Tuck students traveled to nine countries this spring to see the interplay of business and culture in foreign environments.
Alicia Dagrosa T’16 left the financial services sector in 2011 to pursue an MD/MBA degree at the Geisel School of Medicine and Tuck. The quest for a dual degree reflects her dual interests: to practice medicine and improve the overall health care system. One role is steeped in science, the other in business, but understanding both together is necessary to achieve her career goal in hospital administration. “Being with patients makes me really happy,” she said, “but I know I have an opportunity to affect even more people by addressing the system.”
Toward that end, Dagrosa went on a health care focused Global Insight Expedition (GIX) this past March to The Netherlands, which has one of the highest-ranked health care systems in the world. She and a group of Tuck colleagues spent their spring break in a program designed in partnership with the TIAS School for Business and Society, which is jointly run by Tilburg University and Eindhoven University of Technology. Through class sessions with professors, policymakers, and health care managers and entrepreneurs, a discussion with the top management team of a leading hospital, and corporate site visits, they got a first-hand look at what makes The Netherlands’ health care system so successful, and how that country’s culture and values impact its approach to medicine and public policy. “The Netherlands is on the frontier of health care and has one of the best-performing systems,” said Bob Hansen, the faculty director of the expedition and the Norman W. Martin 1925 Professor of Business Administration. “It’s also one of the most costly. So we were able to study those aspects and discuss what kinds of lessons we could draw for health care in the U.S.”
Each spring, dozens of Tuck students and faculty leave Hanover for far flung parts of the world on GIXs, which provide unique opportunities to interact with local businesses, nonprofits, governments, and entrepreneurs. This year’s destinations included Georgia and Armenia, India, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, South Africa, and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Each trip has a theme that defines the learning objectives, and the themes are as individual as the locations. On the India trip, for instance, the theme was “The Three Indias: Doing Business Across Economic and Cultural Divides,” which addressed the challenge of interacting among the diverse zones of a country where language, wealth, and religion can vary greatly.
In this way, the trips are much more than enlightened travel; they are courses for academic credit and fulfill Tuck’s new Global Insight Requirement. Before embarking on their journeys, students do focused coursework and study the culture of the country they will visit. During the expedition, there is time built in for structured reflection. And when they return, students must write a paper on a topic related to what they learned.
Everything we do on the GIXs is about developing the students’ global mindset,” Lisa Miller
“Everything we do on the GIXs is about developing the students’ global mindset,” said Lisa Miller, the director of the Tuck Global Insight Expedition Program. “So we address the values, beliefs, and norms of a host country, and how those things influence the business community.”
The relationship between culture and business is especially stark in Japan, a country where strong traditions are being challenged by economic hardship, demographics, and the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Tuck students on the Japan GIX had two keenly-connected guides to that world: Curt Welling D’71, T’77, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Business and Government and former CEO of AmeriCares, and Ramona Bajema, the country representative for AmeriCares in Japan. Their knowledge of Japan’s place in the global economic environment, and their close relationships with people in Japan, gave students access to Japanese leaders and citizens that would have been impossible for them to get on their own. The goal of the expedition was to see the current state of Japan from a variety of perspectives: the macro-economic challenges from a long recession, the energy dilemma that resulted when the country shut down its entire nuclear power industry, and the difficulties of cleanup and rebuilding after the natural disaster.
The students started in Tokyo, where they spent two days meeting with officials at the U.S. embassy, a leader of the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency, representatives from the Japanese legislature, and an influential social thinker who chaired the post-Fukushima regulatory commission. Then they went to Fukushima and Sendai, speaking with local people whose lives had been turned upside down by the triple-disaster. “The students came back with a real insight about what’s going on economically, and the social and cultural effects on that,” said Welling. “The government has lost credibility, and society has a serious challenge to move from the mid-20th century to a modern way of life.”
Henry Karongo T’15, a native of Kenya, was struck by the mundane and profound in Japan. He was surprised by the small size of the hotel rooms and the highly ordered movement of millions of people on the Tokyo streets. And in Fukushima, he had occasion to think deeply about Japan’s unlikely embrace of nuclear power, given its history with atomic warfare and drifting fallout from U.S. nuclear testing. “Up to that point, radioactivity had been a very abstract thing for me,” he said. “But putting yourself in the shoes of people who lived there, it was a real moment of contemplation for me, about the consequences of pursuing certain energy and industrial choices.”
Dagrosa, too, was particularly moved by her opportunities to engage at a deep level with people in the Netherlands in settings targeted for maximum learning. She and her colleagues listened to hospital executives talk about their own strategies for improving their organization, and learned about The Netherlands’ practice of organizing health care delivery around specialty centers. “Just being able to meet these people and talk to them about the problems they’re seeing and the solutions they’re coming up with was really impactful,” she said.