June 09, 2017

MBA students travel to Milan to explore luxury brands 

At left, from left, Dr. Jacqueline Elcik and Dr. Helen Caldwell tour the Lamborghini Museum with the MBA students.
At left, from left, Dr. Jacqueline Elcik and Dr. Helen Caldwell tour the Lamborghini Museum with the MBA students.

By Nikki Gyftopoulos ’18G

Graduate students in the Providence College School of Business’ MBA Goes Global program had the opportunity to travel to Milan, Italy, during the spring semester as part of the marketing elective course focused on global luxury brands taught by Dr. Helen Caldwell, assistant professor of marketing.

MBA Goes Global courses integrate travel experiences into the traditional classroom experience. The courses include pre- and post-class meetings and a week-long trip. Students receive first-hand knowledge and skills that enhance their learning and the opportunity to be successful in business positions anywhere in the world.

The 2016-17 academic year was the second year of international, short-term faculty-led courses in the MBA Program. Last year, 13 students traveled to Paris, France, as part of the elective course in global management.

During the trip to Italy, nine students, along with Caldwell and Dr. Jacqueline Elcik, business school assistant dean for graduate programs, assessment, and student engagement, were exposed to the high-quality and fashion-driven culture of Milan. Students had exclusive opportunities to visit luxury brand offices and showrooms and speak with management about their business and marketing strategies.

The MBA students enjoy the view after taking the 250 steps to the top of the Duomo, an Italian cathedral church, in Milan. From left are Nikki Gyftopoulos, Rose Mackey ’16, Alexis Egidio ’16, Alanna Fursich ’15, Ava Landry ’16, and Jaimie
The MBA students enjoy the view after taking the 250 steps to the top of the Duomo, an Italian cathedral church, in Milan. From left are Nikki Gyftopoulos, Rose Mackey ’16, Alexis Egidio ’16, Alanna Fursich ’15, Ava Landry ’16, and Jaimie Hartwell ’16.

“We were immersed in the world of high-end luxury goods from start to finish,” said MBA student Luke Weichbrod. “We had an opportunity to explore a number of companies to see the process of design, production, and sales. As you might imagine, we were exposed to highly proprietary information.”

The students first visited two luxury automobile companies, Ferrari and Lamborghini. At Ferrari, they took part in a marketing workshop led by Brand Director Marcello Caobelli and toured the Ferrari Museum. At Lamborghini, students were given an exclusive tour of the production line and saw employees at work in each step of production, from the stitching of leather seats to the exterior painting and detailing.

“We were able to see the behind-the-scenes operations of certain companies like Lamborghini, which demonstrated the value associated with an Italian-made product. Seeing the level of precision and individual customization that goes into each product explains how luxury companies are able to sell their goods at such high price points,” said MBA student Rose Mackey ’16. 

Other visits included the fashion house Kering Group, luxury jewelry company Pomellato, luxury fashion brand Bottega Veneta, luxury hotel Bulgari, and the Armani Museum.

“I found it interesting that a lot of the companies’ operations are fairly small in comparison to the popularity and awareness of each brand. For large companies like Gucci and Pomellato, you picture huge factories, when in reality, it is a relatively small number of skilled artisans who have been with the company for decades,” said MBA student Ava Landry ’16.    

Along with the business visits, students gained perspectives from guest lecturers, including Nicola Guerini, the executive director of the Milano Fashion Institute; Donatella Zappieri, luxury goods strategic consultant and Bocconi University professor; Francesca Natali, tea stylist and managing director of the Orientis Group; and Margherita Missoni, the heiress to the Missoni fashion house.

“My favorite lecture was from Margherita Missoni. She spoke very candidly about her personal and professional experiences. I was most impressed with her entrepreneurial spirit to start a company on her own, even though she came from a very well-off family business,” said Weichbrod.

The PC group is accompanied by IES Abroad faculty at the world-renowned Pomellato jewelry headquarters.
The PC group is accompanied by IES Abroad faculty at the world-renowned Pomellato jewelry headquarters.

Caldwell expressed great satisfaction after returning from Milan, saying she believes the trip met the expectations and objectives of the MBA Goes Global program. Students gained experiential learning and exposure to how companies operate in the international environment, she noted.

One of her students, Alanna Fursich ’15, called MBA Goes Global “an amazing experience,” emphasizing that she felt fortunate to take the course and travel to Milan to see course themes and lessons from a close-up perspective.

“Not only do I have a better understanding of how global luxury brands market themselves internationally, but I was able to see firsthand the craftsmanship and effort that goes into making these luxury goods,” said Fursich.

In addition to the management and marketing courses offered in 2016 and 2017, PC offered courses in global project management both spring semesters in which students worked on projects at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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