India Seminar Students Celebrate 10-Year Reunion

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Managing Globally, a Carlson School global immersion course informally called the India Seminar, is now in its 14th year. The program is known for forging strong relationships among the students taking it, as evidenced by its 2007 class, many of whom recently got together for a 10-year reunion. 

One of those students was Steve Shepherd, ’09 MBA and vice president at Colliers International. He initially entered the program because he thought a better sense of the international playing field at the time would be a big help to his career.

“I wanted to see what my India counterparts were doing,” he said. “It was very interesting applying the learnings from the course with my commercial real estate career. A better understanding of how international companies review real estate strategic expansion decisions has impacted my work here locally.”

Another bonus was getting to know his fellow classmates and the perspectives they brought to the program. “Our class more so than most really immersed ourselves in the opportunity,” he said. “We were meeting informally well before the program kicked off so we all knew each other fairly well before going abroad. For me, it was that much more interesting.”

Also at the reunion was classmate Ashu Jaiswal, ’09 MBA, who was in the seminar to see how things were going back home. “I’m originally from India, and by the time I participated in the program, I’d been in the U.S. – and outside India – close to a decade. So the program was a way for me to get a first-hand experience of how business and life in general had changed in India,” he said. “And it continues to change.”

Jaiswal said he learned so much from the seminar that he went on another one – the Scandinavia Seminar – the following semester.

Fellow classmate Glen Desouza, ’08 MBA and architect and SOA portfolio lead at Anthem, also took part in the program to experience how the country he had grown up in had changed. “I have always been interested in understanding how outsourcing impacted both India and the U.S., and this program offered first-hand experience to meet with companies and people that could provide a great understanding of the situation at that time,” he said. “I was able to see how India had made great inroads into the higher end outsourcing market. We also saw the beginnings of the extreme growth India has witnessed in the past 10 years.”

Professionally, the program helped Desouza reinforce his understanding of what capabilities and areas Indian companies could be counted on to play a strong role in. “Personally, it got me acquainted with a cohort of professionals that I still keep in touch with,” he said. “I also saw what a can-do attitude has been able to bring to India as a whole, and it is a lesson I try to bring to my daily life.”

Brenda Schulze, ’08 MBA, found the India Seminar to be life-changing in more ways than one. She currently works in Minneapolis as the controller for Peace Coffee, SBC, an organic, fair trade company that works with small farmers throughout the world to source its products.

“My experience that started with the India Seminar was the catalyst for a much more globally minded personal and professional life,” she said, naming off all the highlights. It was her first trip out of the U.S. ever. She created a network of friends who still stay in touch. Visiting and talking with top-level management/owners/government officials from nearly every business or government sector possible was infinitely illuminating. And she met her husband.

Logan Schulze, ’08 MBA, was active duty Navy and had been recently transferred to the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor of naval science. He had a two-year assignment and wanted to finish his MBA while at the U. While doing so, he signed up for the India Seminar and met Brenda. They hit it off immediately and were married the next summer. He is currently deployed in Bahrain until next summer and had to miss the 10-year reunion, much to the disappointment of Brenda and his fellow classmates.

“I know India and the program has changed in the last 10 years, but in 2008, Doing Business in India was about the most relevant topic I could have studied,” Brenda said. “I can say with confidence, my Indian Seminar experience had a more profound impact on my life than I ever would have expected.”

About the Program

Begun in 2004, the MBA class was the brainchild of Information and Decision Sciences Associate Professor Mani Subramani.

“I was not sure students fully appreciated the implications of the diffusion of knowledge and complex capabilities across the globe, so it got me thinking about starting a class,” he said. Having lived and worked in India, Subramani thought it would be an ideal location to observe first-hand the complex changes to knowledge-intensive tasks by firms. As he reached out to colleagues who had an understanding of India and the program gained traction, Subramani was picked as the instructor to lead the course.

Students in the course meet several times in the classroom before embarking for a two-week stay in India. “We do a significant amount of work before going,” Subramani said. Once in India, the students spend one week in Delhi and the other in Bangalore.

To give students a sense of how other economies operate, Subramani aims his site visits high. “We are meeting senior policymakers,” he said. “One year we met the president of India. We’ve met cabinet ministers. They are people with visions and can make change happen.” On the business side, the students will meet CEOs and senior executives from large, multinational companies as well as founders and teams in start-ups, which are becoming more and more common in India.

Subramani said this mix of perspectives allows students to better understand the dynamics of globalization in the economy and how they can help their own companies leverage some of these complex changes. “Some of my students have come back and tried to get their companies to be more global,” he said. “As an educator, all you can hope is to give students ideas and understanding so they can face the challenges that come up in front of them.”