China Residency Shows MBA Students Another Side of the Business World

Posted: September 13, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

The Great Wall might be magnificent and the Forbidden City exotic, but for 30 George Mason MBA students in the School of Management (SOM), the opportunity to gain insight into the Chinese business world was what propelled them halfway around the globe. Accompanied by Vernon Hsu, their course instructor; Madelyn Ross, Mason’s China coordinator; and Phillip Buchanan, MBA Program director, students set off for China last month as part of the program’s global residency requirement.

This was the first time the MBA 798 Global Business Perspectives course took students to China, and it won’t be the last. With Mason President Alan Merten set to jet off to Asia later this fall, the MBA Program is yet another example of George Mason’s global-scale outreach and educational expansion.

Prior to their residency, students divided into teams and conducted preliminary background investigations on doing business in the region for a pre-trip report. They also had suggested readings and lectures. At the end of the course, the teams presented a strategic business plan based on the knowledge they acquired while abroad.

“The MBA Program at George Mason is one of only four in the country to require all students to do an international study,” says Buchanan. “The School of Management is committed to preparing managers for the global marketplace. Our curriculum explores the complexities of operating in a global business environment and gives students a perspective beyond their experience of business practices in the United States.”

Great wall
Students in the MBA 798 Global Business Perspectives course got to see the Great Wall of China during their residency.

The students visited Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing over their 10-day stay, learning about business practices and financial markets in China. They toured the financial sector of Hong Kong, visited the corporate offices of DuPont China, and met with a U.S. embassy economic officer. Meeting face to face with business executives and government officials, students discovered things that surprised and enlightened them—from the way China handles intellectual property rights to the percentage of total exports the country sends directly to Wal-Mart (6 percent).

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting with SOM alumnus Michael Creasy, BS ’91, who is senior assurance manager for Grant Thornton LLP. Creasy was recently admitted to the Grant Thornton partnership, the first Mason alumnus to be so honored, and has relocated to the firm’s New York office. Another highlight for the students was a cruise of the Hong Kong harbor on the Grant Thornton junk, where they mingled with professionals from the company and other businesspeople. Students also met with William Ryback, deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, who discussed the banking environment and regulation of financial institutions in Hong Kong. Ryback is the father of Dana Ryback, a current George Mason MBA student.

Julia Nord, an MBA student who is also director for the Center for Field Studies and assistant professor of integrative studies at Mason, says that the China residency was a wonderful opportunity for her. “It was very fast-paced. We were able to see a lot in a very short period of time,” she says. “The people we met were very open and eager to share their perspectives. It was really a worthwhile experience.”

The MBA Program offers four global residencies each year. Past courses have led students to England, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Chile, and Ireland. Buchanan hopes that future global residencies will include Italy, Slovenia, and other parts of Eastern Europe.

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