From India to San Diego…

Robin Gustafson, a first year MBA student and Graduate Assistant for the MBA Admissions Office spoke with classmate Harsha Musthyala about her experience moving to San Diego from India and beginning her MBA at USD.  A transcript of their conversation is below:

Robin headshot

Robin Gustafson

Harsha headshot

Harsha Musthyala

 Where are you from?

India. I have been all over India, so it is difficult to pick one specific location, but my family roots are in Hyderabad, a city known for its spicy food.


Is there anything that you thought would be an issue in moving to the USA but wasn’t?

Before visiting the United States I was under the impression that I would be treated differently for being an Indian, but that is just not true. I have made great friends and for the most part, I think people are really welcoming and warm. Of course, there are some exceptions, which is true in any situation.

Is there anything that you didn’t think would be an issue coming to the USA, but ended up being an issue?

I have not faced any serious or grave issues but something that I had problems getting used to was the teaching style in the US. For example, in the United States a portion of your grade is based on participation. For someone like me who is not used to asking a lot of questions in class it took some time to get comfortable around people and participate more.

What is the most annoying stereotype or question that you receive as someone coming from India?

“Is everyone poor in India?” It is actually funny because India was known as ‘the golden bird’ two centuries ago due to the wealth of the Indian kings. Even today, there are people of all kinds in India including the unfortunate poor in slums, the majority section known as the middle class, and the rich.

What was your biggest struggle throughout your transition?

I would describe it more as a learning experience rather than a struggle. Because I get to interact with people from different cultures, I always find it so interesting that something that is strange in one culture is so common in other cultures. For example, eating from each other’s plates is very common between family and friends in India but not so much in the US. I think learning about different cultures will take some time, not just for me, but for all of my classmates.

What was your favorite class at USD and why?

Definitely financial accounting! There are two major reasons for this. This was the first finance/accounting class that I have ever taken and it sparked my interest in finance. The second reason was the structured setup of the course and the amazing explanations by our professor, Dr. Barbara Lougee.

What is the best advice you received during the first semester?

Being an independent working woman in India is tough and I have been used to living as such for a long time. A friend in the US told me that sometimes I should let people help me and that was the best advice so far because it taught me to trust people and I have made great friends.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting school at USD?

I have learned that success here is defined by more than academic excellence and making valuable connections is very important.

 How have you felt about the holiday experience in the United States?

It is amazing! I really like how people get excited about holidays and make time for their families and friends; it reminds me of the festivals I celebrated back in India.

What is your favorite memory from the semester?

My favorite memory was Black Friday shopping after Thanksgiving. Shopping always wins!

What is something you miss from home?

I definitely miss my mom’s food!

What is something you would miss from the US or San Diego if you went home?

I think I would really miss the active lifestyle of San Diego.

Do you have any additional feelings or experiences you’d like to share?

As a person who always looks for purpose or meaning in anything in life, I think living in US is an experience that made me look at world with a new perspective. I have seen first-hand how cultures and background influence opinions, values and beliefs. So far, it has been a wonderful experience and I am excited to see what the work-culture here feels like.




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The University of San Diego’s MBA: providing the competitive edge, and much more.

Most perspective MBA students seem to have an inherent competitive spirit – a sort of drive that makes them want to be the best in every situation they encounter. While these types are definitely present in every class, and across all universities, I believe that the University of San Diego is unique in building MBA cohorts that focus on more than being “top of the class.” I started to see this unique difference as early as orientation week, when the faculty seemed more concerned with building strong relationships than with somehow categorizing and labeling individual accomplishments. The focus was more on the unique qualities that the cohort shared, than the ones that could have separated the class. From that point on, this trend seemed to carry through.

The first semester of classes are anything but easy. In fact, I would venture to say that no single individual can make it through an MBA program. Instead, teams become heavily reliant on each other to lighten the tremendous load that comes with graduate level Business classes. For me, this was absolutely critical, as most in my team had the previous classes or experience that my political science degree did not prepare me for. This type of support is not isolated to the individual teams, but permeates throughout our entire cohort. It has created a culture in which no one team is trying to outdo another, but instead each team recognizes that the success of the cohort matters more than any single project or assignment.

It would be inaccurate to say that the culture created at the USD School of Business is built solely on the backs of the current cohort. Each one of the faculty play a critical role in addressing the current and future needs of all the MBA students. Additionally, the professors are perhaps the most passionate people that I have met to date. The small class sizes allow them to provide individual attention to any student who needs help, and they are always more than willing to accommodate.

I had several options for business school, some of which were ranked higher than the University of San Diego. Since beginning the program, I have come to realize that rankings are not everything, and should not be the sole determinant in business school selection. In fact, I feel that the culture of a school should hold equal weight to the rankings. That is because the University of San Diego is helping each cohort build life-long relationships, while giving students the critical business tools that employers are looking for in graduate-level employees. For these reasons, I am absolutely thrilled to attend the University of San Diego, and know that doing so will position me for a successful career in whichever business function I eventually land on.       Nathan McCutcheon

-Submitted by Nathan McCutcheon, a first year
Full-Time MBA student in the General Management track and newly-elected president of the USD Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA). Prior to enrollment at USD Nathan was a medic for the US Army.  Nathan is also a proud father  to a three-month old baby boy.  Thanks to a supportive cohort and great learning team members he has survived sleepless nights of fatherhood while managing a full-time course load!

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The USD MBA experience… in pictures

When talking about a picturesque campus, you may imagine a picture like this:

USD day

But can you believe it’s even more beautiful in the evening?

1-USD evening

When  talking about MBA students, you can imagine a group of business elites in suits like this:orientation

Or giving presentations like this:

But can you imagine that we also play hard and love each other like this?team buildingbday party                                                                                 (surprise birthday party for 3 classmates)

When talking about MBA life, you can imagine a busy schedule and endless reports due for class:
1-team work prep
But can you imagine how many great networking opportunities we attend where we meet some awesome people?
1-Hera Venture Summit 1-Hera Venture Summit-001

Harbor Cruise

When talking about attending a career fair, you may imagine a crowded scene like this:1-Career Fair

But can you imagine that the MBA Career Development team will stand outside the whole time supporting you?


(2 members of the MBA Career Services team pictured above – Emelina Belle and James Sillcox)

Life is a journey and getting an MBA is a beautiful adventure during this journey. I may not have chosen where I started my life’s journey, but I have chosen a special adventure at USD to make my future dreams come true.  Most importantly, I feel so lucky to have all the amazing friends who will walk on this beautiful adventure with me!

Post submitted by Grace (Xiaoyu) Pu, a first-year MBA student in the Full-Time MBA Program: General Management track.  Grace attended University of Western Ontario in Canada for her undergraduate studies and prior to USD worked as Assistant HR Director for the Railway Administration in Shenyang, China

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting my MBA Program at USD

  1. Not Having a Background in Business isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

So you don’t have a background in business. You think debits and credits are types of bankcards. Your idea of inflation and deflation involves helium and latex. It’s OK.

Plenty of MBA students don’t have a Bachelor of Economics and it doesn’t make them any less capable. Sure it can be intimidating listening to your classmates list off lofty credentials while you cringe thinking of past bartending jobs, but remember that you’re here to learn.  MBA programs are designed to provide you with an overview of a variety of topics. The University of San Diego does a phenomenal job of making sure you are prepared for the course content.  With orientation workshops that include Excel, Statistics, and Finance, you will be provided with all of the background you need for the program. And chances are, whatever your past experiences, they will provide you with a unique way of looking at business.

  1. It Isn’t All Business

Remember why you chose grad school in San Diego and not Lincoln, Nebraska. Business school is important but so is maintaining your sanity. Don’t be afraid to have some fun while you’re here.  Luckily, San Diego has countless opportunities for adventure. Practice your Spanish and take a day trip to Mexico, learn to surf, check out the zoo, watch a Padres game, explore the countless hiking trails, play some beach volleyball, or engage in the hundreds of other exciting pastimes of the San Diegans. Life is about balance, and speaking of balance, try some aerial yoga while you’re here.

potato team

  1. You’re Smarter Than You Think

Although The University of San Diego provides you with the basics you need for classes, the program is rigorous.  Course concepts become increasingly complicated and they may seem daunting. Just remember, if you are smart enough to be accepted into the program, you’re smart enough to complete it. Not everyone will have the same aptitude in every class. If accounting challenges you, it isn’t the end of the world. You will have other classes in which you excel.  Don’t lose sight of your own talents and the value you bring to the program. You were selected for a reason.

  1. Networking: Just Do It

A huge component of the USD MBA program involves networking events. If you’re a normal person like myself, the idea of walking up to a stranger at a career fair and giving an elevator pitch terrifies you.  Don’t worry. It isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Your cohort will support you and have plenty of advice. Take notes from your classmates who are naturals at introductions and try to emulate their methods.  Walk in with a group of classmates to feel more confident and supported.  You will quickly find that networking is much easier than it sounds.

  1. Embrace and Learn from Your Cohort

The diversity of your cohort might seem overwhelming at first, but it is one of the most advantageous aspects of the USD program. Rarely will you have such an opportunity to collaborate with people from around the world in such an open environment. Take full advantage of any chance to interact with your classmates.  Ask questions, show interest, and learn as much as you can from these amazing individuals. The diversity of the answers and advice you receive will ensure that you leave the program with a cosmopolitan perspective.

Submitted by Robin Gustafson, a 1st year Full-Time MBA student in the International Business track.
Robin is from the beautiful state of Montana and prior to USD worked in development, marketing and communications.

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Grandiosity vs Efficiency: Finding that sweet spot

In May 2015, a group of MBA and MSGL students from the University of San Diego embarked on a 2 week study abroad program in Munich and Athens. The courses on offer were Legal and Social Environment of Business, Entrepreneurial Finance and Global Innovation Strategies. There were over 35 students in the program and I was fortunate to be one of them. It had been my lifelong dream to visit the 2 cities and to get that opportunity within my MBA program while earning up to 8 credits was definitely the icing on the cake.

class session in Munich

Pursuant to my concentration and interests, I opted to take the Legal and Social Environment class along with Global Innovation Strategies. Our facility in both Germany and Greece were with partner universities of USD. In Munich, we had the opportunity to hear from industry experts as part of our learning experience where they elaborated on innovation in the German economy as well as sectors to focus on for the next twenty years. We visited innovation centers as well as innovation incubators for startups that gave us valuable insights in to how startups are formed and run efficiently. My fellow students were very impressed with a few of the startup ideas that we were exposed to along with taking valuable insights from the guest lecturers. We also got adequate opportunities to explore Munich and thereabouts, with quite a few of us managing to visit Dachau, Salzburg and Neuschwanstein Castle. Our trip also consisted of a visit to the BMWmanufacturing facility that was thoroughly enjoyed by both faculty and students alike. Munich was a great experience for all of us and we definitely had a wonderful mix of academic strategies and practical implementation of those strategies.

BMW 2.Munich

Athens was a great eye opener. We had all been aware of Greece’s financial crisis but to be, literally at ground zero, was a humbling experience. Our first exposure to the crisis came from the Dean of USD’s partner in Greece, ALBA, who gave us a very honest portrayal of the origins of the crisis and potential solutions. The solutions presented were very radical which mathensade us understand how deep-seated the crisis really is. Our Legal and Social Environment class delved further into this by comparing the economies of several countries within the EU with Greece that made us more knowledgeable about the situation at hand. Greece is also a hub for startup businesses and the government is actually promoting startups in order for people to become self-employed that would actually help in the high unemployment in the country. Athens also provided a very rich gastronomical experience with almost everyone raving about the quality of the food and wine. A ‘scentsations’ tour of Atheacropolisns was highly enjoyed by everyone where we had to use our five senses to take in the actual essence of Athens. A tour of the Acropolis was also organized by the study abroad coordinators which was a great experience for everyone. Greece was definitely an incredible experience for me personally as I could feel the history everywhere I went. After the culmination of the program, a few of the students went to visit some other islands of Greece for some days.

All in all, the study abroad in Europe organized by the Ahler’s Center was extremely educative as well as enjoyable. It was the perfect balance of touristy things along with learning valuable lessons from both the economies. A big thank you to Renata Berto for coordinating with such a large group of people so well and ensuring all of us that were there remained safe and had an absolute blast!

-Submitted by Swastik Mukherjee, a Full-Time MBA student in the International Business Track
Swastik’s MBA summer internship is with Tata Consultancy Services (Tampa, Florida office)

BMW Munich

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Shanghai Experience: International consulting project

ShanghaiAs a Full-Time MBA student in the International Business track we are required to do two international consulting practicums on two different continents during our tenure as  MBA graduate students.  This past January, I had the pleasure of joining a diverse group of MBA students from USD to work as a consulting team for a company in Shanghai City.  The company we were assigned to is iPai, an American auction company whose goal is to bring auction of daily items to the general Chinese public.  I primarily chose Shanghai City, the heart of financial and business operations in China, due to the lack of a language barrier and my understanding of the basics of Chinese culture.  I figured that by eliminating the stressors of inability to communicate and not understanding how the culture operates, I would be able to focus on the consulting project at hand.  Sound reasoning right?  Boy was I wrong. Ironically, the consulting project turned out to be the easy part of the whole practicum experience and the cultural navigation was the hard part.

While overall communication did not pose much of a problem, it was much harder for me to navigate the Chinese cultural scene due to great discrepancies in the varieties of regional Chinese culture.  For example, in Taiwanese culture calling a young female ‘miss’ (Xiǎojiě) or an elder female ‘Ah yi’ would be a sign of respect; however in Shanghai, I discovered that calling any female ‘Xiǎojiě’ would be the equivalent of implying they work in the red-light district and calling any elders ‘Ah yi’ would demote them to a cleaning lady or a female of low social class.  The social stakes were high, and I learned quickly for fear of offending any more people than I absolutely had to – replacing ‘miss’ with the unisex formal name to address a server and  ‘Ah yi’ with ‘older sister.’  These two phrases were just a couple of the multiple daily phrases that I had to constantly adjust to over the course of two weeks.

There were times I was envious of my colleagues for not being held to the same cultural expectations that I was, but that envy gave way when it was time to read the lunch menu!

It was definitely a different experience having to watch every word I said and how I said it, since the most innocent words could offend.  The whole experience humbled me and taught me that despite growing up in a Chinese environment and culture, there is still much for me to learn.

 -Submitted by Alice Shih, a 1st year Full-Time MBA student in the International Business track.  Prior to joining University of San Diego’s MBA Program Alice worked as Research Programs Coordinator for the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD

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Buenos Aires! School of Business Administration at University of San Diego! Wal-Mart! Yes, indeed!

One of my main reasons for picking USD for my MBA  was the international opportunities that the School of Business Administration (SBA) provides. We talk about global MBA’s being important in setting one apart from the crowd. The international business experiences at USD, coordinated by the Ahler’s Center for International Business, aim at giving a holistic business and social experience fitted into a 3 week schedule in any of the multiple countries that they have affiliations with. It has always been my life-long dream to visit Argentina and getting the opportunity to do so and work for a major global brand like Wal-Mart Argentina was definitely a dream come true.

Taking the Social Entrepreneurship class in Buenos Aires was an eye-opener. The SBA is keen on teaching its students the values of being a socially responsible entrepreneur in today’s political and business climate. Learning about the different bureaucratic styles of government, the ways to do business and the ways to tackle the severe headwinds that entrepreneurs face made me realize my complete lack of knowledge of a different lifestyle. Visiting the recovered factories where people work on meager stipends and seeing the efforts they make to keep the people happy and engaged was also a humbling moment. These are people working to make ends meet, not to have global safety or quality standards.

Buenos Aires1

For my international consulting practicum my team worked with Wal-Mart Argentina to analyze current accounts payable process and suggest improvements; use the suggested electronic invoicing process and make it leaner; come up with a financial and economic feasibility model for the electronic invoicing go-live that the Wal-Mart finance team was planning. My team fed off each other’s strengths and ensured that the final product was over and above what the client had expected and thus ensured the client’s satisfaction. We compared the old process to the new and eliminated five days of non-value added work in order to implement the new process. We also analyzed cost savings and revenue to come up with a net present value (NPV) analysis with an internal rate of return that exceeded expectations of Wal-Mart finance personnel.

Buenos Aires2

My experience in Argentina can be summed up in two words: enlightening and privileged. It taught me a lot, both academically as well as personally. It was a privilege to be in Argentina. I learned so much participating in group projects during the SBA’s Social Entrepreneurship class as well as the project with a great bunch of people that I would love to work with again.

Buenos Aires3

-Submitted by Swastik Mukherjee,
1st year student in the Full-Time MBA Program,
International Business Track  

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Corporate Social Responsibility… Internationally


Check out the blog post today from the Ahler’s Center for International Business – one of University of San Diego’s Centers of Excellence.  The post talks about the CSR-related consulting projects completed by MBA students in both Brazil and in the Dominican Republic. Enjoy!

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“Reverse Innovation:  The epicenter of disruptive revolution”

Ahlers Center International Speaker SeriesDr. VG
Dr. Vijay Govindarajan

“Nobody has a monopoly over good ideas.”
-Kevin O’Leary

It couldn’t have been proven better than by Reverse Innovation. It was an honor to participate in the talk by Dr. Vijay Govindarajan (popularly known as Dr. VG) – Coxe Distinguished Professor at Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College and undeniably one of the best “Thinkers of the world.” Here are a few highlights of Ahlers Center International Speaker Series Luncheon, and I hope to do justice in summarizing Dr. VG’s thought process.

“Non-consumers have the same issues as consumers.”  With simple yet essential understanding of consumer behavior, the world has been missing out on better serving communities and countries whose needs (that might not seem so significant now – at least from an investment perspective) can be the very stem for innovative ways to address generic issues.  Reverse innovation is fundamentally true across all industries and will change the thinkers’ perception of “price paradigm,” pushing them towards low- cost, yet high- quality solutions.

Dr. VG1-001


Reverse Innovation

Dr. VG gave a number of examples of Reverse Innovation, including the example of Narayana Hrudayalaya, a for-profit multispecialty hospital chain in India. Through this example, Dr. VG demonstrated how a low-cost and high-quality Indian healthcare service provider has become a global healthcare envy. The hospital has been the most profitable in its field by replicating what was demonstrated years ago by Henry Ford, who created mass production lines in the automobile industry, which was only perceived to be a craft until then. They also stand testimony to the fact that quality effectively needs to be better in poorer countries, which makes the solutions created in emerging markets more acceptable to the problems of rich nations. By working on economies of scale, where inventory control, standardization and cost-cutting are key, Narayana Hrudayalaya looks forward to serving the US health care needs in the Cayman Islands – an example of how reverse innovation can be adapted to serve wealthier countries at a fraction of the anticipated cost.

While touching more on the projects that Dr. VG has pioneered, the “$300 dollar house“ is a fascinating initiative that made us rethink the multiple industries from which reverse innovation can emerge. Doing more from less, and committing in doing better to society while making a profit seemed like the perfect advice for MBA students as indeed charity is not scalable but a challenge for innovation.

When questioned about which topics excites Dr. VG the most about innovation, it was great to hear him speak about healthcare, education and housing as the primary motivating issues in the world giving endless opportunities to entrepreneurs and businesses to capture. The fabulous one-hour ended on a great note with Dr. VG highlighting on income inequality being the number one issue in the world and how the future generation should work towards compassionate and inclusive capitalism for the greater good.

Written by
Sudeeptha Jothiprakash, a first year Full-Time MBA student in the International Business track
Prior to joining USD Sudeeptha worked at SAP Labs a global giant in the IT industry. Her experience in her 4 year tenure was as an Operations lead for process improvement, resource & vendor management. She is highly committed to sustainability through CSR and sustainable initiatives.

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USD MBA Students Studying Abroad – Fall 2014

USD’s Ahlers Center for International Business is dedicated to offering students international experiences, including International Consulting Practicums, Short-Term Graduate Study Abroad sessions, and Semester Exchange Programs. Many of my fellow classmates chose to mobilize the Semester Exchange Program opportunity this fall. Here is a brief summary of their experience so far, in their own words.

Andrea Ruiz
2nd year Full-Time MBA student – International Business track, General MBA

“After sharing classrooms in San Diego with an awesome cohort representing 11 countries, I didn’t think it could get more international than that–but it did! I’m spending a semester at KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux, France. My classes will include Sustainable Supply Chains, Retail Strategies, Social Entrepreneurship, Qualitative Marketing Research, and an intensive French language course.

As much as I thought I understood French culture, my preconceptions are turned upside down every day. Class schedules and classrooms are never fixed, locals are closed off, trams and buses are always packed, stores are often closed when I need them, and my head hurts at the end of the day from trying to communicate in a new language.

Then, I take a breath. And I capture the lessons that I will take home – the adaptability, the serenity under pressure, and the curiosity that drives success in any business challenge. It’s a blessing to be in this beautiful city – which is inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. What a wonderful place to internalize a little more of what it means to serve, to lead and to grow!”

Andrea's clicks- Bordeaux, France

Andrea’s clicks- Bordeaux, France

Michael Foster
2nd year Full-Time MBA student – International Business track, Corporate Finance Concentration

“Hello from Spain! I am currently studying at IE Business School in Madrid. So far, I have been impressed with the professors and cohort. In each class you’ll find a wide variety of countries represented, so discussions are typically very insightful. My favorite class in term 1 has been Trillion Dollar Challenges. As the name states, this class focuses on the biggest problems facing the world and the potential solutions.

In my free time, I have been working on my Spanish and exploring the city. I managed to find a traditional Mexican taco shop that is almost as good as California’s Mexican food. Other than the tacos, I have been enjoying the wide selection of Turkish food. In order to keep my figure, I joined a gym and a basketball league.

If you have the opportunity to study at IE, I highly recommend it. The MBA program is one of the best in Europe and living in Madrid is a great experience.

My classes this semester:

1) Applied Corporate Finance
2) Private Equity and Financial Statements
3) Trillion Dollar Challenges
4) Bootstrapping for Startups
5) Corporate Governance
6) Problem Solving through Creative Design
7) War, Sales, & Marketing”

Michael in Madrid, Spain

Michael in Madrid, Spain

Melissa Canet
2nd year Full-Time MBA student – International Business track, Marketing Concentration

“Hola desde Madrid!

The culture here in Madrid is very different than that of San Diego. So far my Madrid city high lights include not having to deal with parking and taking the metro every day to school. The city is beautiful and very clean. I am currently enrolled in 8 classes here and they are split up into two sessions. My first session classes are:

1) Business Analytics
2) Customer Management and Business Intelligence
3) Emerging Economies
4) Social and Digital Media I
5) How to take a company International

My second session classes are:

1) Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce
2) Search Marketing & Social Media (II)
3) Premium, Luxury & Creative Business Entrepreneurship

The students here are very diverse and come from all over the world. I can walk into the cafeteria and will hear five or six different languages being spoken. There is a great group of both full time and exchange students here, and all of them bring so much to the table. Being here is truly one of the highlights of my MBA program, and I’m so grateful to USD for offering it.”

Melissa in Madrid, Spain

Melissa in Madrid, Spain

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Watch this space for more on semester exchange programs!

-Prita Karanjkar

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