Nineteen MBA students pushed beyond the boardroom during this year’s global residency in a service project building community gardens in Santiago, Chile.
Kevin Rockmann, professor of management and dean’s scholar at George Mason University School of Business, led this year’s students on their one-week global residency. Rockmann says he incorporates a service project into global residencies to bring students more cultural awareness in addition to business experiences. The first project was in Buenos Aires in 2009 painting the walls outside of a community center. To date, Rockmann has led his Mason MBA residency students on five community service projects.
“This year’s project was one of the most meaningful,” Rockmann says. “Together with a non-governmental organization called Tambo Roca, Mason MBA students helped plant six small community gardens in Renca – a lower income neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago. The gardens had a mixture of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees to enhance the courtyard area. The community (mostly moms and kids) worked with the MBA students to build the gardens. We built the beds, took them to their sites, dug out the ground for them, filled them with dirt and did all the planting. We even built fences to keep the dogs out.”
School of Business graduate students have the opportunity to participate in a weeklong global residency offering firsthand cultural experiences as part of the MBA curriculum. During this intensive learning opportunity, students meet business and government leaders, participate in seminars, network with professors and students from other universities, and visit local and multinational companies. Locations change each year.
“The service project with Tambo Roca was one of the highlights of the Santiago global residency. It was humbling to visit the Renca neighborhood, interact with the residents, and experience a different socioeconomic lifestyle,” says MBA student Andrea Cox. “I spent the afternoon planting trees with a group of boys who were excited to get dirty and eager to teach me Spanish. Although we only spent a few hours together, they left an impact on me. I will remember the Spanish they taught me and I’d like to believe that they will remember us when they enjoy the fruit from the trees we planted.”
“What I will remember most from this day is the connection we made with Roque Sanez, the founder of Tambo Roca, who organized our group for the day with the local community. As he walked around at the end of the day giving us hugs, there were tears in his eyes,” says Rockmann.
“His emotion came from the realization that our group, who could’ve spent the day at a winery or shopping or touring around Santiago, chose to come there to work in the heat and dust to help this community. That is why we do these projects. To make connections with social entrepreneurs like Roque, to learn how people like him are trying to change the world. And, to make connections with the people of the community and show them that students from the USA are kind, caring, and compassionate towards others, no matter where they live or how much they have.”