To truly understand today's global economy, it is important to experience another culture and engage in the international world. Students in Millikin University's Master of Business Administration (MBA) program experienced a global connection in May 2013 by traveling to China and studying at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE). As part of the international experience students took part in lectures, group projects, and cultural tours.
"The China trip is the crowning experience for everyone in the MBA program," says Dr. Anthony Liberatore, MBA program director. "You get to leave the country and see things from an outside perspective. Our students attended an intensive week-long course at SUFE."
During the week, financial experts, government officials, trade officials, and professors gave Millikin students and faculty a crash course on how to do business in China.
"What you get in a week is probably more than what you get in a year-and-a-half of working there," says Liberatore. "The perspectives in China are all fairly similar in the intellectual and business circles – they all tell the same story. China is on the move and you get to hear about that."
"It was pretty fascinating to see how things are working in China," says Jeff Birschbach, a recent MBA graduate from Decatur, Ill. "It was informative to see how China is emerging as a new developing economy in the context of our MBA program. Everyone there seemed to be motivated to be successful and to be competitive."
During a competition between Millikin MBA and SUFE MBA teams, ten groups worked on a marketing plan for TVS Italian Cookware, a company that produces aluminum cookware with non-stick coating. The groups were charged with developing a strategy to introduce the company's cookware product in China. The top two presentations from the competition were sent to TVS.
"It was really interesting to see the different perspectives and how prepared we were during the competition," says Liberatore. "It was enlightening and we had fun, and the perspectives were so different that it became very educational. We ended up with two champions, one from the United States team and one from the Chinese team."
Birschbach adds, "The trip tied everything together, from globalization to finance to business ethics to leadership. You could see all those aspects being brought together especially during the competition."
After the week in Shanghai, the MBA students and faculty spent four days in Beijing and finished the international trip by walking the Great Wall of China.
Liberatore adds, "The students learned about the real decision-making process when moving a business into the China market. They also got to see on a broad level the thinking patterns, philosophy, and perspectives in China. They learned how business leaders think about the world and that they must think strategically in order to survive. They learned about how the Chinese business system works and how their culture operates."
Birschbach adds, "This type of experience reminds you how big the world is and how much is happening outside the United States."
When asked about the student's perspective on the trip Liberatore added, "The MBA program starts with focusing on globalization and ethics, and then after going through all the business parts we bring students back up to globalization so that they can see how the world is evolving. The last thing that you get to do in the MBA program is visit China and that is certainly exhilarating."