Summer TEM Lab Destinations: Myanmar and Colombia

by Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief

The two TEM Lab teams this summer are heading to Myanmar and Colombia. The seven participating students submitted comprehensive applications in April in order to compete for the coveted consultant positions. Once selected, departure preparations to get all the logistics ready in time were soon followed by the teams’ research on the country, the region, and the industry specific to their own project.

Like most other TEM Labs, the departure was not without thrills and various degrees of uncertainty. The situation in Nepal following the earthquakes earlier this year did not allow the project to take place and it was postponed until Fall. Fortunately but the team received another opportunity to go to Myanmar.


Robert, Marissa, Darren
Robert, Marissa, Darren

TEM Lab Myanmar: Marissa Burkett (MBA ’15, US), Darren Watkins (MBA ’15, US) and Robert Calkins (MBA ’15, Canada)

Client: USAID Asia – Farmer to Farmer

Follow the team’s work and progress through their blog.

Each of the team members are uniquely equipped and motivated for the project.

Darren explains his motivation: “I chose to pursue an MBA to develop the skills necessary and I am seeking post-graduation employment at multinational governmental and non-governmental organizations. I consistently seek to expose myself to different cultures in both my professional and personal life, and thrive in their exchange of ideas between people of different backgrounds”. As a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Senegal, Darren created and administered food security and forestry training programs for volunteers and host country nationals. He worked with economic interest groups of women and young adults in developing business strategies, enhancing accounting competency, and exploring value added opportunities.

Marissa interned with the UN World Food Programme addressing food security risk in Africa and served two years as an Americorps VISTA, consulting with agricultural producers and small businesses in rural Washington. Marissa explains her unique value proposition and motivation for the project: “small businesses were unable to reach their potential because they did not know how to navigate government regulations, create business plans, or reach a broader market […] Personally, the TEM Lab would allow me to continue my mission to see and experience as many things as possible. Having lived in Jamaica, Italy and China plus extensive travel elsewhere, I seek adventure and find excitement and opportunity in ambiguous situations.”

Robert  says: “This opportunity to participate [in the TEM Lab] will be a key driver to further enhance my commitment to social development internationally. The TEM lab will offer me an unprecedented opportunity to expand my current experience and utilize some of the theoretical and social skills that the on-campus training has been delivering. The experience I can gain working in concert with other members of the team in a real life consulting dynamic will serve to further engage my commitment to personally be involved in social change throughout the developing world.”


Caroline, Jessica, Alina, Ana
Caroline, Jessica, Alina, Ana

TEM Lab Colombia: Jessica Knutzon (MBA ’15, US), Caroline Hafele (MBA ’15, US), Alina Buzgar (MBA ’16, Romania), and Ana Carillo-Noriega (MBA ’16, Mexico)

Clients: Fruandes (dehydrated tropical fruits) and CampoReal (cheese producer); both are part of the business incubator Emprende País, Fundación Bolívar Davivienda.

Follow the team’s work and progress real-time through their blog.

Ana says: “The consulting project of Fruandes represents a great opportunity to apply my professional experience, understand organic production and explore the diverse marketing opportunities of organic fruits and by-products. Furthermore, the Fruandes project allows me to apply my newly minted business knowledge through a real Thunderbird experience of providing sustainable prosperity through global leadership.”

Alina says: “Growing up in a challenging environment scarred by the aftermath of communist planned economy and social injustice, helps me relate and have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a part of rebuilding a nation and to feel a personal responsibility for the wider social context. I am humbled by the amazing work Fundación Bolívar is doing and I am excited to contribute my knowledge and skills to bring meaningful and positive impact to Colombia through its entrepreneurs.”

Jessica says: “Professionally this TEM Lab would fortify my goals at Thunderbird and create a foundation for […] a consumer-focused marketing career in Latin America. Personally I have a special connection to Latin America as a whole. […] Spending all my summers throughout my childhood in Brazil with my mother’s family as well as living in the Dominican Republic and Peru for a majority of those years, I have a close connection with the Latin way of life. Cultural nuances and small, but powerful moral understandings have developed me into a Latin American chameleon.”

Caroline says: “The opportunity to participate in a Thunderbird Emerging Markets Lab was one of the reasons I chose to study my MBA at Thunderbird. Not only is it an opportunity to gain valuable consulting experience in the field, but also a chance to give back to the community. […] As a representative of Thunderbird, I am honored to work on such a project and move further towards our mutual goal of improving sustainable international development. I would like to further my career in marketing management and consulting after graduation, preferably in a Spanish speaking country.”


Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory

The Thunderbird Emerging Markets Laboratory (TEM Lab) is a capstone course offering students an opportunity to apply the full range of professional skills they have acquired during their MBA studies. The Lab consists of participation in a consulting project for a client system in an emerging market country. Our definition of emerging market includes Central America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, central and eastern Europe, and the whole of Asia apart from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. TEM Lab serves all sectors: public/governmental, private, and NGO/nonprofit.

A team spends seven weeks working on each project: one week of preparation on campus, five weeks of full-time onsite work with their client and one final week of debrief on campus.  Projects are tailored to the business needs of the client and provide sophisticated data and market analysis, strategy recommendations and practical, effective plans for sustained growth.

The goals of TEM Lab are two fold:

•Create economic and/or social or environmental value for our client organizations

•Create a unique experience for Thunderbird MBAs in which they can put their skills and experience to the test in a real-world, real-time, emerging market environment

One thought on “Summer TEM Lab Destinations: Myanmar and Colombia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.