Every Daniels MBA student has the opportunity to take a trip abroad, which provides an important immersion in international business and culture

Sips is a 19-year-old woman from Kayamandi—a rural township in Stellenbosch, South Africa’s Western Cape province. She brought a single bar of soap to university, where she first saw bottled toiletries and experienced warm water washing over her head. She described her first shower as “life changing.”

PMBA students engaging with a company in South Africa.Hot, running water may be a given for the 26 Daniels College of Business part-time Professional MBA students who traveled to South Africa in March. But, in many developing townships, there is little to no infrastructure for plumbing.

Professional MBA Cohort 32 visited Cape Town for a first-hand look at international business practices, accompanied by Daniels faculty members Pallab Paul and Doug Allen, and Megan Reilly, director of MBA global and experiential learning. Every Daniels MBA student has the opportunity to take a trip abroad for an important immersion in international business and culture.

“My job isn’t to teach them everything they want to know about South Africa; it’s to inspire them to ask more questions,” said Reilly. “It’s to make them think a little bit differently about working internationally or working with people from different cultures.”

In South Africa, Reilly said, it’s impossible not to recognize the devastation of poverty and lack of resources in some of its townships, which are still reeling from the effects of Apartheid.

The dichotomy can be jarring, she said, emphasizing “there’s an ethical way to engage with topics like inequality when traveling that isn’t ‘poverty tourism.’”

Halfway through their itinerary, the group visited Love to Give—a nonprofit, non-governmental organization in Stellenbosch that supports the people of Kayamandi with youth education, poverty alleviation, social services, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, and food security.

“We try to curate global experiences to match Daniels’ goals around ‘business for the public good.’ We can have the students understand the concept without causing harm to a vulnerable community in the process,” Reilly explained.

In Stellenbosch, students learned about the nonprofit’s business model and the impact of the work from paid interns—young adult township residents developing their marketability for work opportunities.

Daniels student Erin Wills was captivated by her conversation with Sips, a Love to Give intern.

While the South African government now provides free running water, “[Sips] noticed that people kept the faucets running. At university, she learned that water is a ‘gift’ that should be respected. With that, she’s become kind of the town plumber,” Wills said.

What Sips taught herself, she now passes on to others. She offers lessons in plumbing, water conservation and English so parents can help their children with homework.

One of Love to Give’s programs provides job training to help women find stable employment. It also includes an $80-per-month stipend—enough to meet their basic needs for six months. In another program, interns walk together in “school bus” formation, picking children up and delivering them safely to school and back home again—using music and connection to encourage attendance.

Wills, a former nurse pursuing a purpose-driven career shift, described how her conversation with Sips offered a “recentering perspective shift.”

“For somebody who grew up in such poverty to be able to give back to her community and feel motivated and empowered by it, made me pause,” she said. “It’s not like she’s out there making lots of money, but she is very happy and fulfilled with what she’s doing. It’s not all about the hustle; it’s about having that purpose. I was definitely inspired by her.”

“The [Daniels MBA] students were very touched by the experience,” Reilly said, adding that they did not want to leave. Many asked how they could help. Daniels gave a pre-planned donation to Love to Give as part of the MBA Global Program’s social impact visit; students rallied to give more.

While on the bus to their next meeting, Chris Musselman organized an impromptu fundraiser with his classmates via WhatsApp and Venmo.

“South Africa has 45% unemployment among people ages 15-30. That level of poverty is insane,” Musselman said. “It was impactful to see how little they needed to make such a big impact.”

The students raised $1,000, or 17,000 Rand, helping the NGO reach its fundraising goal of 100,000 Rand.

“It was just so moving,” Musselman said of the visit. “We got to hear what they need to operate, and the story of impact. I think in that moment, I certainly felt that I could help.

“For us, it seems like very little, right? A hundred bucks isn’t going to make me rich or poor, but it certainly can help somebody who needs it. And that was the idea,” he added. “Hopefully we can make a difference.”

Students shared their biggest takeaways at dinner the final night.

For Musselman, it was “eye-opening to see the level of poverty, knowing how much of a difference everybody can make. Getting out of your day-to-day work routine and seeing the world can be really impactful,” he said, adding that South Africa is ripe for real estate and infrastructure development.

Wills said she “loves seeing humanity at its core. Even with different cultures, we may not speak the same language, but we can connect. At Love to Give, I felt like we were connecting with true South Africa—with the dark history behind it, but also just that true, warm, welcoming culture. It just felt real.”

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