This winter, the Immersion Experience Program (IXP) continued its focus on participant-centered, field-based experiential learning activities.ÿIn January, almost 400 HBS students took part in six international programs – China, India, Peru, Rwanda, UAE/Bahrain and Vietnam – and three domestic programs – New Orleans, Silicon Valley and Boston – giving first- and second-year students an opportunity to learn from each other and from their observations and meetings in the field.ÿ
The IXP has its roots in student efforts to address the enormous problems of rebuilding New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Working with faculty and MBA staff, these students established a number of cross-sector relationships with organizations associated with the recovery efforts, ties which continue in some cases. Since then, the IXP has responded to continued strong student interest in project-based opportunities for learning and social impact with the introduction of the Rwanda IXP this January. Two of the Rwanda IXP student teams worked with Mission Schools International, which was founded by Brendan Kennealey (MBA ’06).ÿAs an MBA student, Brendan participated in the first New Orleans IXP.ÿBrendan said of the student teams working with him this year, “The HBS students did an amazing job and their work on entrepreneurship will not only be used in our school, but in the national curriculum as well.ÿThey have had a huge impact in a very short time.”
Regina Abrami, who has served as faculty chair of IXP since spring 2008, continues to innovate and expand on what experiential learning means at HBS. This January, she led the Vietnam IXP where, in addition to other activities, students participated in 12 short-term business development consulting projects with start-ups in Ho Chi Minh City. Students worked with the companies to scope, research and produce a deliverable in a very short time with faculty and staff guidance. Already, some organizations have implemented the recommendations that students made after their visit.ÿOne IXP partner organization in Vietnam commented that the “knowledge and fresh insight this group brought to the table” will enable its organization “to move forward and begin implementing a growth strategy for the future.”
In other IXPs, students were able to do deep-dives into different functions within a business organization, assess the institutional constraints of economic development through scenario planning and focused interviewing, as well as obtain one-on-one mentoring from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States. All said, “the classroom, expanded” continues to grow as students build connections to organizations and alumni around the world. Whether in Boston or in China, students are going out to uncover and assess the opportunities and challenges of doing business in a given context or sector, bringing the “takeaways” back to each of us in section discussions and conversations around campus.