By Carolyn Gray Anderson
In September 2016, 40 UCLA Anderson students traveled to South Africa for a global immersion course titled Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Led by UCLA Anderson lecturer Gayle Northrop (’96), president of Northrop Nonprofit Consulting, the course focused on how “pro-social” businesses succeed in an age of waning corporate philanthropy. Northrop, who also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and co-founded Cape Town’s Spark Health, says students may gravitate to immersion courses because of the international destinations, but her hope is that global examples of social and corporate responsibility will infuse b-school curriculum generally.
UCLA Anderson’s global immersion courses originated in 2008 within the Fully Employed MBA program. Since then, they have expanded to include students in the full-time, executive and UCLA-NUS Global Executive MBA programs. In 2014, the global immersion courses transitioned to the Center for Global Management to enhance the portfolio of global offerings to students across all MBA programs.
“This experience opened my eyes to the amazing work being done by social impact organizations around the world and inspired me to get involved in the field,” said Milan Karunaratne (FEMBA ’18), who joined the South Africa immersion. “I would never have had such an authentic and enriched experience if I had visited South Africa as a tourist.”
Northrop made social entrepreneurship the topic of her South Africa course in response to shifting mindsets about how and why business is done globally, and emphasizes that learnings in the realm of corporate social responsibility and sustainability are not sector-specific. Students visited organizations in and around Cape Town and Johannesburg, including: Red Bull Amaphiko, a leadership training program and collaborative platform for entrepreneurs influencing social change in their communities; the nonprofit social enterprise RLabs; and AllLife Insurance, a firm that delivers life insurance to South Africans living with HIV.
Sarmad Nasir (FEMBA ’18) said, “I had the great pleasure to learn from and network with thought leaders in social impact: professors at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, entrepreneurs at the Solution Space, even high school kids at RLabs. After seeing first hand the creative and successful initiatives of a spectrum of social entrepreneurs in Johannesburg and Cape Town, I came out of this program extremely encouraged about the sector and motivated to make an impact. My relationship with South Africa continues even after the class in the form of a student-sponsored pro bono consulting program I have co-founded through the UCLA Anderson Entrepreneur Association for startup entrepreneurs in Johannesburg. The South Africa global immersion has been my most memorable experience at Anderson thus far. From this collective experience, I have developed strong bonds of enriched and lasting friendships.”
This was the fourth time that a global immersion course visited South Africa. The previous three courses focused on the business and economics of health care in the country.
As a result of students’ growing personal and professional interest in social entrepreneurship, UCLA Anderson has launched Impact@Anderson to inspire, an initiative to educate and challenge the next generation of leaders to be social change-makers. Its vision is to generate MBAs who do business in a connected, collaborative, conscious way. The impulse to approach business with a passion for innovation and an eye for solving the world’s toughest problems is attractive to recruiters in addition to being better for society. UCLA Anderson now also offers MBAs a specialization in social impact.
According to CGM’s executive director Lucy Allard (’06), “The Center for Global Management intends to incorporate visits or speakers who can address social impact issues and discuss cases in future global immersion courses. In a recent course titled Dubai and Its Evolving Role in the UAE, Middle East and the World, led by Eric Sussman, students heard from Tena Peck, co-founder and CEO of the Sustainability Platform, who discussed social entrepreneurship in Dubai and the Middle East and led a case study on the refugee crisis and its huge potential for social innovation.”
Since their introduction, over 2,000 students have participated in the global immersion courses in 27 countries. Four-unit elective courses, taught predominantly by UCLA Anderson faculty, focus on doing business in regions such as Latin America, Asia and Europe, and expose students to the economy, major industries and businesses, local culture, and key historical and political events of a country. They include three to four on-campus classes, followed by one week in-country for a blend of lectures, guest speakers, company visits, panel discussions, cultural activities and networking with alumni.
Read FEMBA student Robert Young’s blog about his South Africa experience, contributed last fall, and watch for more stories of impact and global immersion.