Uganda is a beautiful, land-locked country lying just west of Kenya, east of Rwanda and south of Sudan.   It is developmentally at least 20 years behind its eastern neighbor, a true testament to the devastating, long-lasting effects of the military dictatorship that destroyed the country in the post-colonial power struggles that ravaged much of Africa.  Its people are kind and friendly (except maybe, Charlie, Team Moderate/Savage’s white-water rafting guide – more below)

Today it feels safe and thriving – ready for those who are willing to get in early and set up shop.  There is very little infrastructure – roads are mostly unpaved outside of the major cities and many homes still lack power or running water.   It was somewhat reminiscent of the poverty one might see in some parts of India, just without all the cows and 80% fewer people.

Kenya/Uganda Chazen 2016/2017 began its trip here.  Our first meeting with Prism Construction at their Emin Pasha hotel in Kampala was a great introduction to the entrepreneurial spirit in Uganda.  Prism started off as a shipper of foodstuff and supplies to Rwanda and South Sudan, but quickly pivoted to where opportunity lay, first with construction and now micro-finance.  Watch these guys, because they seem to be the masters of reinvention and following opportunity.


Emin Pasha Hotel – Kampala

From Kampala we drove to Jinja, where, according to Ugandans, the source of the Nile River lies.  Along the way we stopped at a Shell (now franchised in Africa by Vivo Energy – a joint venture between Vitol Group, Helios Investment Partners and Shell), which offered a tiny and copious array of typical western gas station snacks as well as more typical Ugandan treats, like dried jackfruit and Trinity – a branded version of a popular Western Ugandan drink made of millet and sorghum.  Xavier, our tour guide, convinced us to buy one, which after we took one sip of this partially fermenting, watered down porridge, we happily gifted to him.  After our snack run, we drove over the Owen Falls Dam, which along with Uganda’s many other hydroelectric dams, helps to generate power for much of East Africa.

Xavier and his favorite drink – a sour/sweet millet and sorghum concoction

Once in Jinja we went straight for the beer – arriving at Nile Brewery and visiting their massive brewery.  A model of health & safety – this is the place you need to contact when writing your own health & safety manual.  Nothing is left out and everyone is held responsible.  We had our first taste of Nile Special, Uganda’s local beer and were ready for the Nile.

Health & Safety in action at Nile Brewery

We boarded a party boat, which was blasting Rhianna as it docked, and headed out on a peaceful sunset cruise to Samuka Island – a potentially gorgeous resort that is apparently packed with campers and ‘honeymooners’ on Saturday night, but totally deserted on the Friday we arrived.  Again, an opportunity waiting to be picked up by some Real Estate PE company comfortable with a 20 year hold.

Lovely conversation on the Nile


Nile Special – Uganda’s favorite beer


Docking at Samuka Island


Samuka Island – Honeymoon Suite
Sunset on the Nile

We spent the night at the Jinja Nile Resort, where armed guards and monkeys made sure we slept safely through the night and greeted us bright and early as we departed for white-water rafting on the Nile.  We split in to several groups based on how adventurous we wanted to be in the rapids.  My group opted for Moderate – and found ourselves in Charlie’s raft.  Charlie was sarcastic and snarky and expertly trained us to paddle and crouch.  When we were the only raft not to flip on one of the rapids, we started to see his disdain for us fade a little and by the end we had earned his respect.  In addition to our unforgettable guide – our rafting experience was memorable for the tranquil water inbetween rapids as well as the sudden appearance of a baby python in the water that sent all of us who had just jumped in for a swim, scrambling for the raft.

Tired, yet feeling accomplished, we boarded our buses and headed back to Kampala where we rang in the New Year watching fireworks.  2017 is looking pretty fortuitous from this side of the world.


Patagonia Preparations

Sonja Weaver-Madsen ’17

With just under two weeks to go until 30 students embark on the GIP Patagonia trip throughout the Coyhaique region, I have found myself reflecting on my preparation throughout the semester. The fall months have been dominated by studying team dynamics, researching waterproofing techniques, and steadily building up a tolerance to carry a 50-60lb. backpack over uneven terrain for 10 days. While I have learned more at my local hiking store than I ever thought possible, in this post I want to share more about our in-class preparation prior to our upcoming meeting with the Northern Outdoor Leadership School guides.

This semester has called on each of us to explore our personal leadership style and think through our goals in taking on this journey. Our first of three intensive sessions with Professor Morris brought us into the field where teams practiced group communication when completing 15 obstacles in Riverside Park. While I was initially unsure about simulating a medical evacuation of a critically injured peer or purifying water using a filtration system just two blocks from campus, I left the session feeling more confident about the upcoming trip. Our second session pushed us to complete an Everest climbing simulation, afterwards debriefing how individual goals impacted each teams’ success. Finally, in our last session we dissected a disastrous expedition to understand the importance of authentic leadership. To close out our offsite preparation we established personal goals and shared them with a teammate who will help to hold us accountable and provide feedback throughout the trek. I’m happy to be embarking on this trip with my committed peers because it is one thing to think through goals from a comfy armchair and quite another to be accountable amid Patagonia’s notoriously volatile weather and long days of hiking. I’m so excited to learn from the men and women who have signed up to share this experience in Patagonia.

Making Memories in Mumbai

James Williams ’17

I think I speak for everyone when I say that one of the most fun parts of this trip has been getting to know classmates whom we would have otherwise not met.

Well, we had another great day today.

After a quick lunch:lunch

we it made to Tata’s corporate headquarters where we met with the company’s chief ethics officer.  Tata was founded in the late 19th century and has been a leading Indian conglomerate for sometime.  The business does about $100 B USD in sales every year with 70% of sales coming from overseas.  Our conversation ranged broadly from the challenges of executing in foreign environments to compensation philosophy but focused mainly developing a sustainable culture across Tata’s many different business units.


We spent sometime walking around Colaba Causeway after our meeting before heading to the ocean to check out marine drive.

Here’s a photo of the Queen’s Necklace:


Here’s one of Anindya Dutta explaining how business customs differ in India:


Well – it is almost midnight and I have to be up at 7 for another exciting day.

Tata for now.

East African Coffee

One of the main reasons I chose to come on the Uganda/Kenya Chazen trip was to be closer to the source of some of the world’s best coffee.  This is a little primer on the industry.  If you are at all interested in trying coffee from these regions, you can order Café Grumpy’s Ichamama (Kenya) or PT’s Coffee Roastinc Co.’s Gochatha (Kenya).

Crème Brûlée, Blackberry Jam, Port Wine(Photo Credit: PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. )

Coffee growing is an enormous part of both country’s economies, accounting for 60% of export revenue for Uganda (2000) and 3.8% in 2014 for Kenya.  Although Kenya’s coffee production seems significantly smaller in terms of export value than Uganda, it was still the 4th largest export good ($227M), trumped only by Tea ($957M) Refined Petroleum ($721M) and Cut Flowers ($700M).

Coffee production in Uganda is likely as old as the civilizations who have lived here.  The Robusta variety is indigenous to this country and makes up the bulk of its plantings.   Most coffee growers are small-scale farmers who grow other crops as well.  It is estimated that 1/3 of all rural households (1.2M families) produce some coffee.  The bulk is grown in the west, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, comprising of mostly Robusta plants, though some Arabica is grown at the base of Mt. Elgon in the East near Kenya.

Coffee production only began in 1893 in Kenya, surprising considering that Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee.  Most of the coffee grown here is of the Arabica variety and specifically SL28, which is susceptible to disease but more delicious and aromatic than the heartier varieties.  The main growing region is Nyeri County, about 2-4 hours north and slightly west of Nairobi, rich in volcanic soil.  Half of the production is from small farmers who bring their coffee cherries to a washing station co-operative where it is washed, dried and sold.

We are looking forward to trying these coffees and eventually seeing it first hand.


Click HERE to see a detailed family tree of coffee varieties and HERE to read about the actual chemical differences of the two.

Robusta: native to Uganda, resistant to pests and disease, thrives in humid environments, finished product usually found in instant coffees and filler for bulk coffee production

Arabica: native to Ethiopia, usually grown at higher altitudes and found in premium, single-origin roasts

Amazing Mumbai

James Williams ’17

The gang is all here!


We had a wonderful first night in Mumbai.  This is a photo of about half of us on the roof top of the Four Seasons – a truly beautiful downtown Mumbai property.  The large building in the background is the St. Regis, where we are staying.

Here’s another silly photo of us in an elevator!


We had dinner at a fantastic – some might call it devastatingly delicious – Chinese restaurant before calling it a night.

This morning we were fortunate to have a meeting with Ronnie Screwvala.  For our vast stateside readership, Mr. Screwvala is an Indian media mogul.  He founded his own broadcast channel called UTV during the earliest days of Indian TV privatization.  Since selling his business to Disney in 2012, Mr. Screwvala has allocated the majority of his time to scalable philanthropy and PE style investments.

Mr. Screwvala was very generous with his thoughts on what makes a good mentor (someone who can ask you 10 interesting questions every time you meet them), the direction of Indian media (print still has room to go, VOD is a challenged space) and how we might better ourselves in general.

We went for a nice drive along the ocean (see below)


before meeting with Reliance’s retail group.

Here’s the team, “looking fly” as the youngsters might say:


This was also an incredibly educational meeting and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite meeting between the two.

Not only did we learn about Reliance’s JV structure a ton about the retail landscape in India, but we got to hear about Reliance Jio’s push into the telephony space and learn more about the Ambani family.

Well – if you can’t tell from my effusive writing, we had a great day today.  I’m almost too exhausted to go to the surely fantastic dinner we are going to have tonight.  Almost.




Good Morning Mumbai

James Williams ’17 / India

Good Morning!

I woke up in Andheri (a suburb in Northern Mumbai) at an Airbnb this morning.  At dawn (thanks to jet lag), I took an Uber to the St. Regis to meet Liz Gao ’17 who arrived at 4:00 am from China.

I was happy I got up so early today for two reasons:

  1.  I beat the traffic.
  2. I got to watch the sun rise and the city wake up:dawn-in-mumbaiAbove is a photo I snapped from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Dawn is an interesting time in all cities and Mumbai is no exception.  I got to watch shops open up and quite a few people jogging.

Well – we are off to the Prince of Wales museum to check out some fine art.

Our trip officially begins tonight at 8:00 pm – I can’t wait.

Bucket List or Bust

Courtney Richardson ’17: South Korea/Hong Kong

Since I was accepted to CBS nearly two years ago, I’ve been not-so-secretly plotting how I’d work my way through my “Around the World” bucket list during my time at school. What used to be just a laundry list of countries I saw in coffee table books or screenshots I saved from Instagram all of a sudden became a tangible reality.

For the first time in life, I was surrounded by a group of peers who had the same passion (and equal intent) to see the world. And even more than that, we all finally had the time to do it. Never would I expect that someone would send me a group text at midnight on a random Tuesday saying “Hey, you want to go to the Philippines”, and I’d end up booking a flight within hour. But that’s been the beauty of my CBS experience.

I’ve wanted to take every opportunity to make the most of these absurd and amazing two years that we call business school to see the world. It was this mindset that took me to beaches of Punta Cana with more than half of class of 2017 last fall and what led me to the deserted shores of the Island of Palawan with fifteen of my clustermates last spring. It is that same mindset that makes me so excited for my first official study tour with Chazen.


Tomorrow, I’ll start my 19-hour journey from New York to join Chazen Seoul/Hong Kong. Our amazing student organizers have dubbed our trip East Asia: The Perfect Pop-Cultural Storm and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit. I came to business school to transition into media and entertainment, so I couldn’t pass up on this chance to dive into two of the fastest growing arts and entertainment markets in the world. I’m excited to see what’s in store for us over the next ten days and look forward to chronicling my journey here.

See you in Seoul!


India? Indeed!

James Williams 2017

Hello – this will be the first of a series of blog posts documenting our Chazen trip to India.  Jerome Chazen is a great man and I am thankful for the opportunity he helps provide to CBS students looking to gain a more worldly view.

This Fall semester was a blast (as is every semester at CBS) and went by too fast!  I’m at home now in California.  Here’s photographic proof:  james-and-grandma

This is me and my grandma.  No, she’s not coming with us to India unfortunately!

I spent the summer as a stock analyst researching and writing about Indian media:  Star, Zee, Doordarshan, Sun TV, Tatasky, Den, SITI and of course the film industry!  I thought it was fascinating and was elated to have won a spot on this trip.

I’m really excited for all the company visits we are going to have and expect them to be immensely educational.  I’m all packed and flying out soon.

I wish everyone safe travels and can’t wait to see them in India!

Taiwan & Singapore – Kicking Off!

A lot of CBS students decide to join a Chazen trip to get insight into a new culture – they want to be immersed in a new language, new spices, new traditions that they have not yet experienced in their daily lives. And these are all excellent reasons!

But I decided to go a different route – to explore a culture I am immensely familiar with, but in a unique and exciting way. I am Cantonese and have traveled extensively through mainland China and Hong Kong, but have never been to Singapore or Taiwan. This upcoming Chazen trip, which kicks off in one week, will be a way to take a culture I love and see it through the eyes of my classmates and amazing trip organizers, Eric Yen ‘17, Evelyn Wuu ‘17, and Jayburt Tang, ‘17.

We’ve already had a taste of how great this trip will be from the kickoff dinner they organized for us a few weeks back. We went to Han Dynasty, a restaurant I’ve been to many times before. But while I often struggle with deciding what to order and properly pronouncing dishes I only half remember how to say with my elementary Chinese, Eric, Evelyn, and Jayburt quickly took the helm and ordered us a huge feast. They chose dishes that were mostly new to my classmates – things like chili oil dan dan noodles, beef tendons, double cooked pork with fermented greens, pickled vegetables, etc.

So what are we excited for?

  • Exploring Taiwan, from the startup culture to modern pottery to automated manufacturing to fine dining
  • Ringing in the new year while watching fireworks shoot off of Taiwan 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers
  • Visiting Singapore Airlines and learning about the luxury hospitality and real estate scene in Singapore at Marina Bay Sands, a 5-star hotel
  • Traditional Chinese meals from peking duck to local Taiwanese street food to multi-course meals in a palace museum…

and the list goes on…!

Melanie Chow ‘17
Singapore & Taiwan