During an international travel-research project, MBA for Global Innovators students visited a model farm in Chengdu, China.
Ten days in a far off country may sound like a dream vacation, but for a group of Cal State East Bay graduate business students, it’s a demanding class project they will never forget.
As part of CSUEB’s MBA for Global Innovators program, which blends business fundamentals with a worldwide perspective, 22 students took part in an optional international travel-research project this summer. Six students traveled to Turkey and another 16 to China.
“(The program) really emphasizes looking at business through a bigger filter, not just the United States,” said student Michele LaCagnina, who traveled to Turkey for the program. “The trips help students to understand what the implications would be if we were to start a business in another country and to also give us a cultural perspective.”
This is the second consecutive year students in the Global Innovators program were offered a travel project in addition to the program’s regular curriculum, which includes courses such as “Economics for Managers in a Global Economy” and “Globalization, Innovation and Sustainability.”
Last year, students traveled to China only, and this year the program expanded to include Turkey.
“The choice of destinations is so that our students get to go to places they are not familiar with,” said Yi Jiang, associate program director for Global Innovators. “Some of our students are already traveling for their work and have traveled extensively to China. Our thinking is that we need to expand our destinations so that they get to visit places that they are not familiar with, so that it is more valuable.”
Jiang, along with Global Innovators Program Director Glen Taylor and assistant professors Yi He and Ekin Alakent, helped coordinate the two trips and accompanied students during their travels.
Throughout each of the 10-day trips, students were exposed to a variety of businesses including small companies, multinational enterprises, government agencies, academic and health institutions and marketing firms. During appointments with overseas business people, students asked questions about the company and attended a presentation on the history and market of the business.
“I learned that before moving to China and setting up a business, it is very important, as in any country, to understand the political environment, the business environment and scope out the market needs,” said student Rashmi Murthy. She said she particularly enjoyed her visit to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, where she spoke with entrepreneurs who had successfully transitioned from America to China.
For some students already working for a global company – applicants must have a minimum of five years work experience before entering the program – the trip overseas was their first opportunity to meet their international counterparts.
For instance, during his trip to China, MBA student and Intel Project Manager Vijay Gurusamy visited colleagues he had been working with remotely but had never before met in person.
“I got a chance to go to (offices in China of) the company I work for and have discussions with the peers that I have not seen,” said Gurusamy.
When students were not meeting with business representatives, they were soaking in the culture with weekend and evening sightseeing excursions.
“We were out until 12:30 every night,” said LaCagnina, who described her favorite site on the trip, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, as a former Greek Orthodox church-turned-mosque that now serves as a museum. “We had a short period of time to soak everything in. I think we did as much as we could.”
In order to receive academic credit for the trip, participants are required to write an essay upon returning. Essay topics range from descriptions of the overall experience to a particular industry discussed during their travels.
LaCagnina found inspiration in the Turkish jewelry market featuring locally produced goods, and soon began brainstorming ideas on how to start an export jewelry business of her own.
“I really liked the reproductions of the Ottoman Empire jewelry,” said LaCagnina. “It’s ornate and when they do the reproductions, it looks old, but it’s not fragile and it is affordable. It’s beautiful, it’s exotic, but it’s not too expensive.”
As for what countries Global Innovator students will explore next year, program directors plan to visit Turkey again; other destinations under consideration include Hungary, Jordan and India.
“There are very few places we wouldn’t consider,” said Taylor. “We intend to introduce one new destination each year.”
For more information, visit the MBA Global Innovators program Web page.