Durham University Meets Silicon Valley
MBA students from Durham University traveled from Europe to 101 Howard to learn about business, Bay Area-style.
From March 20-24, full-time and online MBA students from North East England’s Durham University, as well as MBA students from Durham’s joint program with the European Business School in Frankfurt, Germany, spent five days at USF’s downtown campus to participate in the School of Management’s Silicon Valley Immersion Program.
Students attended a variety of company visits through the USF School of Management’s expansive network, with destinations including InfoScout, Intel, and Spark Social. As for in-classroom learning, students were lectured by adjunct and tenured USF professors on social entrepreneurship, design thinking, angel investing, and even on the significance of social media.
Anne-Marie Nevin is the MBA program manager for Durham University’s online MBA. She explained that they bring MBA students to USF’s Silicon Valley Immersion Program as part of Durham’s “International Business in Context” module, one of their MBA degree modules. “What we try and do with all of our MBAs is give them the opportunity to go overseas and experience something with an international flavor,” Nevin said. This was the third year the program had journeyed to San Francisco.
The topics that we come here to learn are about innovation, and there’s no better place than San Francisco to learn about innovation.
SVI Program Student Paul Chelimala MBA ’18
USF’s Director of Executive Education Immersion Programs, Jenny Fogarty, offered a couple of reasons to explain the uniqueness of the Silicon Valley Immersion Program: “We are right in the heart of downtown San Francisco,” she said, expressing the awesomeness of the atmosphere outside. “One of the things that distinguishes us is that we provide a really rigorous academic experience and we ensure that we have top notch people in our classroom,” she explained. “This is really a unique learning experience.” Fogarty explained the program started in 2008, putting it well “ahead of the curve.” Although the program has been around for a number of years, it’s one that continues to evolve, adapt, and develop--“we continue to innovate and improve on it every year,” said Fogarty.
One of the MBA students in the program, Natalia Monteiro ’19, said she was interested in the program because of her involvement in startups in Switzerland as well as her interest in experiencing the different and fast-paced ways of Silicon Valley. She explained that this specific program has differed from others specifically in terms of how many professors the students have been taught by--usually, Monteiro said, the students have one professor but “here, in three days, we have had five.” Halfway through the program she said, “we have been exposed to different ideas [and] different fields of research, so I think that’s very valid.”
Fogarty further explained the students’ main project which was to work on a team-built business plan, in order to give a “classic five minute Silicon Valley investor pitch” on their last day. The students are judged by some of USF’s faculty members who are investors in Silicon Valley. “Instead of pitching for funding, they’re pitching for feedback right now,” she explained. Occasionally, students will go forth in the future to launch the company based on their business plan, “or at least build on the idea further,” Fogarty explained, emphasizing how “these ideas don’t just exist in a vacuum,” but rather students use the feedback and coaching they received in the program “to inform their idea.”
Michelle Bates ’18 is another student who attended the program and emphasized, “Everything we’re learning is very different. It’s not things I’ve covered before ever so I think it’s all interesting to me.” Bates said the main takeaway for her was the understanding of the prominence and effectiveness of social media. As the small business owner of a dance school, she said she does not update her business’s website and didn’t understand the significance in doing so. However, one of the lectures scheduled for that day was called Social Media Revolution, a lecture that seemed to change her mind. “Understanding its importance is going to make me focus on it a bit more when I get back.” Bates said she hopes her future MBA colleagues have the ability to experience the immersion program in the future as she did, explaining that it’s “something you just can’t get in London.”
Another MBA student in the program, Paul Chelimala ’18, said “the topics that we come here to study are about innovation, and there’s no better place than San Francisco to learn about innovation.” He emphasized how helpful the first company visit was in answering the students’ questions as well as “understanding where we’re coming from and what we’re looking for.” As part of their Silicon Valley Immersion Program, the students visited the rapidly-growing startup InfoScout, a market research company that gathers and analyzes mass amounts of consumer data in innovative ways in order to assist the strategic growth of top brands. Chelimala noted the main takeaway for him was the value of “thinking differently,” along with engaging with “knowledge about all the emerging trends and all the emerging technology that are happening now,” he explained, especially since “technology has become an enabler of any business.”
Durham University Executive MBA Program Director Robert McMurray also described the company visit to InfoScout as “superb.” He said the students “were really good in terms of talking to the leaders at organizations: how they got there, how they developed.” McMurray emphasized the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the students, as well as how “complicated and in depth” their questions were. “The company visits are great, and of course, USF is really cool on that basis because they have links that can help us go and see those.”
In regards to how the immersion program benefits the students, Fogarty said: “Not only are they learning about new concepts in innovation and entrepreneurship, but they’re having an eye-opening and potentially life-changing experience just being here.”
Interested in bringing your school to experience USF’s Silicon Valley Immersion Program?
By Lonny Wysard