COVID-19 has no doubt affected our lives in ways previously unimaginable. In terms of the International Consulting Project, COVID presented a few challenges for both the Pitt Business student consulting team and the client, Caras con Causa. Nevertheless, I feel as though this situation has taught us valuable lessons about the importance of communication as well as the necessity to be flexible and adaptable.
The largest setback COVID presented was the travel restrictions. Not only did this mean our student consulting group was unable to visit Puerto Rico, but the trial run for the study abroad trip to Caras’ LabCom was also canceled/postponed. Without these trips, it is more difficult to ensure we are delivering value to Caras. We are unable to take promotional pictures/videos, and we must rely more heavily on the information of previous groups. I am very thankful for the research and recommendations of last year’s student consultants – this provided a great foundation for us to continue their work.
Another issue is communication in the era of COVID. It’s so simple to ask questions when you’re in person with the client, but virtually, there is more upfront work to prepare questions and draft emails. Also, finding meeting times has been difficult because everyone is overwhelmed with meetings and busier than normal. I appreciate that the study abroad office set up those client meetings for us so that there was not an issue of finding time for check-ins and the final presentation.
In terms of Puerto Rico, I know the pandemic has been tough for them. Michael from Caras was saying that the children are falling behind in school because there was a delay in getting the students the adequate equipment to do school virtually. COVID has also limited the programs Caras can operate. With the delay of study abroad groups using LabCom, Caras is also missing out on revenue that would benefit them financially.
A huge positive that has arisen from the current situation is that we are working on a virtual speakers’ series that will benefit Caras in the long run. The series’ target audience will be study abroad professionals from various universities to generate interest in and promote Caras’ LabCom. Without the shift to online, I am unsure if we would have initiated the speakers’ series. Again, other positives include the valuable lessons we are learning related to communication and adaptability. While I look forward to the day I can travel to Puerto Rico and meet the wonderful people at Caras con Causa, I am still thankful for the opportunity to be a student consultant and add value to their organization in the time of COVID-19.