By Kyle Mahoney
Five weeks ago, eighteen T-birds with only a trimester of business school under their belts headed to Lima, Peru. Several of us had been here before, but for the majority it was the first time experiencing this beautiful country. We were determined to make this trip unique and exciting, and, without knowing at the beginning, to potentially make a positive difference with local Peruvian businesspeople.
The module kicked off with a mix of culture, history, and local gastronomy at Huaca Pucullana, a restaurant built around religious ruins of the Lima inhabitants from the fifth century. Professor Mary Sully de Luque, our esteemed and ever-accommodating Peru module coordinator, organized the event knowing it was an unequaled place to demonstrate the dichotomy between a country proud of their ancient culture and the desire to enhance their rapidly developing modern economy. This set the stage for the classes we were about to embark upon, a range of different studies that created for us a holistic business view of Peru and its surrounding Latin countries.
Despite many memorable moments from the module, there are a few that were particularly powerful in shaping our experience here. The first is the multitude of company visits our class partook in and learned about business and operations in Peru. Professor Roy Nelson, our RBE professor and coiner of the catchy acronym PUMA (for Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, and Argentina, four rising Latin American economic powers), helped organize these visits including P&G, Mega Plaza, the US Embassy, and Grupo ATV (where we were special guests on a popular TV show). The second memory is of a Thunderbird alumni panel and a visit from a former comptroller of Peru, both recounting the effect that political and economic reform had on their lives in Peru. Harrowing tales and inspirational stories of overcoming adversity that occurred over the past twenty years were themes among them, shedding light on the transformation to today’s peaceful and prosperous country. Finally, no Thunderbird trip would be complete without a little adventure, and trips to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Amazon delivered the excitement. Using planes, trains, and automobiles, two separate groups set out to explore these wonders, returning after five days exhausted but exhilarated.
Finally, one of the most profound and important projects of the Peru module encompassed creating a marketing and leadership plan for local Peruvian entrepreneurs. In conjunction with Thunderbird for Good and the 10,000 Women project, we met with these companies who already perform a variety of goods and services but could use some additional guidance on how to further develop their businesses. At the end of the module we will present suggestions to improve their situations and hopefully become more prosperous. While the large company visits were incredibly insightful, the chance to work with a small business owner and positively impact their lives is an unparalleled experience.
As the module draws to a close, our tight-knit group recalls the fun we had, the exams and papers yet to be completed, and future travel adventures we will embark upon. Peru has helped to shape our Thunderbird experience, and I’m sure at least some of us will return to shape a small part of this country’s future.