Global Study

NYU Graduate Students Travel to Guatemala to Advise Social Entrepreneurs

For two weeks this January, a group of graduate students from NYU’s Stern School of Business, Wagner School of Public Service and Polytechnic School of Engineering traveled to Guatemala and conducted field work as part of NYU Stern’s “Global Social Impact Strategies” (GSIS) course. Taught by Professor Jill Kickul, director of Stern’s Program in Social Entrepreneurship, GSIS is designed to provide students with firsthand experience working with social enterprises in a developing economy and to gain insights on economic and social value creation in an international context. While exploring a developing country in-person, students learn about local history, culture, economics, politics, sustainable development and entrepreneurship.

This year, student teams collaborated with Community Enterprise Solutions, a nonprofit organization that seeks to incubate social impact innovation. Students analyzed and offered strategic recommendations to social enterprises working in Guatemala. One such organization – Smart Vision Labs – was co-founded by Stern alumni Yaopeng Zhou (MBA ’14) and Marc Albanese (MBA ’08) and seeks to make its portable vision examination device accessible to people across the globe in need of vision care.

“GSIS was my first experience learning about Guatemala, its culture and its current issues,” explained MBA student Neerav Bagaria. “Being able to interact with business leaders on the ground and apply our classroom learning on finance, marketing and strategy was invaluable. Plus, working with a diverse team of students from Stern, Wagner and Poly, demonstrated how different perspectives can be critical to understanding a complex problem like eye care in a developing market.”

“Through the GSIS consulting project, we were able to get an overview of this social enterprise’s overall operations – we visited three locations across Guatemala, and worked with staff at every level to reach key insights,” explained MBA student Laura Fox. “Our project work included an exciting mix of more typical MBA skills – designing a performance metrics strategy and building a comprehensive benchmarking tool – as well as hands-on work delving into the user experience of a new vision care technology in a low-resource environment. The result was a new system, which allowed the client to collect, analyze and derive insights from larger volumes of data, while having an easier user experience. It was exciting to observe the overall impact of our recommendations, which were immediately useful to the client.”