Frontier Market Scouts

Like many of my International Policy Study peers, I was confused by the choice of Development Project Management Institute (DPMI) or International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) as the mandatory finale to my MIIS experience. But neither one seemed to be quite what I was looking for, and I was putting off the decision like a champion procrastinator. Then, as the clock ticked towards the last possible moments, I got a lucky break.

Someone had heard from someone who heard from someone that I speak a bit of Portuguese (to be technical, “eu falo português”), and soon the movers and shakers behind the mysterious new Frontier Market Scouts program were on my radar, very politely asking me if I’d be interested in going to Brazil. It seemed like an odd question, as if anyone ever refuses to go to Brazil.

There was just one major hitch. I am a development student. Frontier Market Scouts is all about business. My gut reaction: I CAN’T do it! It’s going to be TOO HARD.

GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF! I said, well… to myself. You are a MIIS student, you CAN do it! We’re all here because we have huge tolerances for scary, challenging endeavors, right?

So I pulled myself together, signed up for the month-long series of intense prep workshops in June, and got ready to learn about business. More specifically, to learn about how to “become a talent scout and investment manager serving local entrepreneurs and social-minded investors in low-income and weak-capital regions of the world. The scouts provide due diligence for investors and technical assistance for entrepreneurs with the goal of generating high-quality deal flows and supporting portfolio companies at a low cost.” You got all that?

Business models. Profit margins. Entrepreneurship. Venture capital. Social impact investment. Overhead. Scalability. Portfolio? Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes, my first couple of days were pretty rough, like trying to become completely fluent in a foreign language after watching a subtitled movie. I kept making enthusiastic pitches about helping people, and my MBA peers kept asking me confusing questions about supply chains, products and revenue.

It took a while before I got my head around how a businessperson thinks, and how, to my development-minded delight, a company’s profit could ultimately translate to widespread poverty reduction. Strangely enough, by drawing a decisive link between the worlds of capitalism and NGOs, the glimmers of a real solution to the eternal problem of grinding, joyless poverty was starting to emerge. All of a sudden, and very unexpectedly, business became a part of my worldview.

I’ll be heading to Brazil in January to take the reins from the very brave First Scout in Brazil, Grace Andrews. So far, it’s looking like the marriage between business and development is going to be a very happy one.

Please check out the FMS website and the blogs of Scouts already abroad:

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Summertime: IBP – International Business Plan

After the rocky seas of finals and finishing all lingering assignments before the emergence of summer has finally calmed, just three days after the end of the school year, I found myself in class once again. Why you may ask? Because I decided to enroll in SUMMER SCHOOL!

I must admit, the first groggy week back in school, I was half dead, limp and tired, however my professor Bruce Paton, who sadly left this year, kept the Global Strategies Course interesting and interactive. Additionally, being back with my MBA chums was also nice. The two week intensive course which we participated in is a requirement for all MBA students who wish to participate in their IBP. This year, our two week course included three presentations, several group projects, and a 10 page paper.

Once the class was over, I took a few days to rest. Others were not so lucky and pushed on ahead by taking the Frontier Market Scout courses. Little did we know that the summer would only get busier from then on!


What is IBP? IBP is the abbreviation of International Business Plan. It’s a chance for students to complete international focused consulting work before graduation, and is in essence the capstone project for MBA’s at MIIS. IBP is a team based cross-cultural company sponsored course, whereas students receive guidance from both an academic advisor and company liaison.

Your top three

For those of us who knew we were going to participate in our IBP during the summer the hardest part was picking a project. This year, the projects we had to choose from included:

            1) John Muir Geo-tourism Center & Preserve

            2) Monterey Mushrooms

            3) Sacred Valley Sustainable Development Project – Andean Alliance

            4) Citrix Online

Each of these projects has an international component. The John Muir project members are working on developing an international marketing iniative to introduce American geo-tourism to the world.

While Monterey Mushroom is a well known food production company that, due to the high level of demand for its product, is currently working with MIIS students to design an international food production facility.

The Andean Alliance is a social-enterprise project in Peru which is working on helping an non-profit organization create an sustainable business plan, as well as creating a program that would create wealth in the community.

Lastly, my project concerns an IT company that is planning to expand and provide its remote user with its signature software. My team is designing a go-to-market strategy that the company can use to market its product throughout Asia.

So as you can see, while school is out for summer for most MIIS students, the IBP course is keeping the other half of us very busy! We are gaining the chance to work as consults for domestic and international firms alike, and actively find ways to enhance our own skills and provide valuable service to businesses working on an international scale. On top of that, you get a chance to work with some great people.

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As I slogged through information on thousands of potential grad schools around the world, my one criterion – heavy on the languages – just didn’t seem to be anywhere. I had jumped wildly between five languages in my high school and undergraduate years, and the idea of having to pick just one was not appealing.

As I scanned the course catalogue at MIIS, my otherwise perfect dream school, I struggled with the eternal dilemma: Spanish or French? Or Arabic?! Giving up one in favor of the other seemed a scandalous waste of opportunity (or in our International Economics parlance, a high opportunity cost). “Why can’t I take them all?” I whined to my advisor.

She patiently informed me that, not being the first linguistic overachiever MIIS has seen, there was already something that gave would-be polyglots a clever alternative to degree requirements: B.U.I.L.D. (Beyond yoUrself In Language Development).

I know a lot of people who look aghast at the idea of taking a language class “for fun” but luckily for me, MIIS is almost entirely populated with the exact kind of person who does think it’s fun. Seriously. All of a sudden, a bright vista of tongue-twisting languages opened up – Italian, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, Bulgarian, Mandarin, Japanese, German – even American Sign Language!

The MIIS web site has a little blurb on how B.U.I.L.D. got started as the idea of a “language club to give future teachers a venue to get some experience in the classroom and to give students a chance to learn a language without prerequisites.”

Instead of starting something new, I decided to reunite with a couple of old flames before they burned out completely. My Portuguese and French classes are the highlight of my week, and I can’t stop telling people how much I love B.U.I.L.D. for letting me explore beyond my course credit limits. Who knows? Maybe I’ll tackle Bulgarian next semester.

Be sure to check out the B.U.I.L.D. blog and web site:

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Japan Relief Fund-raising at MIIS

Japan Relief Fund

It was 6 am, Pacific Time when I got the call. Both of my sisters were calling from Washington DC to see whether I was okay, as they heard that the tsunami that hit Japan may potentially hit California as well. In a study cocoon for the last day or so, it was the first time I heard what many people around the world had already learned: that the biggest disaster to hit Japan since World War II had just occurred.

I spent the next two hours trying to reach friends and family in Japan. Having worked in Japan as an JET instructor, I knew many people living in different regions in Japan. Additionally, my Aunt is originally from Japan and most of her family lives in the Northern region.

Once I reached campus, the day moved by quickly with people exchanging news about their families and friends on campus. Some students were frightened because they could not reach their family members, some were horrified by the powerful ocean, and a feeling of helplessness as we all watched the water sweep people away.

The Text

Later that night, I received an email that day from my friend Emily asking “Can we do something?” The same thought had been circulating through my head; however I didn’t know where to start. I started with reaching out to Ashley Arrocha, the director of Student Services at Monterey Institute of International Studies, and asking if any of the proceeds could be donated to the Japan Relief Effort; student council responded promptly with an overwhelming agreement to donate all Follies funds to the Japan Relief Fund.

MIIS’s Reaction

Acts of generosity like this would be echoed again and again, as MIIS students, faculty and staff united to help with a fund-raising efforts that has so far accumulated over $8000. Faculty and students from all programs have volunteered to donate their time, their money, and their skills so that we could organize a fund-raising drive that has run roughly from 11 am to 6 pm for two straight weeks. A great part of the success of these efforts is in thanks to Prof. Akaha, the faculty point person for organizing all Japan Relief Fund related events. He has recently organized a partnership with the Minor Foundation that will match all our proceeds dollar for dollar, starting from those collected for the Follies.

Community Reaction

Recently we have taken fund-raising off-campus to the local Farmer’s Market, and once again I was amazed by the reception from the Monterey community. I always knew that this community was a friendly one; however, it was great to see people gather together for the same good cause. And in this situation no act of kindness big or small is to be overlooked.

For more information on how you can give, please go to:

1) Look for the Monterey Institute Logo on the page to make an online donation to the MIIS Community Japan Relief Effort securely through Paypal:

2) Watch a video of MIIS students, staff, and faculty sending well wishes to friends in Japan:

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Mentors Make a Difference: Preparing for the Career Fair

I quickly learned the truth about the Monterey Institute Career Fair barely into my second semester at MIIS. As students, we are not expected to roll in around noon and cruise the booths if we have nothing else to do – something I remember vividly from my undergrad days – but are to show up bright and early, dressed to impress, armed with gleaming résumés and gung ho energy to boot. Suffice it to say, I was woefully unprepared.

Step One: Help! I ran to my advisor in a semi-panic about making a successful debut at the Career Fair. She assured me that with some careful planning ahead of time, all would be well.

Step Two: Résumé! Unbeknownst to me, the little document I had been parading around with since getting my bachelor’s was very much in need of improvement. My advisor gave me excellent tips, and we sent several drafts back and forth before it looked just right.

Step Three: Research! I was advised to check out the list of organizations participating in the Fair, select a handful that interested me, and learn their missions by heart so that I could ask the kinds of questions that prospective employers actually want to hear.

Step Four: Schmooze! This is what I had always struggled with. Networking, making useful contacts, ferreting out the people and places that can provide the best career connections; this had never come naturally to me. And based on the networking workshops that were offered at MIIS in the run-up to the fair, it seemed that networking did not come naturally to many other people.

Step Five: Attend! Unfortunately, I had to miss out on the most crucial element to Career Fair success, which is to actually participate. I ended up getting sick the day of the fair and had to miss it. However, friends and classmates gave the fair great reviews, and if they didn’t come away with guaranteed future jobs, they definitely walked out with more confidence and a better idea of what their professional options are.

Although I ultimately had to miss the fair, I still have a shortlist of attractive organizations, main contacts, and a revamped résumé all ready to go for my career search. And since I have more than a year to go at MIIS, I still have next year’s fair to attend. Now there’s no excuse not to get a fabulous internship, followed by an even better job after graduation. All in all, it looks like the Career Fair really does what it’s intended to do, which is to put our experiences here at MIIS into a real professional context and remind us that the world is waiting to see what we can do as international professionals.

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Winter 2010 Commencement

On December 11, the MIIS community celebrated the Winter Commencement Ceremony in the Golden State Theater in downtown Monterey.  The 1,000-seat theater was nearly full, as the Winter Class of 2010 walked to receive their degrees. This ceremony was quite similar to most others, including bagpipe procession, a wide array of brightly colored gowns representing nations near and far, and a warm address from President Ramaswamy. What made this ceremony unique and memorable was the student and faculty speeches.

Professor Moyara Ruehsen, recent recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award, delivered the first of the two speeches, leaving the graduating class and audience with three key points. These guidelines were to keep a steady moral compass, make time for love and family, and strive for improvement while having no regrets. The most riveting, if not eye opening, was Ruehsen’s encouragement for the graduating class to copulate.  As instructor for the public speaking workshop I spoke about in a previous blog, Ruehsen delivered a well-organized speech with personal stories and meaningful messages while keeping a light hearted tone throughout.

Miriam Rayward, fellow classmate from Ruehsen’s public speaking workshop, delivered the Student Speech. She told the remarkable story about how her father overcame extreme adversity as a Palestinian refugee only to become a doctor in Spain. Through her father’s story, Miriam expressed that life is not easy, but with hard work, anything is possible.  Her take-home was that “you are identified by how you manage the obstacles and challenges in your life.”

Having gone through the public speaking workshop with both speakers, I thought they were both well prepared and executed their respective speeches with brilliant delivery. Having been to many commencement ceremonies, I found these speeches especially engaging.

Best of luck to the Winter Class of 2010 MIIS Graduates!

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Thomas Hout

On December 7, Thomas Hout of Boston Consulting Group and a visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong joined us in Irvine Auditorium to discuss his economic view of the U.S.-China relationship.  Hout co-authored several books and articles, including a business bestseller called, Competing Against Time. With essays and articles published in Foreign Affairs and Harvard Business Review, Hout has a range of expertise in Strategy and Operations with a regional focus on Asia.

Although the event was titled “Is the U.S. in an Economic Cold War with China,” Hout started off by saying that the term “cold war” is not the best way to describe the conflict. Instead, he prefers the term “strategic competitor.”

To briefly sum up the conflict, China is amassing large stakes in U.S. Treasury Bills, acquiring significant stakes in resources abroad, with tight capital controls. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been crying foul over an overvalued Yuan, which keeps Chinese products cheap. On a consumer level, the U.S. has a problem of over consumption while China doesn’t consume enough.

Hout explained that the economies of both the U.S. and China are structurally prone to conflict by simple comparison. Considering cultural, political, and economic positions, we are experiencing a major geopolitical shift in paradigms from U.S. hegemony to a shared system. While some may argue that the U.S. military is unrivalled, from an economic perspective, China is experiencing phenomenal growth with high rates of savings and investment. Conversely, the U.S. is experiencing lower growth with high rates of consumption, and lower savings.

Rather than continuing unconstructive rhetoric like that of politicians and pundits, Hout encourages cooperation between these two radically different systems as we navigate this complex relationship.

I found this dialogue particularly interesting considering my three-year stay in China. As a student of Chinese both at Middlebury’s Summer Language School and at MIIS, many of my courses discussed whether the U.S.-China relationship is one of strategic partnership, or competition. This shared belief that both sides are thwarting each other’s growth ultimately leads to a lack of trust, and further weakens this critical relationship.  Ultimately, easing capital controls in China and letting the Chinese Yuan appreciate will help solve financial and trade problems on both sides of the Pacific.  This can only be achieved through a strategic partnership.

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Social Network Analysis Workshop

The other week, I attended the Network Analysis workshop. At first I thought this was a workshop on using social networking sites such as Facebook, but I was delightfully surprised when I learned that the course had deeper substance. Social network analysis helps us understand how the structure of groups influences their behavior.

Dr. Murphy and MIIS Students, Rob Schroeder, Yufei Wang, and Sarah Miller, hosted this workshop to raise awareness for Murphy’s course offering next semester called Introduction to Network Analysis. Examples of applications include understanding how information spreads through populations and in developing predictions in how to best destabilize a terrorist network.

Of the many programs available, this workshop highlighted a few, one of which is an open source program called ORA.  ORA allows its users to work with multiple nodes which can be used to identify local patterns and compare and contrast networks from a meta-network perspective.

Further applications can be made in realizing patterns in organizational behavior, spread of contagious diseases, and diffusion of information.  Those interested in taking advantage of this form of analysis should highly consider taking Dr. Murphy’s course next semester.

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Reza Aslan

Islam is one of the most politically divisive subjects in America today. Often misunderstood, Islam has been overly politicized and misrepresented in the media, particularly through gross generalizations based on a few hundred extremists. Recent examples include the controversies surrounding the mosque several blocks away from Ground Zero and Pastor Terry Jones’ call to burn the Koran.  Americans with such misunderstandings have drastically inaccurate and negative perceptions of Muslims, and therefore desperately need clarification through alternatives to misguided portrayals of Muslims through the media.

Dr. Reza Aslan has been successful in serving as a voice of reason as a scholar, an author, and a member of the Muslim community in this country. Author, Dr. Reza Aslan started his cross country book tour for the launch of his latest book “Tablet & Pen” at the Monterey Institute on Thursday, November 4 where he addressed a packed Irvine Auditorium.

While briefly discussing his latest book, Aslan spoke to his audience about how American history is riddled with bigotry towards Jews and Catholics, and now, towards Muslims.  He emphasized the inevitable shaming of those discriminating against Muslims today.  Select politicians and media sources exemplify ignorance and racism when they prioritize ratings over human dignity.

Dr. Aslan delivered his speech effortlessly and without notes, keeping his audience, both in Irvine and online, on their toes with sobering facts and humorous antidotes.

Dr. Aslan’s writing and commentary are complemented by his outreach efforts with a budding organization called Aslan Media ( that aims to bridge the gap in understanding of Middle Eastern culture in the west. A team of students from Professor Kropp’s Entrepreneurship class are tasked with developing a revenue model that can sustain Aslan Media’s efforts to connect with youth via social media like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogging and podcasting.

Dr. Aslan continued his book tour on The Colbert Report (November 8, 2010.)

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Effective Communication

In early October, students from the Public Speaking for Policy Makers workshop met for the first of a two-weekend workshop to learn how to become better public speakers. The workshop, instructed by Professor Moyara Ruehsen, borrows some core components of Toastmasters®, while focusing on different aspects of speaking, whether it’s humor, body gestures, introductions, listening, interviewing or apologizing. We are learning the fundamental skills of speaking in front of live audiences, recordings for television and radio, pitching proposals to bosses, interviews with Oprah, holding press conferences, etc…

In one exercise, I was given a card with instructions that read:

You are Tony Hayward’s replacement at BP. Months after the gulf catastrophe, a tanker has split apart in SF Bay, spilling tens of thousands of barrels of oil. The Liberian-owned tanker is transporting oil on behalf of British Petroleum. You are to hold a press conference and take questions from the press and several angry environmentalists.

I knew that when I finished apologizing I would be faced with tough questions, but the hardest caught me off-guard when my classmate asked, “When can we expect your resignation?” Not taking it personally, I was able to walk into this mock exercise knowing 15 minutes later I would be able to emerge relatively unscathed by my classmates’ harsh questioning.

In another assignment, we are asked to deliver Pecha Kucha presentations. Pecha Kucha is an onomatopoeic Japanese word for the sound of conversation.  A Pecha Kucha presentation consists of 20 slides, each slide shown for 20 seconds. Presenters only have six minutes and 40 seconds to present their ideas.  Instead of overwhelming slides with bullet points and small text, Pecha Kucha slides tend to have a single, captivating image with or without minimal text. The 20-second time restraint per slide allows for continuous flow; thus avoiding “death by powerpoint.”

My takeaways from the ongoing workshop are that I am learning how to become a better public speaker by knowing my strengths and building on my weaknesses through feedback from my peers and reviewing video recordings. This workshop is perhaps the most interactive out of any course I have taken at MIIS and I encourage those interested to look for future offerings.

Should anyone be interested in becoming a better speaker, I encourage you to sit in on the MIIS Toastmasters meetings every Thursday from 12:15PM to 1:15PM in Morse B106.

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