For 16 years, faculty from Goizueta Business School have been traveling across the globe and spending a week in South Africa.

“South Africa is a really interesting place to think about drug discovery because they have the most magnificent floral kingdom there,” explains Kristy Towry, John M. & Lucy Cook Chaired Professor of Accounting.

This potential for innovation was what launched the relationship between Emory University faculty and South Africa in 2008. Emory School of Medicine professor Dennis Liotta originally pulled together the partnership, though it has evolved over the decades. Goizueta faculty still continue to travel to South Africa and teach business skills to budding medical entrepreneurs. Now, though, the relationship has expanded to include MBA students, highlighting the importance of this Goizueta global initiative.  

Biomedical Background

Towry was in a classroom one summer, when Michael Sacks popped his head in and asked if she wanted to go teach in South Africa later that year.

It was an immediate yes from Towry—after she checked her calendar.

Towry with 2019 competition winners

“Going to Africa was a lifelong dream of mine,” she says.

In alignment with Goizueta’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, the faculty teach biomedical and medical entrepreneurs business basics. It’s a kind of crash course on how to launch a business idea and seek financial backing.

These individuals bring their ideas, medical devices, drug discoveries and cures to a competition. As part of the process, semi-finalists have the opportunity to participate in this weeklong executive education. They learn how to develop a business plan, the importance of team composition, and how to meet potential funders.

“The enthusiasm of the participants is absolutely contagious,” says Sacks, professor in the practice of organization and management, professor of sociology (by courtesy), and faculty director of Woodruff Leadership Academy.

Participating in our program is a huge deal to them, and they are completely invested in learning and applying what we teach. It’s incredible to see such quick learning of complex and challenging material.

Michael Sacks

In addition to Towry and Sacks, Steve Walton, professor in the practice of information systems and operations management, was another core faculty member who collaborated on the experience. More recently, Nikki Graves, associate professor in the practice of organization and management, and Sandy Jap have traveled across the globe to join.

Faculty members in South Africa in 2017

Jap, Sarah Beth Brown Professor of Marketing, has taken Evening MBA students to Cape Town as part of Goizueta’s Global Experience Modules (or GEMs). While there, the group meet with entrepreneurs. Jap found their perspectives fascinating. So, when Towry extended the invite, Jap signed on immediately.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to complement my previous learnings about what it means to try to start a company in South Africa,” shares Jap.

Towry says every trip—and all the individuals she meets—inspire her.

As a business professor, I don’t often get to feel like what I do saves lives. But that is what happens in this program. We change the trajectories of the businesses we touch, many of which have life-saving potential.

Kristy Towry

“These are entrepreneurs, and yes, they want to make money. But across the board, their main inspiration is to change the world and improve and save the lives of Africans,” says Towry.

Goizueta’s Global Impact

Though things have looked a little different since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Goizueta faculty have interacted with hundreds of teams throughout the years. The competition is also now housed under The Innovation Hub, an agency of the Gauteng Province in South Africa.

“We greatly value the partnership with Emory’s Goizueta Business School through the executive education training in the Gauteng Accelerator Programme Innovation Competition,” shares Phuti Chelopo-Mgobozi, acting senior manager of bio-innovation.

We have created a platform that transcends borders, connecting local entrepreneurs with top-tier business teachers and mentors.

Phuti Chelopo-Mgobozi

“Goizueta is a strategic partner to The Innovation Hub due to its commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through the holistic and interactive teaching approach,” says Chelopo-Mgobozi. “This brings fresh perspectives and expertise to our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The scope of the relationship continues to evolve and expand. Now, Goizueta MBA students act as judges in a virtual Shark Tank style competition for these entrepreneurs. This all takes place about a month after the weeklong executive education course.

In addition, MBA students make the trek to South Africa as part of Global Experiential Modules in the spring. There, they meet with the Innovation Hub leadership as well as the competition participants and winners.

Many South African entrepreneurs worked with Towry, Sacks, and Walton in previous years. The Goizueta MBA students get the chance to see how that education has impacted their entrepreneurial journey—how Goizueta’s partnership has impacted these individuals’ lives.

As Goizueta looks to the future of this relationship, it’s one that’s robust, comprehensive, and ever-evolving.

“We are utilizing these relationships as opportunities to say ‘Are there ways for us to connect our faculty with other researchers, for co-authoring, or for collaborative research grants?’” says Megha Madan, senior associate director of Goizueta Global Strategy and Initiatives.

Keeping these relationships really shows the depth that Goizueta has and the impact on our students, staff, and faculty as global citizens.

Megha Madan

“We are investing in Emory’s commitment to using knowledge to improve human well-being and a global perspective on the human condition.”

Goizueta’s global strategy is designed to equip students to meet the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly interconnected world, empower faculty to lead and influence global scholarship and research, and position Goizueta as a school known for its global impact. Learn more here.