A global residency experience unlike any other offered before at Mason. This seems to be the common theme among MBA students who spent a week in the Philippines combining both business acumen and community service.
Students worked with a variety of small business owners taking part in a local microfinance program to train them in areas of process improvement and operations management. The goal of the microfinance program and subsequent training is to educate micro-entrepreneurs to help them expand their businesses, earn more income, send their children to school, improve their living conditions, and make an impact on their community by creating new jobs.
The months leading up to the residency were busy for the MBA students and faculty. Several Mason faculty members took time to review and improve upon the existing training modules. Meanwhile, the students primed for the trip by studying up on micro-financing, Filipino culture, and training materials for 14 unique modules.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, the MBA students spent time with the micro-entrepreneurs in their places of business to gain first-hand perspective as to how the micro-entrepreneurs conduct finances and build community.
In addition to the group training sessions, students also conducted one-on-one consulting sessions with the micro-entrepreneurs.
"I felt that one-on-one mentoring was a very effective part of the training program," said Satish Duvvur, an MBA student who participated in the residency. "I got the chance to mentor Nimpha who owns two retail shoe stores in a mall and wanted to expand her business in setting up a third shoe store in a nearby mall. I also met Premo who owns a Sari Sari store with a baker shop attached to it. In my mentoring with them, I emphasized branding their products and identifying and reaching out to their potential customers."
Each student came away with eye-opening perspectives and personal stories. Karen Kitching, associate professor of accounting who led the residency, shared the story of a woman named Evelyn, a seasoned micro-entrepreneur who has been operating a fish market for more than five years. Evelyn's business was growing, but she had to contribute an entire day's time to traveling and meeting fishermen every time she needed more fish. During the one-on-one consulting, the MBA students offered Evelyn advice on ways to improve processes and vendor relationships in order to obtain the fish easier and in less time.
"Those entrepreneurs were very smart and hardworking individuals that even without a degree in business were able to start their businesses years ago and manage to expand them," said MBA student Nadia Hassair. "They simply lacked the proper guidance on how to think strategically and how to overcome legal obstacles. But those individuals are looking into learning and improving their businesses and continuing to succeed, and I was so honored to be able to offer my help and contribution."
While all Mason MBA students participate in a global residency, the residencies usually take place in developed financial and industrial cities and include meetings with major corporations and government officials. The hands-on, applied learning the students used while working with the micro-entrepreneurs was unique.
"Unlike other residencies, we were in the slums and saw first-hand how people in poverty live," says Kitching. "The entrepreneurs were so grateful and it was a life-changing experience for all of us."
The MBA students combined their business knowledge with service to achieve a common goal, and both the students and micro-entrepreneurs were grateful for the experience.
"Sharing my knowledge and experience with those entrepreneurs in order to help them better run their businesses and succeed was our mission, and I hope we were able to accomplish that goal," says Hassair.