Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opportunism in Society

Opportunism is presented to each one of us every single day. Certainly, not all opportunism is negative. If you are working for a company and the job of your dreams opens up in a neighboring department and you are the first one to hear about it, then the benefits for you are great and no unethical behavior was exercised. There is a debate about whether great people are born or put into situations that make them great. If great people are formed by situations, it is this opportunistic behavior that they exercised that makes them great.
        There are also times as this post discusses that people do not take advantage of a situation for various reasons. I will present a couple simple situations and the different reasons for why opportunism was not exercised. One example is my friends and I were taking a cab back. My friend paid and the cab driver gave him too much money back, which my friend then returned the excess money to the driver. This is an example of my friend being a "good citizen". He acted honestly most likely because of his moral values of not wanting to cheat this man out of the money he deserves. A different example might be a man giving up his seat to a beautiful woman. Opportunistically, it would be better for the man to sit down, yet he yields the seat. Such action might be viewed as one being a good citizen and courteous. Another very plausible explanation for this behavior might be that the man seeks personal gain from his kindness,  like a phone number of the strikingly beautiful woman. Another reason why people might not partake in opportunistic behavior because they fear the consequences of using the opportunity. For example, stealing when no one is looking. The opportunity is there, but a person might be afraid of the punishment to come from being caught. 
      I believe that there are very different reasons for people to not exercise opportunistic behavior. It might be because of their morals, their potential gain from not partaking in the behavior or their fear of punishment from the exercise of the opportunity. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

AIESEC as an Organization


                To begin, I wish to explain what exactly is AIESEC. It is a student run global organization that focuses on international student exchange. The organization formed when a group of students after World War II decided to prevent such a world war from ever occurring again. Their focus was to provide cultural understanding. With understanding, conflict would be lessened. Their goal is achieved through sending students abroad on internships in over 110 different countries. Not only does the student get to experience a different culture, but he/she also gains professional experience from working for a company. Since most of the internships are paid and all come with accommodation, it is a very affordable way to travel.

AIESEC as a global organization has undergone much change, but I wish to focus on the specific change that occurred within AIESEC Illinois.  When I joined the organization, I instantly fell in love with the culture. I also strongly believed that everyone should have a chance to travel even if one does not have a lot of money and this organization gave people that chance. The two main functions of the organization were to send people abroad and to create internships within the United States for students from abroad to utilize. There were a few problems that the organization was struggling with:

1. Not many knew of it's existence
2. The executive board had no money to spend/invest in the organization
3. We have not generated a contract with a US company in years
4. There was a huge turnover of members

There was one thing that we were doing right which was sending people abroad. In 2009-10 academic school year, 15 people gained internships and went abroad. In 2010-11 school year, the elected president resigned after serving for just a couple of weeks, due to the high demand and transaction cost the organization was demanding. One of the six remaining executive board members stepped up for the presidency and I was approached to take on his Vice President position which I accepted.

During our executive board's cadence, we increased our presence on campus resulting in higher numbers of people at info sessions and many applicants wanting to join the organization. We generated profit and had money to invest back in our members. We signed a contract and brought an intern from abroad, which has not been done in years. My team was in charge of sending students abroad and we doubled the amount of people sent from the previous year.

The organization grew and prospered but at a very high transaction cost. When I became the Vice President of sending people abroad, I did not know anything about visa procedures, websites to use for internship search or anything about the process. I put in hours of work into learning the systems. My inbox was flooded with over a hundred emails daily. I met with my team weekly. To afford this, I put my schoolwork secondary and dropped a class, I reduced the amount of hours I had at work, cut down on sleep and eliminated leisure time from my calendar. As the school-year went on, the time commitment somewhat lessened.

Now the new board made the organization grow even more with the structure that we left them. AIESEC is prospering and even though the transaction costs were quite high, it was worth it.