Unity in Diversity: The Babson Latin American Forum
Hola, ¿cómo estás?. Well, that’s how much Spanish I have perfected thanks to my friends from Central and South America in Babson’s two-year MBA program. In my time here, I have taken a couple of short trips with friends from Peru and Mexico only to realize how similar our cultures are. So when I heard the Babson Latin American Forum was happening on April 6th I was the first few to buy the ticket.
The stellar lineup of speakers included Andres Moreno, founder Open English, and Alberto Vollmer, CEO of Santa Teresa. These two speakers stood out for me because they spoke about successful entrepreneurship along with making a social impact.
Santa Teresa has been manufacturing rum in Venezuela for 220 years. Alberto Vollmer belongs to the fifth generation of the family behind Santa Teresa; while at the helm of the business, he’s taken the company to new heights and generated tremendous social impact. At the forum, he didn’t speak about the company or the rum it manufactures. He focused on one of his most recognized projects: The Alcatraz Rugby Project.
A program of social reintegration for young people with behavioral problems, the Alcatraz Rugby Project has managed to dismantle ten criminal gangs without the use of violence. The project began after a security guard of the company was the victim of a hold up. Once arrested, those responsible were offered the choice of going to jail or paying for their actions by working, unpaid, for three months. They took the option of work and not only turned up but bought the rest of the gang (of over 20 members) with them. Through Rugby, Vollmer instills values in these former gang members; so far, more than 200 have participated in the program.
An important value that Babson instills in students is SEERS; concerns for people and planet stand alongside those of profit. Hearing Vollmer speak about it reaffirmed how important it is to help the community around where you operate, not only for your growth but theirs as well.
When Andres Moreno came onto stage, the crowd was in awe. In 2006, Moreno established a successful platform that teaches English online; it now operates in eight countries in South America. Moreno spoke about how his company focuses on delivering the best product and service to its consumers. It was a dream story–from founding the company in Venezuela, going to California to raise funds and meeting his wife (and partner in the company) to expanding to other markets, all while benefiting society. The best part though was seeing the ads for Open English where Moreno himself plays a frustrated and naive student who is having trouble learning the language. I hear they are extremely popular and funny in the Latin American countries.
More than hearing the inspiring speakers, it was great to see my peers working so hard to put on the forum. Even nicer: the audience stretched far beyond Babson’s spanish speaking population. The auditorium was filled with students from India, America and Thailand as well. More proof of Babson’s strong and connected international community!