Published 07/11/14

Learning by doing: Nimble MBA students help Haitian YWCA build success

Christiana Bardsley ’13, ’14 MBA, seized the opportunity to travel to Haiti this past spring as part of a trip offered through the Graduate School of Business MBA program and the Hochberg Women's Center.

“The chance to do consulting in another country stood out to me,” she says. “Everything we do in business isn’t localized anymore; it’s all global. Being able to travel and interact with people from a different culture has been a tremendous experience.”

"The chance to do consulting in another country stood out. ... Being able to travel and interact with people from a different culture has been a tremendous experience.”

Bardsley and her fellow MBA students – James Fogarty, Samuel Ayer, Michael Kaplan, and Andrew Barrett – traveled to Haiti to consult for the YWCA. The nonprofit organization wanted to build a guesthouse that would generate revenue. The Bryant students created a business plan for the project.

She says it became a more daunting task when the scope of the project changed at the last minute.

“We had to change the entire business plan and start from scratch,” she says. “Being able to adapt to a situation like that with little time – the fact that I got to experience that while in school gives me a glimpse of what the real world is like.”

Bardsley is proud of several accomplishments achieved during the project including:

  • assisting a nonprofit organization;
  • helping Haitian girls learn about the hospitality industry;
  • providing customer service tips to Haitians to increase tourism.

Assistant Professor of Management Eileen Kwesiga, Ph.D., who accompanied the students to Haiti, is a proponent of the educational benefits of traveling abroad.

“In today’s world, education is global and I believe that taking Bryant students abroad gives them an extra advantage,” she says. “Here at Bryant we have cultivated a culture of learning by doing.”

Although Bardsley and most of her team did not have experience in the hospitality industry, they were well prepared for the project by their graduate classes at Bryant.

“We learn all these different frameworks in classes,” Bardsley says. “It can be managing a team, or managing a corporation.  Everything we learn in Bryant’s MBA program has a certain structure that you can adapt to any situation.”

Since the group returned from Haiti, work on the guesthouse project has continued.

“It’s great to hear that they have decided to implement our plan and start to build the guesthouse,” she says.

Bardsley finishes the MBA program in August. She is interested in applying her skills in an Air Force logistics position.