapes the vineyard produces. And that’s the core of the business: selling grapes to other wine producers.

“We needed to make some wine to show the case, then sell the grapes,” said Jose Ignacio, a tour manager who guided students through the vineyards themselves, then into the wine cellar and production facilities. The business began decades ago when members of the US-based Kingston family came to Chile in search of gold and later pivoted into the dairy industry, which a branch of the family still operates.

After their tour, the students gathered in an airy dining room, where floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the vineyards and the valley beyond. CEO Courtney Kingston was in the states dropping off a child at school and joined by Zoom for a brief presentation and Q&A session with the students.

CEO Courtney Kingston answering questions for the MBA students.

Students asked about potential synergies between the dairy and the winery sides of the business, how they market their grapes and what techniques they use to make the business environmentally sustainable.

The Kingston Vineyard hosts followed the Q&A session with a four-course meal that included grilled salmon, beef tartar and tres leche with ice cream.

The next day, students dug into their operations presentation for the three companies the students had visited six days earlier—Reborn Electric Motors, a 2-year-old startup that refits diesel buses with electric motors; Market People, a platform for selling curated, second-hand luxury garments; and Ignisterra, a manufacturer of wooden components such as doors with a global customer base.

They presented their work on Friday, August 19, the last day of formal classes during the three-continent global business excursion.

Pictured above: Members of the MBA class of 2024 on the floor of the Kingston Family Vineyards wine production facility during their tour outside of Santiago, Chile.

Meeghan Sheppard, Chris Nguyen, Christina Passerell and Chris Wise listen and ask questions of a factory manager at Reborn Electric Motors in Rancagua, Chile.

At the Reborn Electric Motors factory in Rancagua, Chile—about 55 miles south of Santiago—the students from Team 14 huddled around the rear end of a blue and green bus gutted of its diesel components.

Team 14—Christina Passerell, Meeghan Sheppard, Chris Nguyen and Chris Wise strategize for their excursion after class time in Santiago, Chile.
Team 14—Christina Passerell, Meeghan Sheppard, Chris Nguyen and Chris Wise—strategize for their excursion after class time in Santiago, Chile.

Chris Nguyen, Christina Passerell, Meeghan Sheppard and Chris Wise peppered the factory floor manager with questions about supply chains, the accessibility of tools and the drafting of standard operating procedures.

The group of first-year WashU MBA students joined their 85 classmates on the afternoon of August 12 in a selection of company excursions during the fourth and final stop on Olin’s 38-day global immersion.

The program plunges the students into the principles of global business at the very start of their MBA education. After leaving St. Louis July 9, the cohort traveled to Washington, DC, and the Brookings Institution, Barcelona and Paris before arriving August 10 and 11 in Santiago. This excursion was part of their field research for a class in process analysis.

Meeghan Sheppard examines a box of components for supply chain clues at Reborn Electric Motors in Rancagua, Chile.
Meeghan Sheppard examines a box of components for supply chain clues at Reborn Electric Motors in Rancagua, Chile.

In the morning, the students divided into two sections as supply chain and operations professors Lingxiu Dong and Fuqiang Zhang provided context and operational foundations for the afternoon visits. They outlined the process vocabulary the first-year students—only weeks into their programs—would be using to evaluate how the businesses created value.

Then, the students split into three groups, each assigned to a different company: Reborn Electric Motors, a 2-year-old startup that refits diesel buses with electric motors; Market People, a platform for selling curated, second-hand luxury garments; and Ignisterra, a manufacturer of wooden components such as doors with a global customer base.

Dong advised her students to consider concepts such as production capacity and production bottlenecks to evaluate the firms—and even to investigate what metrics the companies themselves tracked. “Are the companies collecting data on these dimensions?” she asked. “Are they tracking flow rate or throughout? This has a direct relationship on how quickly you can make money.”

At Reborn, Team 14 joined with several other Olin MBA teams, rotating around areas inside the airy factory where the guts of nine buses were in various states of transformation, with some buses elevated on lifts.

Doubles ping-pong as Qasim Hayat and Jorge Concha Tagle challenge two workers at Reborn Electric Motors in Rancagua, Chile.
Doubles ping-pong as Qasim Hayat and Jorge Concha Tagle challenge two workers at Reborn Electric Motors in Rancagua, Chile.

Then, before boarding buses for the return to Santiago, the students noticed a ping-pong table nestled near the factory wall behind a bus. It was game on as students Kwaku Nuamah and Qasim Hayat challenged some factory workers to a game or two … or three.


The global immersion is back and in full swing! Olin’s MBA Class of ’24 kicked off their six-week global immersion program in Washington, DC, last week. 

They met with policymakers and industry professionals at the Brookings Institution while completing their Global Institutions and Values class, taught by Professors Trish Gorman and Sharon James. The course is designed to give students unique access to experts on global issues through Olin’s partnership with the Brookings Institution, one of the world’s leading think tanks and policy centers. 

Students at the Brookings Institution.

At WashU at Brookings, students were treated to guest lectures by leaders from the Center for European Policy Analysis, American Enterprise Institute, Refugees International and more. 

Students made the most of their trip, visiting the National Mall for a monument tour, browsing through museums to gain relevant knowledge for their team projects and walking through historic Georgetown. The week culminated in the presentation of individual assignments — specifically, access and identify components of an effective COVID-19 policy that incorporates public health as well as business interests.

The global immersion is now truly global: Students landed in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday, July 17, and will travel to Paris and Santiago, Chile, before heading back to St. Louis to begin the fall semester. 

Bon voyage, MBAs!

Peter Boumgarden contributed this post to the Olin Blog. He is the Koch Family Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise and director of the Koch Family Center for Family Enterprise.

Peter Boumgarden
Peter Boumgarden

Given COVID’s impact on the global economy and our ability to travel, it has been nearly three years since we were able to take Olin’s MBA class to Spain as a part of their award-winning global immersion. And so, it was with great anticipation on March 26th that we hopped on a plane and headed to Barcelona with the class of 2022. 

My colleague Sam Chun, professor of management practice, and I were able to lead the first of three courses in Europe. Our class, “Foundations of General Management,” integrates insights from strategy, organization and financial management to provide a practical way to think about developing and implementing a strategic vision.

Different dynamics in play

Throughout the coursework, one of the things that Sam and I ended up exploring was the different dynamics in play based on who owns a company. The five cases we used (Kodak, Chateau Margaux, Pandora, Aravind, Southwest) provided unique ways to think about how different forms of ownership (public versus private, VC- or PE-backed versus family held) lead to distinct goals and different competitive pressures. Fresh off the “Ownership Insights” course with Spencer Burke, an adjunct lecturer at Olin, it was fun to continue to explore the role of ownership in shaping the dynamics within an organization, a framing too often left behind the scenes.

Students’ task: Set up a wine distribution business

Familia Torres employees offered perspectives to students on balancing innovation with continuity.

For the core project of the course, we tasked the student teams with setting up a wine distribution business. The group then visited three family-owned Spanish vineyards to understand better what a vineyard might look for in the distributor relationship. In addition to walking us through the strategic choices of product distribution, owners and key employees at Pere Ventura Family Wine EstatesGramona, and Familia Torres offered unique perspectives on how their organizations sought to balance innovation and continuity over time. This theme resonated with this year’s Data+Design series on balancing continuity and change. Many thanks to St. Louis’ own JiaMin Dierberg for sharing insights with our students on how a winery like theirs thinks about the strategy of distributor relationships. 

Specific to best practices around family ownership, it was wonderful to hear of the Familia Torres group and their involvement in the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) group. PFV is an “international association of some of the world’s finest wine-producing families from France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.” This network of families has worked to generate, test and share several creative practices in sustainability and product quality across these some of the world’s leading wine-making families. It was a wonderful learning experience and one that I think continued to give our students insight into ownership and competitive strategy.

Top photo: Olin’s MBA class of 2022 in Spain in March 2022.

Russ Shaw, BSBA ’85, was one of three people the Queen of England recognized as a commander of the British Empire in 2021. Shaw received the honor for his contributions to technology and business in London. Here, he describes how his Olin education helped him get there.

My Olin education covered four years, receiving a BSBA and majoring in accounting and receiving minors in economics and Spanish. I also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, with a particular highlight being a student representative to the Washington University Board of Trustees.

I certainly used the knowledge gained in my coursework in many aspects of my career. Some of the standout courses for me were macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing and a great course in leadership during my senior year.

My days are never the same as founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. I meet with many startups, scale-ups and investors across many tech hubs around the world. I talk to journalists and do media interviews frequently, and I am in contact with various UK government agencies.

Many tech hubs

Through Global Tech Advocates I have travelled to many tech hubs both large and not-so-large, meeting amazing entrepreneurs with great visions and aspirations. I have hosted tech events spanning from San Francisco and New York to Shanghai, Bangalore, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Bogotá, Madrid, Shenzhen, Milan, Stockholm and, of course, London.

A key part of my role is to put the spotlight on critical issues that impact tech ecosystems. This includes issues around talent, diversity & inclusion, digital skills, infrastructure and access to funding.

I was honoured to be recognised by the Queen in her New Year’s Honours list as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).  This is one of the highest levels of recognition in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty. The CBE has been awarded for service to business and technology.  I was honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth several years ago when she and Prince Philip hosted a technology reception at Buckingham Palace.

In terms of advice as students embark on their careers, I always say that there are two components that are integral to any career journey: reputation and network of contacts.  Both need to be nurtured and developed throughout a career. I also encourage students to travel and see the world, to keep expanding their horizons and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.