Ten years after MIT Sloan opened its first physical location outside of the United States in Chile, the MIT Sloan Latin America Office (MSLAO) remains an integral part of Santiago’s bustling business district.
The office, which opened its doors in 2013, began as an unprecedented initiative for MIT Sloan to develop and nurture meaningful relationships in Latin America. Since then, it has transformed into a pioneering model of knowledge creation and transfer for students, faculty, researchers, and partners across the Institute and the region.
“The presence of the office fills a hole that serves as a catalyst between public, private, and academic spheres rarely seen around the globe, let alone in Latin America. MIT is in a unique position to facilitate some of the most innovative and otherwise impossible work in the region,” says Jeffrey Swiryn, SFMBA ’21, a longtime MSLAO Advisory Council member who has been involved since day one.
In late March, former MIT President L. Rafael Reif, MSLAO and MIT Sloan Global Programs team members, current participants, and alumni gathered in Santiago to celebrate the initiative’s 10th anniversary and its grand mission to promote the school throughout the region. Reflecting on the occasion, David Schmittlein (John C Head III Dean, MIT Sloan School of Management) applauds the office’s many accomplishments.
“The MSLAO is a leading example of the school’s mission to develop principled, innovative leaders who will improve the world. By establishing our first brick-and-mortar office outside of the U.S. in Chile, we have laid a strong foundation to advance research, education, and collaboration in Latin America and beyond,” he says.
A grand mission
What would eventually become the MSLAO initially started in late 2012 thanks to the generosity of Andrónico Luksic, a Chilean businessman, who wanted to strengthen the ties between his native Chile and MIT Sloan.
unique faculty and researchers have worked with MSLAO
The result was the establishment of MIT Sloan’s first physical location outside of the U.S. a few months later. The MSLAO set out to encourage and support research, teaching, and knowledge-sharing opportunities for faculty, increase awareness of the school’s brand in Latin America, encourage admissions candidates from the region to apply to MIT Sloan’s many academic programs, and strengthen local alumni networks.
In the 10 years since, this is precisely what has happened for hundreds of students, faculty, and corporate partners.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to say that my engagement with the MSLAO has had a profound effect on my academic and professional careers,” says MBA candidate and Legatum Fellow Andrés Bisonó León.
A mechanical engineer by training, León is the co-founder and CEO of SOS Carbon, an MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering spinoff that uses sargassum sequestering technology in deep oceans for carbon offsetting. He credits the startup’s research and development lead, frequent MSLAO faculty affiliate Alex Slocum (Walter M. May (1939) and A. Hazel May Chair in Emerging Technologies), with connecting SOS Carbon’s work with the office.
“The MSLAO didn’t hesitate to come on board and help the research and development team at every stage. Their commitment made us realize early on all the resources available at MIT, and how everyone there works to create a supportive network,” León explains.
A supportive network
This supportive network has provided participants in Latin America and Cambridge with “an invaluable opportunity to gain insight” from each other. Ten years on, there now exists an expansive community of people creating impactful initiatives that are driving positive change throughout the region.
“The MSLAO brought my attention to the importance of community building and the impact we can have in our countries and societies through linking the school to the realities in Latin America,” says Adriana Noreña, MOT ’00, vice president for Google Spanish Speaking Latin America.
Noreña, who serves on the MSLAO Advisory Council with Swiryn, says she enjoyed her past participation in the office and looks forward to contributing further to MIT Sloan. She is especially grateful for the program’s positive influence on the region’s “realities,” adding: “I am excited to help shape transformational leaders for Latin America.”
The realities Noreña and many other MSLAO alumni speak of include the same critical challenges faced by the rest of the world, like the global retirement crisis, artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies, climate change and sustainability, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
According to Mauricio Ríos Martínez, SF ’12, head of strategic deals and partner ecosystem at NTT Data Americas, the support made available by the MSLAO’s network has provided him and others with a “humbling” lesson: You need help to combat great challenges like these.
The past decade has taught Martínez and other participants the importance of sharing knowledge, learning practical applications of such knowledge, and keeping an open mind to one’s community and its challenges. All of this and more is easily accessible thanks to MSLAO.
“Do not think so much. Just connect with the MSLAO,” Martínez advises those considering reaching out. “Their doors are always open to discuss transparently the new ventures and ideas you have.”
The next 10 years
Educational institutions like MIT had to rethink their approach to global engagement as the world contracted from the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
in funding for Institute faculty and researchers’ projects
Thanks to the hard work of Faculty Director Roberto Rigobon, PhD ’97 (Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management), the MSLAO Advisory Council, and the MIT Sloan Global Programs staff, the office quickly reinvented its models and methods to enable students, faculty, and participants in Cambridge and Latin America to continue their work virtually.
Not only were they able to maintain ongoing connections between MIT Sloan and Latin America, but they also continued to foster new relationships and projects. MSLAO hosted over 60 virtual events in 2020 and 2021 with a combined total of over 180,000 participants from over 75 countries and all seven continents.
Reflecting on these and other numbers from the past 10 years, David Capodilupo (Assistant Dean for Global Programs) expresses his gratitude to everyone who had a hand in the MSLAO’s success and shares his hope for the future.
“Thank you for celebrating the 10th anniversary of the MSLAO and being part of the impact that we have made over the last decade,” he says. “We hope you will continue to be a part of our growing community and work with us to help drive impactful change across Latin America.”