Six students in the Middlebury Institute Business Administration (MBA) degree program had the opportunity to dig deep into the world of cattle ranching, beef production, and export in Mexico as their final project this spring. The group traveled to Chihuahua, Mexico to conduct stakeholder interviews and tour ranches under sustainable, holistic management. Their research provided perspective for a comprehensive market study they conducted for a client as their International Business Plan, or final project in the program.
Four of the students, Angelina Skowronski MBA/MAIEP ’16, Joshua Riches MBA ’16, Wesley Hollingsworth MBA ’16, and Patty Viafara MBA ’16 worked on the research in Chihuahua over spring break, while two other team members, Nenneya Shields MBA ’16 and Roberto Koeneke MBA ’16, opted to stay in Monterey and focus on other aspects of the project. “We met with ranchers, toured slaughter houses, interviewed numerous stakeholders ranging from labor leaders to processing plant managers and explored markets,” says Viafara of their activities in Chihuahua. Adds Skowronski: “It was great. We had the opportunity to visit super remote ranches and really understand the issues. It is also incredibly beautiful there.”
Working on an intense project like this can be stressful and time consuming, but the students all agree that it was a worthwhile experience for a number of reasons. “It was really interesting to see how all of our lessons come together in one real life project like this,” says Viafara. The client wanted the group to study the opportunities for selling conservation friendly beef from Chihuahua in the United States which, apart from the field research, involved looking into issues such as trade, U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, analyzing the competition and researching possible price points. “Not only is this kind of real life experience great for our resumes,” adds Viafara, “but it also gives us valuable professional experience managing a client.”
Skowronski says that it was very important for the team to be able to take a big step like this with the support of faculty and under their guidance. They presented their final report to a panel of faculty members from the program before making their presentation to the client. “Another important lesson is how to successfully work as a team,” says Viafara. Skowronski agrees with that wholeheartedly, and remarks that they were lucky to be on such a strong team. “Everyone brought different but valuable skill sets to the table.”