Another Tobin Grad Student Succeeds at Cross Cultural Business Competition

Marianella Rivera ‘16CCPS, ‘21MBA
August 24, 2020

Marianella Rivera ‘16CCPS, ‘21MBA is the most recent student of Professor of Management Charles Wankel, Ph.D.  to be on a winning team at the annual X-Culture Competition project based at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

As a member of the five-person team, consisting of students from around the world, Rivera edited the final report for Dart Drones, a Utah-based trainer of drone operators. The resulting 25-page report, which laid out a strategy for Dart Drones to expand into markets beyond the United States, was named one of the 28 best – out of 975 – in this year’s competition.

A requirement of Dr. Wankel’s Spring 2020 “Managing for Global Success” online course is for students to enter this annual competition, in which they choose a company for which to develop a detailed business plan. Once completed and entered, the plan is read and evaluated by a team of international experts.

“The X-Culture (cross-culture) action learning project puts students on teams with peers from nations around the world,” said Dr. Wankel. “This provides learning on how to work with colleagues in other time zones, working with people from other cultures who have never been to the United States -- and, in many cases, who may never have met Americans before -- work with clients in far-flung nations often on aligning their objectives with emerging opportunities in the tumultuous global economy.”

A 2016 graduate of The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies with a B.S. in Homeland Security, Rivera is now pursuing an M.B.A. with a dual concentration in finance and risk management at The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. She was drawn to Dart Drones not just due to her strong interest in homeland security issues, but on account of the challenges that she would face in working with a multinational team in different time zones.

When she first received the list of assigned companies from the Competition organizers, after a rigorous selection process, Rivera chose Dart Drones as one of her top three choices despite the competition organizers’ caution that it would be a difficult assignment. She thought that caution may be due to the nature of the business and controversies that drones can engender. She also grasped an opportunity to indulge her fascination with these unmanned aircraft systems, as they are formally classified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and learn more about how they work.

“There are legitimate concerns about privacy, but drones can help,” she said. “They are like cameras. You can program the drone to stay within its perimeter.”

A native of the Dominican Republic who grew up in Boston and graduated from Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson, Conn., Rivera was attracted to St. John’s for its diversity, among other reasons.

“I have always been in diverse conditions,” she said, citing her upbringing and her high school as influences, adding that her experience with the X-Culture project helped her extensively.

“An M.B.A. works with firms from all over the world,” she said. “Not everybody is going to be from the same culture.”

Originally planning to study criminal justice as a path to law school, Rivera opted for homeland security once she learned more about the program. She still plans to go to law school after she receives her M.B.A. in May – preferably at St. John’s.