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Tuck Students Go Global

Tuck students consulted with City Year South Africa through the Global Consultancy Program.

A team of T'13s consulted with City Year South Africa through Tuck's Global Consultancy Program.

City Year South Africa was struggling. The office had auspicious beginnings, formed at the behest of Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton in 2005 to mentor school kids and establish habits for their positive personal development. But post-apartheid Johannesburg proved a difficult place to make a difference. Moreover, the leadership of the organization had shifted frequently, leaving it without a consistent strategy and vision. The operation needed advice on how to set priorities and achieve its goals—in essence, the kind of services a professional consulting firm would deliver.

Enter the Tuck Global Consultancy (TGC). Made up of second-year MBA students, the TGC provides valued consulting services for clients who are time or resource constrained, and where primary research on the ground in an international location is essential. Tuck Global Consultancy teams have worked with the likes of Walmart, Citibank, the Peruvian government, Alcoa, Nike, and Intel since the program’s founding in 1997.

“It’s as real-world as you can get,” said Kerry Laufer, director of the program. “Students are expected to apply, integrate, and focus skills learned at Tuck to an organization’s business challenge or opportunity.  Our clients expect meaningful results comparable to those of a professional consulting team at a top tier consulting firm.”

City Year reached out to Tuck in the summer of 2012—Dean Paul Danos was exposed to City Year South Africa in 2005 when TGC first worked with the organization—and by the fall a six-student team of consultants was assigned to the project.

The project is a full-credit elective course that provides students with the opportunity to lead, plan, and execute a real-world consulting engagement. In the first phase, students talk to the stakeholders, do research, and focus the scope of their work. Phase two is “in country,” where students visit the client’s office, conduct interviews and workshops, and shape the final deliverable—in this case a PowerPoint deck with 40-60 slides, plus appendices. The final phase involves incorporating feedback on the first draft of the PowerPoint presentation, and then presenting the final product to the client.

For Hana Hassan T’13, the project was more than an opportunity to do real consulting work for a good cause; it was a chance to visit the continent from which her parents emigrated. She’s first generation Somali-American, and visiting Africa was very important to her. At Tuck, she was able to go there twice: once with TGC and again on a Learning Expedition with accounting professor Phillip Stocken.

“I wanted a project where I would be stepping out of my comfort zone,” she explained, “something completely different from my project management experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers.” Advising a nonprofit in a foreign country provided that unique exposure and taught her to think differently about problem solving.

“It was a lesson in thinking outside the box,” she reflected. “At nonprofits, everyone is stretched and doing more than their job description. Yet they managed to tackle youth unemployment and help improve the primary education system. Just seeing that was really impactful for me.”

The trip wasn’t all work. The team also attended a championship soccer match and joined the U.S. ambassador to South Africa at his house for dinner to toast City Year’s accomplishments in the country. “At the end of the day, we had a love for the client’s mission and City Year just enveloped us and treated us as part of the family,” Hassan said.