The culmination of Millikin University's Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is an 11-day immersion trip to China in May. It's an opportunity for MBA students to see how business operates in an entirely different part of the world, and allows students to apply what they've learned throughout the MBA program abroad.
Beyond the lessons of international business, the MBA students took part in a case competition study during their visit to Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE). As one of the top universities in China, SUFE is a world-renowned finance and economics-oriented research university.
"The China trip is always enlightening for everyone in the program," said Dr. Anthony Liberatore, director of the MBA program. "Being able to experience a different economy and a different culture opens people's eyes to how a business operates outside the United States. It's essential for business executives to see how international business operates."
For the competition, Millikin and SUFE MBA teams were tasked with creating a business plan for Oilman Group Ltd., a Chinese company engaged in the manufacturing and supply of oilfield equipment. Most of the products are for onshore drilling and producing equipment.
"Getting a chance to immerse in the Chinese culture from a scholastic perspective was fantastic," said Fred Serven '14, a recent MBA graduate from Decatur, Ill. "In terms of the competition, it was a complex case, but we gathered information on the cultural nuances of the market that the company wanted to enter."
The goal of the competition was to create a plan for how the company could expand its business into the United States. More specifically, the company was interested in knowing which of its product lines would have the best prospects in the United States, what challenges and opportunities would the company face in expanding to the U.S., and if the timing is right for a U.S. market entry.
"We were fortunate enough to have SUFE offer their resources, and bring together their students with our students to work on the case competition," said Dr. Liberatore. "It was interesting to see how teams approached the competition and to see how they've been trained. The Millikin students did a good job of focusing on the strategic elements of the business plan."
The MBA teams prepared for the competition by gathering research on the topic and developing an executive report. Each team had 10 to 12 minutes to make their presentation in front of a panel of judges. Top teams from both Millikin and SUFE were selected.
Looking back on the competition, Fred Serven felt the MBA program prepared the students well for the opportunity. "We were well-coached through Dr. Liberatore and the Millikin faculty. They taught the importance of making clear points, and we had a lot of practice by making several presentations throughout the course of the MBA program. The program helps develop real world business skills."
In addition to the competition, the Millikin MBA students met with SUFE professors and visited the SUFE Library. The library contained a copy of the "Handbook on the Geopolitics of Business," a book written by Dr. J. Mark Munoz, Millikin professor of international management. The book features contributions from Dr. Anthony Liberatore.
The Millikin students also toured the Volkswagen automobile manufacturing facility in Shanghai, and made a visit to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China.
Greg Mills, a 2014 MBA graduate from Forsyth, Ill., says, "When looking back on everything, I feel the visit to China was a good experience. It was very interesting to be educated on business from a Chinese perspective. To see how business is conducted from their eyes is unique."
Mills also shared his thoughts on being a part of the Millikin MBA program. "It created a new energy for learning. From an MBA cohort perspective, there was good learning amongst colleagues and it was great to look back on the success we had in class."
When asked about the benefits of the China experience, Dr. Liberatore says, "It's a chance for the students to study how things operate in China from a business perspective. It's an executive-level education and experience, and I think it opens up people's executive-level thinking skills."