Amidst an increasingly global culture, both in a social and economic context, the question of investing in relationships with other countries has gained foremost priority. In fact, this propelling global force has taken root in the business community of Ohio State; this past month marked the fourth trip taken in the past six months to the university’s Global Gateways by Anil Makhija, Dean of the Fisher College of Business.
The Global Gateways are Ohio State offices located in three countries—China, India and Brazil—with the purpose of furthering the university’s goal of “prepar[ing] its students and faculty to participate actively in knowledge-based collaborations around the world,” according to the Office of International Affairs. These offices serve as the operating base through which Fisher has been able to build its global connections.
“In each of the three locations, we have what I would call a three-part approach,” Makhija says. “That is, we want to partner with some good business schools because we are interested in local know-how. Of course, this means we also do not have to replicate infrastructure. […] The second part is that we want to do some programming locally in those locations. The reason for that is that we want our faculty to be engaging with executives locally. This way, they will have more intimate knowledge of local business practices. The third is that, in each of these locations, we want to rejuvenate our alumni connections.”
Makhija was able to execute this plan this past summer in his trips to Hong Kong and Singapore, where he programmed several events with the China Global Gateway. Although he was able to sustain conversation with partners such as Singapore Management University in his time there, he principally focused on maintaining relationships to best serve students.
“The primary reason in going to Singapore and Hong Kong was to further the student experience,” Makhija says. “I visited with them in those locations to talk to businesses, to talk to students, to see how their experiences were going because this is certainly a growth area for the college. We want to expose our students to more global experiences—we want to grow their global competence.”
Following this trip, Makhija ventured to Brazil in the beginning of August to participate in similar networking events and supplement his other trips to achieve a holistic vision of globalization. Despite the Brazil Global Gateway being the last established of the three, Luke Barbara, director of the Brazil Global Gateway, states that “it draws on a history of over 55 years of collaboration between Ohio State and Brazil.”
In particular, however, the Gateway has been able to sustain specific initiatives with Fisher over the course of its three-year existence. These projects include education abroad programs; Global Applied Projects for MBA students; faculty research involving Brazilian universities and businesses; and growth of the Fisher Global Council, an organization of professionals with a desire to maintain connections to the college.
“Brazil is a powerhouse in Latin America and the Global South with a significant economy, similar cultural values to the USA, and growing political influence in the world,” says Barbara. “Brazil has a population of over 200 million, an abundance of arable land and freshwater, top-notch companies and academic institutions, and is poised to be increasingly influential globally across numerous dimensions. Brazil and the USA have many historical and geographical similarities, a shared history of working together, and can both benefit from engaging in academic, commercial, cultural, and political exchange.”
In recognition of these opportunities, Makhija connected with a variety of well-known firms, such as the Itau Unibanco bank, an energy corporation called Raizen, and the Visagio Consulting firm. Visagio has maintained a long-standing relationship with the college, with consultants from the company coming to Fisher to take sessions of MBA classes every year. In fact, he collaborated with Visagio to deliver a presentation on middle-market firms known as the Finance Forum.
In addition, Makhija met with leading business schools at universities including the University of São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas and Fundação Instituto de Administração (FIA), hoping to one day solidify a main partner for exchange programs. Finally, in fulfillment of the three-part approach, he met up with alumni living and working in the country.
“Relationships are everything in international business, especially Brazil,” Barbara says. “Professors Makhija and Ward demonstrated their commitment to engaging with Brazilian partners and connecting with Ohio State and Fisher alumni, friends, and partners in Brazil by investing their time to show up and connect in-person with key stakeholders. Their trip shows that the Fisher College of Business is clearly committed to strengthening its existing initiatives and creating new meaningful collaborations and programming together with Brazil.”
In a more general sense, beyond the economic benefits which each of these countries can provide, the purpose of these trips was ultimately based on attaining a college-wide globalization of the student body. Thus, while the trips were able to advance Fisher further in the direction of this goal, it also confirmed the continuing success of such programs.
“The receptions that we held for our alumni—whether it was in Singapore, India, Hong Kong or Brazil—I think those are some of the most touching moments because that reminded me of the great legacy of the Fisher College,” Makhija says. “To see the success of our alumni and to see them as leaders in all of these economies was very heartening, very touching.”