Full-time UST MBA student John Kamman and I traveled to Mali, Africa for two weeks over J-term. Our trip was part of a non-profit independent study course through UST. Our group consisted of eight students (from areas including engineering, sociology, French, and business), four professors, and Kate Herzog (MBA ’09).
It was a great hands-on course that combined business with economic development. The overriding purpose of the trip was to partner with the Malian Agribusiness Center and USAID to provide assistance in agricultural development projects that had been initiated. Specifically, we worked on two projects: shea butter and seed potatoes.
Half of our trip was spent in Bamako, the capital of Mali. There we worked with a local shea butter company on their business plan, particularly as the company looked to expand their business to include exports to the U.S.
The other half of our trip was spent in Borko, a tiny village in the rural countryside of Mali. In fact, Borko is only about four hours away from Tombouctou, the storied town at the edge of nowhere. In this village we worked with farmers who are planting seed potatoes in their fields with the hope of moving off their dependence on European seed potato imports . This picture shows the potato field in the village of Borko.
Throughout the trip we also had a chance to visit cultural sites, develop friendships with Malian graduate students, work on our French, play with the children in the village, and rough it in a village with no running water or electricity. The trip was a tremendous learning experience, both in international business and in development. We’d love to talk more with anyone who is interested.
Editor’s note: This post, by Molli Mikl, comes from Notes from the Commons, published by the Full-time UST MBA Student Life Office at the University of St. Thomas.