MSGL in Buenos Aires: A Cultural Buffet

January 24, 2013 4 comments

Current MSGL Student and member of Cohort 58, Mareo McCracken, shares his experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mareo was enrolled in International Strategic Planning and Management during Intersession, 2013.  


Mareo at Wal-Mart Argentina

Buenos Aires is a cultural buffet. A place that offers wonderful experiences for all types of tastes; and as participants in the MS in Global Leadership (MSGL) Study Abroad Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina in early January, we definitely got stuffed. The city has everything. Historic landmarks, magnificent architecture and of course, mouth-watering cuts of beef. The hardest part about being in Buenos Aires was choosing a different place to eat dinner each evening.  For once you choose, you were missing out on so many others! Although Argentina is located in South America, it often felt as though we were in Europe, with similar architectural styles and foods that encouraged new experiences. The Señor Tango show was one of the many highlights of the trip. By experiencing the unique culture we were able to get a better understanding of how business gets done in Argentina, specifically in Buenos Aires. The company visit to the Wal-Mart Argentina Headquarters certainly helped us gain a better understanding of the Argentine way of conducting business. It is because of the cultural richness of this massive city that our academic experience was so unique. We were able to immediately apply this newly acquired first-hand knowledge of “business the Argentine way”  to the class we were taking, International Strategic Planning and Management, with Distinguished Professor of International Business, Dr. Jaime Alonso Gomez.


Mareo (center) and other MSGL Students at Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires

We enjoyed a city tour, which provided an opportunity to visit a handful of historic neighborhoods and landmarks. Places like the new riverfront community of Puerto Madero, La Recoleta Cemetery, and the historic neighborhood of La Boca – the birthplace of the Tango. While in La Boca we saw Estadio Alberto J. Armando (or La Bombonera) where the famous Boca Juniors play soccer. We also had the opportunity to visit the uniquely colorful street called El Caminito. While a mix between the Amsterdam Row Houses and the brightly painted buildings of Pelourinho, Salvador in Brazil, El Caminito has a culture all its own. So many different shades and styles, all painted bright and combining together to create very vibrant community. Something you need to see to understand. Some of the other historic landmarks included the many theatres, famous cafes, museums, political and military houses, and government buildings.


Madres de Mayo

The most inspirational part of the trip was witnessing the “Madres de Mayo” marching around the Plaza de Maya Square. This activity is repeated every Thursday. We were lucky enough to witness it; it was an incredible experience. You could see the pain in their eyes and you could feel the determination they possessed in making sure that their children did not die in vain.

To take break from the big city we went to the outskirts of town to the Tigre River. There we had the opportunity to take a guided boat tour of the river along with the islands that people live on during the summer months. What I found to be incredibly unique is that most, if not all, commerce in this area must be conducted via watercraft. The Tigre Islands were peaceful and calm; a stark difference from the hustle and bustle of the city. As we made our way down the river, we could see children smiling and laughing as they jumped off of their small individual piers into the river. It was a nice reminder than no matter where you go in the world, if children are able, they know how to enjoy themselves.

The USD MSGL Study Abroad program in Buenos Aires was culturally and socially uplifting while stimulating each of us academically. We were able to connect with our classmates, meet new people from other schools, countries, and cohorts. We deepened our relationships and experienced new things together, all while participating in a program that encouraged us to learn and grow in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.


Mareo McCracken (Back-Row, Center) is a member of Cohort 58 and is currently in his 2nd Semester in the MSGL Program. Mareo is the Director of Business Development and Investor Relations at the Prudent Investors Network. He currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The MS in Global Leadership (MSGL) Program offers three opportunities to study abroad in Europe, China and South America.

Contact Scott Handley for more details at


The Importance of Going Global: Lisa Thompson of Cohort 56 Reflects on Her Experience in China

September 14, 2012 1 comment

The opportunity to participate in study abroad as part of the MSGL Program is one of the key reasons I chose to apply to USD. It is important to get a great education at a recognized, accredited university, but it is icing on the cake to be able to actually apply course content during your studies.

MSGL Students in China

MSGL Students in China

Working with my Sr. Director of Human Resources, who was assisting me in chartering the course of my Masters program, we agreed that China would be a priority trip abroad, because at the time it was an emerging market for our organization. So, to China we traveled in August, 2012. Prior to the trip, students were requested to review recent business articles, practice a “little” language, and learn what we could about the culture. I also interviewed a colleague working in China to glean some valuable information.

Arriving in Shanghai initially squelched my excitement about the trip . . . it was a metropolis that reminded me of a cross between Manhattan and Vegas–big city during the day and “pretty” bright lights at night. What I didn’t realize until later is that big business is done in big cities! Shanghai turned out to be the perfect location for seeing the workings of a major city and experiencing firsthand the complexities of doing business in a foreign country.

Lisa and a New Friend

Lisa and a New Friend

We started in Shanghai with company tours to Intercontinental Hotel Group and WD-40 where we met with the President and an expatriate respectively. In the Comparative Management course that was offered during our trip, Dr. Pavett conducted several class sessions and encouraged our participation in pertinent case studies to analyze the best course of action for difficulties experienced with cross-cultural and virtual teams. What really pulled the course abroad together for us were the individual interactions we had with local people—we experienced the culture, the food and the history, which helped us to develop a better understanding of China.

The second part of our trip took us to Beijing by magnetic levitation train at 180 mph. You have to experience this at least once in your lifetime! Beijing was much more typical of what I expected—less big city and more time with “the people.” We were blessed to have had two trip mates that are living and working in China (Dean and Eli—Distance Learners). They made the trip extremely informative and educational for us, especially since Eli was doing business for his organization during our trip. He was able to share some of his challenges as an expat in a foreign country.

I highly recommend that MSGL students (and those from other programs) participate in at least one trip abroad as part of their studies. You will come away with information about market opportunities, challenges and business practices in the country, as well as the impact of politics and culture on businesses. This course will prepare you to recognize the differences in cultural value systems and behaviors in the global environment, how they affect leadership, and how you as a global leader can succeed in foreign cultures. This experience pulls the entire program together. Enjoy!

Lisa Thompson (Cohort 56) is currently in her third semester of the program. She serves as the Associate Director of Continuous Process Improvement for Hologic Gen-Probe in San Diego, California.

For more information regarding MSGL’s International Opportunities, please contact Scott Handley ( or visit USD’s Ahlers Center for International Business.

From China to Afghanistan: Applying MSGL Strategies to a Global Supply Chain

July 2, 2012 Leave a comment

John Boyer (MSGL ’08), General Manager of the Afghan Vision Group (AVG) and current MSGL Student Eli Abbott (Cohort 57), AVG’s Chief Operations Officer, are featured in this photo that was taken last Tuesday night at the AVG factory in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Eli was in town visiting and auditing the supply chain coordination between purchasing activities in China and current inventory levels in Kabul.  Keeping this process logistically sound in a land-locked, war-torn country, according to John, can be a constant headache.  This photo was taken on one of the production floors of the factory. The other gentleman featured with John and Eli are the factory Managers.  Be safe, John and Eli.

John Boyer (MSGL '08) is featured second from the left and current student, Eli Abbott (Cohort 57) is featured second from the right.

John Boyer (MSGL ’08) is featured second from the left and current student, Eli Abbott (Cohort 57) is featured second from the right.

Success Can Be Bittersweet: A Cohort 53 Graduate Shares Her Thoughts on Completing the Program

April 26, 2012 1 comment

After countless study sessions at Starbucks, missing birthday parties here and there and constantly coordinating study sessions with my MSGL cohort mates, all the hard work is about to pay off! It seems like just yesterday I started the program.

Shane (Cohort 53) at the Great Wall of China

Shane (Cohort 53) at the Great Wall of China

Initially, my fears about re-entering academia and life as a full-time student seemed daunting. I dreaded the level of commitment and social sacrifice that comes with the pursuit of any advanced degree. Yet, here I am almost 1 1/2 years later, confident I made the right decision. Most importantly, I feel armed to excel in the professional world. The MSGL program has taught me how to commit to a project from beginning to end, how to manage my time effectively, and really how to take something positive away from EVERY experience, even if it is not exactly what I envisioned it to be. I learned how to be flexible and adaptable above all. It is bitter sweet that this chapter is coming to an end, but I am positive that whatever challenges come my way, I will be ready to conquer them head on. Cheers to Cohort 53 and good luck to all future MSGL cohorts!

Shabnam “Shane” Karimi is a graduate of Cohort 53.  During her time as a student, Shane was instrumental in the creation of a Study Abroad opportunity in China.  While abroad she enrolled in International Comparative Management and Leadership.     

Customer service: A frequently overlooked benefit of the MSGL program

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Most people that have ever worked in a professional environment know that there is that one person you know who can always get things done faster and more efficiently than anyone else.  You know that ridiculously helpful individual that knows all the right people and leverages that knowledge to get something approved or processed so much faster than you could ever hope to do on your own.  If you have ever experienced this dynamic then you understand how much time and frustration that person can save you and how much more effectively you can do your own job.  These people are exceptionally valuable and I have always tried to identify who they are and to be as nice to them as possible.

A crucial and often overlooked bonus of MSGL is that everyone I interacted with during my 16 months there was this kind of person.  The academic requirements of a Masters Degree especially while trying to balance a full time job and other personal obligations can be quite painful.   Compound that with having to deal with paperwork for financial offices, technology issues, and general administrative things such as the location of Olin Hall and you may have the straws that break a grad student’s back.

A personal example of this situation came when I ran into a glitch with my VA funding with student accounts.  I am naturally a hard headed person and instead of asking for assistance from the MSGL staff I spent well over a week trying to resolve it on my own.  When I mentioned my issue and general frustration to a member of MSGL staff I saw an e-mail within hours showing that the problem was solved.  This is just a singular example of the level of assistance I received throughout my time in the course but it was the first time that I realized how beneficial it was.  I cannot think of an occasion where an e-mail or phone call took longer than a business day to be answered.  This is more remarkable if one thinks that at any time the MSGL staff is working with approximately 100 other students going through the program, prospective MSGL candidates, and of course needy grads like myself.

A degree in Global Leadership can help you with several aspects of your life, but you will have a difficult time getting there without help.

So next time you get that helpful response or assist from John, Stephanie, Sam, Melinda, Suzy or Bob; realize that it is by no means the standard practice for a lot of programs and should certainly not be taken for granted.

Justin Parker is a graduate of Cohort 51, where he served as Cohort Leader.  He works for Sentek Global Consulting.

Study Abroad: Comparative Management in China

September 19, 2011 4 comments

This past August, I joined fellow MS in Global Leadership students from Cohorts 52, 53 and 54 on a highly successful study abroad trip to mainland China.  The trip was the first of its kind for the MSGL program, and had been driven by an increasing interest among students to have an experience that went above and beyond the typical European or South American study abroad program.

Those of us who managed to dodge a passing typhoon on the flight over took advantage of the first day to explore downtown Shanghai, a city with a staggering 23 million people.  The remainder of our week in Shanghai was filled with a walking tour of local eateries by an American expat, a visit to the historic Yu Garden and Jade Buddhist Temple, and a meet and greet at WD40’s distribution center at the outskirts of the city.

MSGL Students at WD40 in ChinaUSD alumni Stephanie Barry manages the WD40 office with about 30 local employees, and took the time to explain some of the challenges that managers of foreign companies face when operating in a Communist country.  One of WD40’s biggest challenges in China is that it must convince vendors to not opt for counterfeit brands, a telltale sign of the disparity between our two countries’ enforcement of property rights.

When we were not taking in the sights, we listened to lectures by USD’s Dr. Cynthia Pavett as part of MSGL’s Comparative Management course (MSGL 503 is normally taught in MSGL’s third semester).  We also enjoyed Q&A sessions with Professor He Jianmin of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics along with local restaurant operations director and German expat Andre Lense.

After our course work was completed in Shanghai, we flew to Beijing for a whirlwind two-day tour of China’s most recognizable tourist destinations.  Our first stops were to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and were followed by a rickshaw ride to lunch at a local household (meals in China were frequently served on a Lazy Susan, which let us try multiple items in each sitting).  The second day was devoted entirely to hiking China’s Great Wall, and was the biggest highlight of the trip for many of us.

MSGL Students at the Great Wall of China

As a veteran of two SBA study abroad trips in my first two semesters, I was proud by the level of camaraderie and professionalism shared by my fellow travellers.  More impressive was the fact that this trip was built from the ground up in six short months, and was a testament to the “can-do” attitude that is exhibited by many candidates in our program.  Such initiative will be needed if future cohorts want to plan a trip of their own, but this trip proves that such plans would be very worthwhile.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of USD faculty and students.  Bob Schoultz, Dr. Denise Dimon provided support for us at the administrative level.  Katie Singleton, Stephanie Kiesel and Suzy Wadsworth helped with planning and logistics, while Sam Chung travelled with us to China and provided Dr. Pavett with further logistical support.

The idea for the trip came from Shabnam Karimi of MSGL Cohort 53, and with help from Cohort Leader Troy Hanson, she drummed up support from her fellow students and faculty.  Overall, I think that our trip demonstrated that all you really need to enhance your grad school experience are some motivated people who want to try something new.

Sean is a graduate student in MSGL Cohort 53.  He earned his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the US Naval Academy in 2003, and now serves as a Naval Helicopter Pilot at Naval Air Station North Island.  He traveled to Germany, Turkey, and China this summer for study abroad.

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Harbor Cruise 2011: Food, Drinks and Fun

September 6, 2011 2 comments

By Kim Ngyuen

It’s no secret that last year’s school-sponsored harbor cruise was boring, but this year, at the urging of some of my cohort mates, I agreed to attend.  I mean, why wouldn’t I go on a free boat ride with people I like?

So there we were, quietly boarding the ship, clutching our drink tickets, and taking our free glass of champagne (don’t mind if I do!), unsure of what to expect.  We eventually wandered to the upper deck where we found our friends and chatted about such topics as graduation, and, of course, who we could peer pressure into jumping overboard.  (No one took the bait.  Peer pressure doesn’t work with headstrong leadership students.)

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To cover the food aspect of our evening, servers would periodically drop by our area with trays of delicious appetizers.  I’m not talking about crackers and cheese, my friends.  They served bacon-wrapped scallops (my fave) and skewers of portobello mushroom and beef!  SO. GOOD.  They also had breaded artichoke hearts and mushroom brushchetta, also good, though I never caught myself scampering after a server for more.  But those scallops!  It was everything I could do not to grab five at a time, so imagine my delight when they kept coming back around with fresh trays of them.  I swoon at the thought.

Soon after the ship pulled away from the pier, Dean Pyke delivered a rousing speech in which he recognized each of the SBA programs, their respective students in attendance, and faculty.  As we cheered for our ourselves and our program, I felt such an overwhelming sense of closeness among the SBA community – and in particular among the MSGL gems who were there.  It made me so glad I had chosen our program, because I had such a great learning experience and made amazing new friends.

Once the deejay began playing some tunes, a “couple” of professors and a certain program director joined us on the dance floor as we all flailed our arms and jumped around wildly to the genius spins of such artists as deadmau5 and LMFAO. A brave MBA student even showed us how he Dougie’d, which, let’s be honest, put us all to shame.  You can’t teach those moves in a class!

Some of the students we met that night were members of cohort 55 – the freshies – about to embark on their exciting journey through MSGL. Meeting them, and knowing the 16 months of fun (and hard work) they had ahead of them, was really cool.  They all have different stories to offer, and yet somehow they are together in the same place my cohort was in just 17 months ago.

I know I speak for a lot of the MSGLers there that night when I say we look forward to getting to know you all, at future events, in Buenos Aires, or on other SBA trips!  See you soon!

Kim Nguyen is a member of cohort 51 and recently completed the MS in Global Leadership program.  She works as a consultant at OC International.  Find out more about Kim at our Alumni Profiles page.