Preparing Students for Global Immersion: Partnering for Success

Meghan Dolan, Shelby Ikeda and Linda Rosen Harvard Business School Library 

The questions usually start trickling in early in October- “Where can I find reports on snack food consumers in China?”, “How do I learn about the mobile application market in Cambodia?”, “What immunizations do I need for Ghana?” or “Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?”. At this point we know that the FIELD 2 module, which requires international travel and project work for first year MBA students, is in full swing and we are about to enter one of our busiest times of the year. The Curriculum and Learning Services (CLS) team at Baker Library and the Global Experience Office (GEO) team within the MBA Program have partnered to develop many products and services to support students with their FIELD 2 course work- everything from research support to targeted news updates to curation of an international video library. This opportunity to partner across departmental units has not only provided each group with new ways to enhance the student experience during FIELD 2, but has also provided insight into each other’s day-to-day processes and challenges. It also has created a strong working relationship that encourages the freedom to suggest, implement, and improve services for the students. CLS is a team of 10 Information Research Specialists (IRS) all with professional degrees in Library and Information Science.  Many staff members have additional degrees and backgrounds in business and education.  CLS provides support to the Harvard Business School and Harvard University community through on-site and remote research assistance, consultations, and access to resources covering a wide range of business, industry, financial, and market related topics. We also:

  • Work with HBS faculty to provide course support to MBA and Executive Education programs at HBS in the form of presentations, web-based resources, research assignment drop-in hours (specific to course assignments) and research consultations.
  • Provide research support to HBS alumni to support their career and professional development information needs via consultations and an online research portal (eBaker).
  • Curate several news products to keep HBS students and staff up-to-date on important news and events in technology, finance, executive development and number of industries.

GEO was founded in 2010 to enable the logistical delivery of the FIELD 2 module. Comprised of experts from the travel industry and higher education, the office has grown over the years from seven to 15 staff members to support the scale of this new, ambitious program and ensure high-quality execution. FIELD 2 is only one component of the GEO team’s immersion planning. GEO also organizes and coordinates travel immersions for second year students as part of their January coursework. Among the primary responsibilities of the office are:

  • Oversee location evaluation and risk management;
  • Create relationships with local companies and source projects for student teams;
  • Facilitate student, staff, and faculty travel;
  • Arrange all in-country logistics required during the Immersion week;
  • Work closely with faculty to achieve the academic goals of the course;
  • And collaborate with other departments to further enhance the student experience.

The Harvard Business School (HBS) Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is a two year, residential degree program. During the first year of the program, students are assigned to a specific section (typically 90 students per section) and follow the required curriculum (RC), taking 6 courses per semester within their sections. In their second year, students select their courses from a wide range of elective curriculum (EC) offerings. Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD) is a year-long, three-part, required course for all first year (MBA) students at HBS. Many components of the FIELD course address the unmet needs[1] in MBA education that were identified in recent research by David Garvin, Srikant Datar and Patrick Cullen. The FIELD course consists of three modules that each embodies a continuum of thinking, doing, and reflecting[2].

FIELD 1: Leadership Intelligence Working in small teams, students participate in interactive activities and exercises designed to help them to deepen their emotional intelligence and develop an awareness of their own leadership style. Self-reflection and peer feedback play a key role in this module.

FIELD 2: Global Intelligence After weeks of on-campus preparation, over 900 students are sent to locations around the globe during the month of January to learn about business processes, practices and customers in emerging markets. Student teams are paired with a local company for whom they develop a new product or service concept. Recent FIELD 2 locations have included India, China, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Ghana and Morocco.

FIELD 3: Integrative Intelligence The final module challenges students to develop a microbusiness. This isn’t a business plan on paper, but rather a real business that students build- from ideation to launch. It provides students with the opportunity to synthesize everything that they have learned in their first year courses.

Since FIELD launched in 2010, over 3,720 students have traveled to 25 cities in 17 countries worldwide on FIELD 2 Global Immersions supported by GEO. Both CLS and GEO staff have had the opportunity to travel with and support students on location as Program Managers. Between the three authors, we have traveled with students to Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia, India, China, and Turkey.

The opportunity to be embedded into the program at this level has provided a unique way for us to connect with students and better understand their work in the field. It has allowed us to design services and products (see chart below for an overview) that are closely aligned with and will have the greatest impact on their team projects. Having had a positive experience with library resources and services during FIELD 2, students return to CLS for assistance with their FIELD 3 projects, support for their job search and in their second year, for guidance for course research papers and projects.

As Program Managers, Information Research Specialists have an opportunity to be active participants in FIELD 2, positioning us to work closely with both students and faculty while in the field.  Prior to the actual trip, Program Managers are required to attend an in-depth training program and to participate in several FIELD 2 events (all organized and coordinated by the GEO team).  Highlights of the Program Manager position include attending a country-specific case discussion and joining the faculty for a pre-departure briefing.  We are able to leverage what we learn through these experiences to enrich our student research support pre-travel, in the field and upon our return to campus when we identify additional ways to work with students and faculty in the coming year. The CLS / GEO partnership has strengthened with each new year of the course. In the early years of the program, both teams worked independently to support the students as we tried to figure out the best way to contribute our expertise to the course delivery, but we soon realized that partnering would greatly benefit both the students and our teams. The more we work together, the more we find that we can collaborate, cooperate and contribute to valuable student services, communications and resources.  Meeting regularly and coordinating the timing of communications from GEO and CLS enhances the student experience and ensures that important information isn’t lost or overlooked.  As GEO adds locations and identifies new student projects each year, CLS will have even more opportunities to contribute research assistance, recommend resources and identify new ways to work with students and faculty. The chart below highlights many of the student facing activities or exercises where the CLS and GEO teams partnered to provide academic and logistical support for FIELD 2:

Student activity/exercise CLS support GEO support
Site selection /Company research Country Infographic: identified data sources and pulled the data; recommended additional/alternate variables to maintain data consistency across countries; Company Research: provided company descriptions and data specific to the FIELD 2 partner companies Country Infographic: worked with faculty to identify economic and demographic data points to highlight and coordinated the design and publishing of the ; Company Research: Identified and selected partner companies for student projects; Panel w/ second-year students: Organized an event in which students could interact with peers who had experience living or working in FIELD 2 country locations
Global dinner (also known as the “Reveal”, when students learn where they will travel in January) Trivia activity: fact-checked trivia data points Trivia activity: sourced content from local trivia company, created student materials, provided guidebook prizes
Cultural/business environment knowledge building Country cases: identified books and films for each “Doing Business in…” country case; Country Postcards: created a postcard that featured an historical image from our library collection on front of the postcard and database recommendations on the back; Fast Answers: created an FAQ type source that highlighted database recommendations specific to each location; Video collection: curated and hosted a selection of videos that cover the range of FIELD 2 locations Country case experts: Identified and recruited academic and industry experts to present during the country case class session; Video collection: identified a vendor and curated a selection of videos that cover the range of FIELD 2 locations
Academic Support Situation Analysis exercise: helped students to identify and use library resources during three research drop-in sessions. The drop-in hours were coordinated to align with assignment deadlines Situation Analysis exercise: publicized research drop-in hours via weekly emails to students
Pre-Immersion & In-country Research Support: provided research support to student teams as they work on their projects; Program Manager: participated in pre-immersion training, presented to students at pre-departure session Weekly news updates + news archive: curated a weekly news email for each FIELD 2 location Logistics Support: provided round-the-clock logistical support for faculty students and staff; Program Manager: organized training for all program managers, coordinated all pre-immersion planning, presented to students at GEO overview and pre-departure sessions Weekly GEO emails: sent weekly reminders to students highlighting deadlines and tasks to be completed pre-departure

[1]Datar, Srikant M., Garvin, David A, and Cullen, Patrick G. Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Press, 2010. [2] Harvard Business School, “The FIELD Method- Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap”, accessed June 2015.

Refer 31 (2) Summer 2015


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