As California faces its worst drought in 1,200 years, a group of LMU Executive MBA (EMBA) students had the unique opportunity to step foot inside some of the world’s most innovative and sustainable companies at the forefront of the water crisis.
The EMBA program completed its first international experience in three years in the small but mighty country of Israel, known for being a global leader in water conservation. The purpose of the trip was to learn about sustainable business practices, with a particular focus on how Israel has successfully addressed its water crisis through business for good principles. Located in one of the driest regions of the world, Israel has developed cutting-edge tools to conserve water such as water recycling, desalination and drip irrigation.
“Israel gives me hope for California’s current drought and water crisis as they have already created water innovations that can solve the problems we currently face,” said Management Professor Ellen Ensher, who co-taught the international course alongside Professor Kelly Watson.
In addition to Ensher and Watson, EMBA students were joined by Dayle Smith, dean of the College of Business Administration, for 10 transformative days in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The itinerary included visits to innovative companies, meetings with business leaders and a variety of cultural excursions – all of which were used to conduct field research and collect data for the students’ capstone research projects.
Each spring, the graduating EMBA cohort travels to one or more major, non-U.S. business centers to broaden their understanding of what it takes to manage in today’s global business environment. This international course is designed to get students thinking about global issues, opportunities and solutions, and give them practice thinking like consultants while validating their research in a real-world context. In recent years, students have visited exciting destinations such as India, Peru, Germany, Thailand, Greece, Spain, South Africa and Cuba.
This year, students were tasked with an international expansion project for a publicly traded company that must address a community need – in this case – water sustainability. They split up into four teams and created comprehensive business plans for Stantec (Israel), Evoqua (Israel), Aecom (Israel) and Aquawell (U.S.) which were later presented to a mock board of directors.
While in Tel Aviv, students met with representatives from Watergen, a company that develops energy-efficient, accessible solutions to collect clean and safe drinking water from the air; and Asterra, which developed a technology that can locate and assess underground moisture around critical infrastructure for large cities.
Students also learned about Israel’s successful approach to water efficiency and sourcing potable water through visits to the Shafdan Wastewater Treatment Plant; Netafim, a world leader in irrigation solutions; and the Sorek Desalination Plant, where they got an inside look at how sea water is converted into drinking water through reverse osmosis.
“We were all really blown away by the abundant amount of water innovation happening in Israel,” said EMBA student Ernesto Solis. “We visited desalination plants, atmospheric drinking water producers, satellite leak detection innovators, irrigation solution inventors, and a mobile water purification vehicle manufacturer. This trip helped us pivot our focus from Israel to California, which is currently facing a drought and needs solutions.”
Cultural activities included a walking tour of Yaffo, one of the oldest port cities on the Mediterranean coast; a sunset hike to Masada, an ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great; a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust; a dip in the Dead Sea; and a city tour of Old Jerusalem.
“This trip was definitely the highlight of my EMBA experience,” said William Portillo. “Not only did we explore water-related innovations, but we also experienced an amazing cultural awakening. Thank you LMU and CBA for blessing us with this amazing experience.”