The Foster MBA Global Business Association (GBA) is a student organization that plays a vital role in the MBA community by promoting a deeper understanding of global business dynamics. As the only club within our MBA program that focuses exclusively on global business, the GBA serves as a platform for students to explore and engage with cross-border and cross-cultural business issues that are increasingly relevant in today’s interconnected world.
In this feature, Cynthia Vargas, a graduate of the FTMBA Class of 2023 and ex-president of the Global Business Association shares her leadership journey.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My professional background is in talent acquisition, and I made the decision to pursue business school to transition into a more strategic HR role within the tech industry. I’m originally from Mexico City, and I have spent the past seven years living in the United States.
One aspect of my personality that truly defines me is my deep passion for global cultures. Personally, I find joy in traveling and immersing myself in different cultures around the world. Professionally, I am always eager to seek out opportunities with an international scope, allowing me to bridge cultural gaps and contribute to global workplaces.
During my time at business school, I had the honor of serving as the President of the Global Business Association (GBA). This role provided me with the platform to bring multicultural experiences to MBA events, fostering an inclusive and diverse environment for all students. Post-MBA, I will be joining Microsoft as an HR Program Manager as part of the HR Rotational Program.
What unique role does your club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?
We empower the community by providing opportunities to support students with global backgrounds in traversing the U.S. job market, by supporting our program’s cultural diversity through celebrations and awareness activities, and by enhancing students’ knowledge and awareness of global business.
Day of the Dead observation by GBA
How has your club influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?
We provide a platform for students to explore and understand the cultural diversity that permeates business exchanges. We want to help students develop a global mindset and cross-cultural understanding. In that sense, GBA has contributed to the program’s growth and its ability to prepare students for the complexities of the evolving business landscape.
Which GBA events have been most popular or successful and why?
One of the most popular event categories, in collaboration with International Affairs, is our flagship cultural celebrations. These events, such as Diwali in the fall quarter, Lunar New Year in the winter quarter, and Latin American Carnival in the spring quarter, have consistently attracted many attendees.
Video of lunar new year celebration: https://vimeo.com/
I think these events are popular because they offer a unique opportunity for social interaction, indulging in delicious food, and learning about different cultures. We put a lot of effort and care into organizing each event. We want to ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone involved, from beautiful decorations, traditional music, and authentic cuisine, we try to create an ambiance that resonates with students, allowing them to appreciate and celebrate the diverse cultures represented within the MBA program.
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
One of the key learnings as president is the importance of building and relying on a strong team to achieve our goals. Trying to accomplish tasks alone would not lead to success, especially when organizing large-scale events.
This is still a big area of opportunity for me but being in GBA leadership helped me understand that it’s essential to recognize the strengths of others and delegate responsibilities. Recognizing that no one has all the answers or abilities, I learned the importance of reaching out and seeking support when needed.
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up?
Being GBA’s president was such a rewarding experience, it gave me the opportunity to meet people and share my culture and learn from others. Being a student-led organization, a big priority and challenge is to get enough members and raise funds necessary to put together events that deliver great experiences to our student community. We are a small class, and we are already competing for attention and funds. Seeing this, it was crucial to change our strategy from flying solo to organizing most of our events in partnership with other clubs. That way, costs are shared and we get more attendance. This was such a great learning and I encourage anyone thinking about leading a club to do the same, teamwork is the name of the game!
Do you have a favorite memory of your time with GBA?
Absolutely! My favorite memory was planning the very first Latin Carnival with my fellow GBA & International Affairs leaders Jose Mario Pena, Santi Pereda, Ariogni Suarez, Ni Yang, and Govinda Lalwani. There is a very small community of Latin American students at Foster, but we were not going to let that stop us from sharing our culture with our classmates. The event was a huge success; seeing people enjoying, having a good time, dancing, and most importantly learning more about Latin America and letting go of the harmful stereotypes that surround our culture. It was one of the highlights of my MBA experience. This event holds a special place in my heart as it encapsulates the essence of GBA’s mission, the spirit of collaboration, the joy of sharing one’s culture with others, and the transformative power of fostering cultural appreciation through meaningful events and experiences.
Performers at the 2023 Latin Carnival
How have you worked with other clubs or UW Graduate Schools to provide networking opportunities?
Aside from International Affairs, we partnered with Women in Business, Wellness Club, Strategy Club, and Diversity in Business.
Which students join GBA and why?
Everyone should join, because inevitably, as a business leader you are bound to have projects with an international scope, or maybe you are going to manage a team abroad, or if you want to implement a strategy in a different market you need to learn about and be mindful of the cultural diversity that exists in the world. This club is for all domestic and international students alike. We all benefit from having culturally aware business leaders, no matter where you are from.
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students as to why they should join GBA’s leadership?
If you are in a full-time program, you are likely seeking a fully immersive experience, and MBA club leadership opportunities are a great way to do just that. You will learn so much, from managing a small group of people to planning events and raising funds. These are skills I didn’t have before, but now feel comfortable with. If you are passionate about cultures and travel, or are just curious and excited to learn, GBA leadership is the place for you.
How is GBA moving forward Foster’s purpose?
We Foster Leaders
We Foster Insights
We Foster Progress
…To Better Humanity
We foster better leaders by contributing to a more well-rounded MBA experience. A leader who is more culturally aware will know and respect the different perspectives from people on their team.