The opportunity to learn, hone and utilize business skills while also addressing a global societal challenge isn’t a part of every MBA student’s experience. Fortunately for a group of graduate students at Fisher, a program designed to provide fresh business ideas to pressing issues around the world is a key part of Fisher’s MBA experience.

Three teams of students in the Global Applied Projects (GAP) program recently spent 10 weeks working on projects centered on clean water and sustainable solutions. The students partnered with two organizations at The Ohio State University — The Global Water Institute (GWI) and Global One Health initiative (GOHi) — to bring classroom insights to challenges facing communities around the world.

The Global Water Institute

Rabia Usmani, a second-year student in the Full-Time MBA program, was hesitant upon learning she would among the GAP students tasked to the GWI’s finance team — one of two groups working with GWI in Africa this year. A marketer by trade, Usmani quickly got comfortable being uncomfortable working on the finance side of the project. Her team was tasked with determining the profitability of clean water initiatives in rural Tanzania, specifically the profitability of the franchise model that guides the GWI’s efforts.

“I knew that it would be a great learning opportunity outside the field that I was pursuing,” Usmani said. “My initial hesitancy certainly fluctuated throughout the project as we faced challenges putting exact numbers to quantitative data, but I was extremely happy with the final document. Looking back, I’m glad to have worked on a project outside my area of focus. I cannot think of a time in my life where I have grown to this extent within such a short period of time.”

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Members of a GAP team on location in Africa.

As part of their work with the GWI, the two GAP teams engaged with Michael Seid, a member of GWI’s external advisory board and a recognized expert in franchising, about how the concept could be applied to water in East Africa.

“A challenge with water systems in Africa is that they tend not to last very long after installation because communities lack the funding, technician and supply chain necessary to address repairs,” said Erin Collin, a second-year MBA student and graduate assistant at the GWI. “Our goal was to help address these issues by developing a franchise offering that could be used to specifically address the challenges outlined above by adding more structure, resources and accountability."

Marty Kress, executive director of the GWI, was impressed by the GAP teams that worked on GWI projects in Tanzania and Kenya. Their recommendations will be helpful as GWI continues to refine its franchising vision and scale it through potential collaborations with organizations including local government and universities, the World Bank, WaterAid and the UK’s Department for International Development.

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Access to water was central to three GAP projects.

“It is always nice to be able to capitalize on Ohio State assets,” Kress said. “The teams’ energy was contagious and having a faculty advisor deeply committed to the challenge of providing sustainable supplies of clean water was a blessing in disguise. I like working with MBA students from Fisher because most come with prior work experience — so they can frame a project and a timeline to execute a task. They also have management and leadership skills.”

Karl Bissett, a second-year MBA, was part of a GAP team studying the potential of the franchising model.

“I am incredibly proud of my team’s ability to ask the right questions to the right people in order to gain the in-the-field business intelligence that informed our recommendations and our final deliverable to GWI,” he said. “Although our work did not increase a for-profit company’s bottom line, it contributed to the social bottom line of a country that continues to face challenges with giving its people access to clean water.”

2019 GAP Water Projects

Global One Health initiative

When Courtney Clark found out her GAP assignment was with GOHi, she was eager to put her previous experience in global public health to work. However, the focus of her group’s project — developing a water infrastructure and understanding the current practices of WaSH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) in Ethiopia, particularly within the capital city, Addis Ababa — was new.

“Most of my professional experience is in international development and global public health in sub-Saharan Africa, so this project was completely aligned with my interests and passions,” said Clark, a second-year MBA student. “But I hadn’t worked extensively before on water, sanitation and hygiene projects, so I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about this important sector of public health.”

During the course of their project, Clark and her teammates completed desk reviews throughout the domestic phase of the program and then, while in Addis Ababa, they conducted 26 interviews and three site visits.

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The GAP team working with the Global One Health initiative.

“It is absolutely fantastic to be able to have these high-caliber, professional and graduate students who can tackle major global problems and address it head on and effectively,” said Wondwossen A. Gebreyes, executive director of GOHi. “They did terrific work on the ground and their report was great.”

“As a component of the environment, water and its quality, safety and availability is critical to the health of humans including children, who are often disproportionately affected by infectious diseases such as cholera. By working on the water infrastructure and quality issue, the GAP team addressed one of the critical priorities of our research and implementation science capacity building priorities.”

For Clark, GAP encapsulated and tested many of the skills she’s learning as part of Fisher’s Full-Time MBA program.

“GAP was absolutely a highlight of my MBA experience because it provided me an opportunity to bring together so many of my passions: international development, public health, strategic and analytical thinking, teamwork and international travel,” she said. “Writing our final report felt like the most meaningful thing I have done so far in the MBA program.”

“The opportunity to go in-country and really work hands-on with a project is one of the best experiences I could ask for. Social impact is what drove me to Fisher's MBA program, and getting to work on a real project like this is part of what made Fisher and Ohio State really stand out.”

Erin CollinSecond-year MBA student

Global Applied Projects program

A signature offering of Fisher’s personalized, integrated and experiential Full-Time MBA program, GAP prepares students for business through an immersive, hands-on international consulting experience.

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