TuckCenter for Global Business and Government

Tuck Global Consultancy - Witnessing History in South Africa

January 2, 2014 -- Guest post by Kerry Laufer, Director, Tuck Global Consultancy --

Each year in December, Tuck Global Consultancy (TGC) teams travel to locations around the world as part of a second-year experiential learning course that offers professional quality global consulting services to clients worldwide, and an opportunity for Tuck students to lead and execute real-world consulting engagements for corporations, not-for-profits, and governments.  A key component of the course is an intensive primary research phase typically conducted outside the USA during the first three weeks in December.  TGC’s presence in Africa this year was its strongest ever, with 17 students working in four countries from December 2-20, 2013 – in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

One TGC team was based in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a larger project involving 20 students in four countries.  TGC was engaged by a global NGO for this project, whose mission is to reduce malnutrition through sustainable strategies aimed at improving the health and nutrition of populations at risk.  The task for second-year Tuck students Emile Santos, Caroline Bressan, Katie Lawrence, Sam Thacker, and advisor Julie Lang, was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Johannesburg-based organization’s private sector approaches to the delivery of nutritional food supplements for infants and young children, and offer recommendations for the future. While the three week travel phase of TGC projects is often the highlight of the course experience, it’s rare that students have the opportunity to be part of an extraordinary moment in history like the one this South Africa team experienced with the events surrounding the death of Nelson Mandela.

I was in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire the night CNN broke the news of Nelson Mandela’s death, packing for my scheduled flight to Johannesburg the next morning to check-in with the TGC team.  As soon as I arrived I felt compelled, as the entire TGC team did during the days that followed, to participate in the country’s grieving.  We went first to Mandela’s home in Houghton where a sizeable crowd was gathered, and where the atmosphere was festive and celebratory. The next day, we visited Mandela’s former home, now a museum, in Soweto.  Nearby, I lingered for a very long time in front of a large wall where people were writing.  There were hundreds of personal notes from strangers all over the world, in many languages, writing to a man whose life had touched each one of them profoundly. Later, we drove by the stadium where the memorial service was being held the next day, as television viewing areas were being set up in public areas throughout the city to accommodate the throngs wishing to experience the service in community with others.

While in Johannesburg, we all watched and felt how South Africans and the entire world grieved for Nelson Mandela and celebrated his life, and we participated alongside them. On my last night in Johannesburg, the night before the memorial service, we added our candles to the massive sea of flowers in the center of Nelson Mandela square after dinner.  It was raining.  And for the first time since I’d been there, a sense of deep, personal loss came over me. What an extraordinary privilege to experience this moment firsthand.  For the Tuck students and staff members there, it will forever be associated with their TGC experience.

Disclaimer: We welcome your responses and suggestions. Please be courteous, use respectful language, and support constructive debate. To keep the experience a positive one for all of our users, we reserve the right to make editorial decisions regarding submitted comment.