3D model of world

As global business and virtual technologies converge, students at Fisher are finding more ways to embrace and immerse themselves in this new reality. 

The latest offering — the BisNet Virtual Case Competition — leverages the college’s global partnerships to connect students with leaders and companies in South America. 

“I spent all summer wondering what on Earth we were going to offer our students in terms of a global experiential learning tool in light of the pandemic,” said Keira Williams, program manager for Fisher’s Office of Global Business

Keira Williams

She worked with Southbridge, a Chilean company specializing in business education abroad with whom Fisher had partnered to send students to Panama prior to COVID-19. Together, they developed a case competition based on a real-world plan by Amazon to build a data center in South America. Students would evaluate, analyze and recommend a potential location in Argentina or Chile.

Participating students had to undergo a crash course for both countries.

“They had to understand the political issues, economics, the whole spectrum,” said John Sanderson, a second-year MBA student and graduate assistant in the Office of Global Business. “They basically had to do a deep dive into both countries to identify if one was favorable over the other for the data center.”

The competition’s global focus, as well as the opportunity to connect with professors and business owners with expertise in South America, was a draw for Alex Klosterman, a second-year marketing student at Fisher.

“Having real-world feedback was valuable and as a team,” he said. “We picked up lots of special tidbits of information as we received constructive criticism from the judges — the sorts of small adjustments and suggestions that only come from folks with years of experience.”

Although Amazon has since pulled back on the data center expansion, the virtual experience was a valuable reflection of how business is, and likely will be conducted, Klosterman said.

“Much of the future of international business appears to be virtual,” he said. “Frankly, I was surprised by how well the team functioned despite never meeting face-to-face. In fact, we all had busy schedules, so working virtually helped alleviate some peripheral stressors.”

Alex Klosterman

He also learned a lot about himself through the experience, admitting he tends to make decisions slowly, weighing options carefully.

“This case highlighted the weaknesses in that approach,” he said. “I learned to be more decisive in my decision making and to put more trust in others. The case taught me that teams that trust each other move faster and with more precision.”

Jacob Vogelgesang is no stranger to international experience. The second-year international business and human resources management double-major lived in Chile for a year as a foreign exchange student and spent some additional time in Argentina. His experience and international network were helpful throughout the competition and even led to an unexpected opportunity.

“This experience falls hand in hand with what I want to do,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a few weeks after the competition with Amazon, I was actually contacted by a member at Amazon asking for an interview for a senior HR intern!”

Jacob Vogelgesang

In helping create the competition, Williams leveraged Fisher’s membership in the Business International Studies Network (BisNet) to expand it to seven other business schools. BisNet is a consortium that promotes and improves the range and quality of study abroad experiences.

The case competition is just one example of how Fisher is expanding global experiences to demonstrate business as it is happening.

“You still have to meet people virtually in global business,” she said. “It’s not like you can always just go there. Students are dealing with time-change issues, they’re dealing with different cultures and need to understand the different political and socioeconomic variables in each country.”

As for the future of the competition, Williams is hopeful.

“We really look forward to tweaking it and finding a good time of year for our students to do it again,” she said. “Perhaps we’ll get even more teams from BisNet.”

Students are dealing with time-change issues, they’re dealing with different cultures and need to understand the different political and socioeconomic variables in each country.

Keira WilliamsProgram Manager, Office of Global Business