Harvard Business School

New Research Center in Latin America

by | Nov 13, 2000

THE HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL launches its first research center in Latin America with the recent opening of the Latin America Research Center (LARC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The region offers substantial prospects for studying management, and based on a faculty and alumni poll, was the preferred site for the center. Two other HBS research centers, which opened in the late 1990s, are located in California and Hong Kong. A European center is being considered for 2001.

“The mission,” said LARC executive director Gustavo Herrero, a 1976 graduate of the Harvard Business School (HBS), “‘is to assist HBS faculty in devel- oping research in the region. We are adhering to a collaborative approach, the sharing of intellectual capital.” LARC falls under HBS’ Global Initiative – one of three programs created to address the new global economy.

LARC opened in August with a two-day conference – ‘Preparing for Knowledge Creation. More than 100 academic and business leaders attended, including HBS Dean, Kim Clark, and 18 faculty members. Argentine President Fernando de la Rúa, who presided at the inaugural dinner, spoke of the honor Argentina had received in being selected for the LARC site. He noted that Buenos Aires was truly a “ciudad universitaria” because of all the schools in the city, and now even more so with truly a “ciudad universitaria’ the advent of LARC.

Attending from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), executive director Steve Reifen- berg stated that “under the leadership of Kim Clark, the business school is greatly increasing its capacity to train leaders in an international context. Associate director Ellen Sullivan, also pre- sent, agreed, adding, “The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies is delighted to participate in this exciting new venture, which will significantly strengthen Harvard’s ties to the region.

One of LARC’s goals is to aid HBS faculty in creating academic materials, which take the form of case studies, the predominant and highly successful teaching methodology employed by HBS. According to Herrero, LARC acts “as a hinge between the HBS faculty and the world in Latin America. We are both responsive to HBS faculty interests and proactive in that we bring ideas for case studies to HBS.

Herrero noted the large num- ber of HBS foreign students and faculty, including Latin Ameri- cans: 34% of the HBS class 2001, 50% of the executive pro-gram candidates, and 30% of the faculty. Herrero said it was imperative that teaching materi- als reflect the international make-up of HBS.

The very first case studyLARC produced, in collaboration with HBS professor Pankaj Ghamawat, highlighted the Brazilian jet manufacturer Embraer, considered the global producer in the region. This study, showcased at the Buenos Aires conference, focused on the need for companies to compete globally by building sound business plans and understanding the interplay between government policies and commerce. Another company LARC hopes to study is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bolivia- a credit business competing with institutional banks.

A further possibility is the Chilean wine business – Herrero expressed interest in this industry because, for its small size, it has been very successful throughout the world. In addition to this type of research, LARC will develop a network of Latin American universities to teach NGO management to area businesses. The center also intends to study how people go about starting a new business in the new economy. Herrero has hired one Senior Research Fellow, Luiz Felipe Monteiro, who is based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Monteiro plans to study a large Brazilian steel company and the evolution of investment banking in the country. Currently he is working with an engineering consulting firm in Colombia dealing with the departure of a founding partner.

Promotion of the research center extends beyond the conference in Buenos Aires. Prior to this meeting, a colloquium held at Harvard brought 66 academics together from Latin American universities. The goal of this gathering was to teach these professors the case study method. A similar colloquium is now planned for 2001.

The 65,000 HBS alumni around the world also contribute to the visibility of the site. Herrero stated that the alumni clubs they have formed are critical sources of information exchange. Two advisory boards serve to guide LARC. One based at Harvard, the Latin America Advisory Group, is composed of 10 HBS faculty and chaired by Professor Howard Stevenson. The other group, the Latin America Advisory Committee, is based in Argentina and is made up of 14 prominent business people from the area. LARC will collaborate extensively with DRCLAS. Reifenberg sees the center “as a real step forward for Harvard in its commitment to Latin America as this is the first bricks-and-mortar initiative the university has had with the region since the founding of INCAE (a Harvard Business School affiliate) in Central America in the 1960s. Herrero is also very pleased with the development of LARC and his new role as executive director. Having spent many years as CEO of major Argentine firms, he was looking for a change. He welcomes the part he will play in aiding HBS in their mission and in ultimately enriching business in the region. “I have been very fortunate in my life and I want to give some- thing back, ” Herrero commented. “I see LARC as a win-win proposition for everyone.”

Fall 2002


Susie Seefelt Lesieutre is a publications intern at DRCLAS for the fall semester. She is enrolled in the Certificate for Publishing and Communications program at Harvard Extension. In 1990 she received a Master’s degree in TESL; she has taught ESL in the US and abroad.

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