MIT Chile Club aims to build a lasting network

MBA student shares goals behind formation of a new club

April 9, 2014

Boston area Chileans celebrating “El Dieciocho,” the country’s National Day at MIT last September.

Boston area Chileans celebrating “El Dieciocho,” the country’s National Day at MIT last September.

The new MIT Chile Club has provided a great way for Chileans at MIT to meet one another during its first year of operation. But, according to outgoing president Augusto Ruiz-Tagle, MBA ’14, its purpose extends far beyond the social. One of the reasons he and several other graduate students formed the club in February 2013 was to create an enduring network to benefit their homeland and business activities there. Ruiz-Tagle is confident that the club is well on its way to achieving that goal.

“We created this community and this network of relationships to last when you go back to Chile,” he said.

Before leaving his Santiago home for MIT Sloan in 2012, Ruiz-Tagle conducted some advance research by talking to several MIT alumni in Chile. He discovered little sense of cohesion among those who had come to MIT for school.

   Augusto Ruiz-Tagle, MBA ’14Augusto Ruiz-Tagle, MBA ’14

When he arrived at MIT, Ruiz-Tagle met a few of his fellow Chilean citizens and gradually, the club idea developed. Through the International Students Office, he and his colleagues sent out an invitation to join the new MIT Chile Club, and within a few days they received responses from dozens of Chileans.

They launched the club on May 9, 2013 with a breakfast meeting featuring a presentation on the Chilean public transit system, given by Chilean civil engineer Raimundo Cruzat, SM ’13. The club held a farewell barbecue and then launched the 2013-14 academic year in September with a welcome barbecue. Throughout the year, the club has continued to sponsor monthly public breakfast presentations, as well as various social events, and participation has continued to grow. The club, which includes MIT Chilean students, staff, faculty, and their significant others, has more than 140 members.

Ruiz-Tagle said the new club is working to lay the groundwork for a stronger ongoing MIT presence in Chile. The members have already developed a relationship with MIT Sloan’s new Latin American office, which opened in December 2013 under Director Julie Strong.

“One of the goals that [Strong] has there is to bring technology and what MIT provides to Chile through the Sloan office,” Ruiz-Tagle said. “We can help her from here by organizing, making contacts, and building this collaboration network that we can give back to Chile.”

Strong said her office has worked with the MIT Chile Club and the Santiago-based MIT [alumni] Club of Chile in the past year and the results have been “an amazing beginning of a collaboration which gives all the parties an expanded and committed network.”

“Currently, we are exploring some collaborations where the students are helping us to identify companies that could possibly be a source of some faculty research or the beginning of some new business case studies from the region,” she said. “I can only imagine that these types of projects will grow with the enthusiasm and leadership that Augusto has demonstrated during his two years at MIT Sloan.”

In addition to this combined work, Ruiz-Tagle also sees a role for the club in helping to forge collaborations that will qualify for MIT-Chile Seed Funds from the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), a program that builds partnerships among MIT faculty and international companies, research institutes, and universities.

A graduate of Pontifical Catholic University of Chile with a degree in industrial civil engineering, Ruiz-Tagle will return home this year to embark on a new career path. He had worked in sales and marketing for a large Chilean company and chose MIT Sloan because, “I could learn things here that I couldn’t learn when I was in the university [as an undergraduate]. Here, when you [get] an MBA, you’re learning from different cases from different companies in different countries and how people apply the theories.”

In going back to Chile, Ruiz-Tagle is returning to a nation with a healthy and rapidly growing economy. Over the past 10 years, its annual GDP growth has largely ranged from 4 percent to 6 percent. But Ruiz-Tagle argues that if Chile wants to develop further, both the public and the private sector need to understand the importance of bringing new technologies and more knowledge into the mix. “This way, Chile will also change how it is perceived today, which is mainly as a commodity producer,” he said.

Ruiz-Tagle plans to go into consulting work, but he and two friends also want to launch a company and have been researching various Chilean industrial sectors to determine which might provide them the best opportunity to do that. He also sees a potentially integral role for MIT and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“We believe that we have some very talented people in Chile and we believe they can create great things with the people at MIT,” he said.