In Educational Pursuit, Mason’s Business School Takes Students around the World

Posted: February 19, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Students see the sights, taste the culture and get an international business education in the School of Management’s global residency program. Above, MS in Technology Management 2006 graduates Aida Rothe, Carla Mullins, Karen Lockhart, and Sherrian Finneran, left to right, are pictured on their 2004 residency in Stockholm. Professor Amit Dutta, center, Leroy Eakin Chair of Information Systems and Operations Management, served as lead faculty for the trip.

By Dan Mackeben

Whether it’s exploring the dynamics of outsourcing in India, visiting with high-tech executives in Eastern Europe’s emerging markets, or learning about advances in robotics in Japan, graduate students from Mason’s School of Management (SOM) are taking an international approach to their business education.

Since 1991, SOM’s global residency program has been one of the cornerstones of Mason’s international business efforts. SOM was one of the first business schools in the United States to require a global residency for all graduate students, and to this day, only a handful of business schools nationally have such a requirement.

“The rapid evolution of global business makes it very difficult for business school curriculums to stay current and relevant,” says Angel Burgos, director of the MBA program. “The diversity and complexity of issues are so great and fast moving. We have to look beyond the traditional classroom and textbooks to give our students a competitive advantage.”

Over the past 15 years, cohorts of 10 to 50 students have traveled around the globe on one- to two-week residencies in South America, India, China, the Pacific Rim, Australia, Europe and other regions of the world. The residencies evolve based on the latest global business issues and trends: The countries visited and trip itineraries change annually.

“The residencies can be a transformational experience because students are not simply reading about the role of country and cultural differences in the global business community – they are submerged in the business practices of the country we are visiting,” says Michelle Marks, professor of management who has been a faculty member on residencies to Europe and Japan.

Global residencies are included in the tuition and fees for all graduate business students and are coordinated by the program director for each of the four graduate business programs: the Mason MBA, Executive MBA, MS in Technology Management, and the MS in Bioscience Management.

Students in London phone booth
MS in Bioscience Management alumni Wendy Wagner (top) and Maureen Drohan on their 2005 residency at Cambridge, England.

“There is no better way to learn about global business than to go there and see it in action,” says Sarah Nutter, area chair for accounting and lead professor on a recent MBA residency to Vietnam and China.

“We make it a point to go to countries with emerging global economies, as well as countries that have been our major global trading partners. Students come away from the residencies with fresh perspectives on global business challenges and opportunities.”

Eye-Opening Global Business Lessons

Each residency features visits to both global and regionally based companies, lectures from business leaders and government officials, and exchanges with business school faculty and students from partner universities.

“The residencies are far more than just a student exchange program,” says Roy Hinton, director of the EMBA program. “The teambuilding that takes place among the students is superb, and the global business lessons are, to put it mildly, eye-opening for both the students and faculty.”

“A typical day on a residency might have three or four lectures in the morning from government officials and business leaders, followed by one or two company visits in the afternoon,” says Jean-Pierre Auffret, director of the Technology Management and Bioscience Management programs who was involved with a residency in India.

Through this program, the residency examined how Indian firms and subsidiaries are broadening their capabilities, from managing call center operations to managing high-end research and development.

“By developing a sense for how India is progressing so rapidly in the technology marketplace, our students will not only be better able to lead and manage businesses, but will also be better able to contribute to U.S. policy discussions on how to maintain U.S. competitiveness,” adds Auffret.

Exposure to Unfolding Events and International Culture

Global residencies are designed to provide students with a firsthand look at major business challenges, which sometimes unfold during the residency.

global residency students in Chile
MBA students (now alumni) Dan Kelly (left) and Nate Wegner toured the Asmar Shipyard in Concepcion, Chile.

Associate Professor of finance Bob Johnston led an MBA cohort through Europe in the midst of the transition to the European Union (EU). Both government officials and business executives provided the MBA cohort with a unique, well-timed look at the opportunities and issues brought on by the transition.

“At Oxford University, we met with the Rt. Hon. Henry McLeish, former first minister of Scotland in Tony Blair’s government and member of the U.K. parliament from 1987 to 2000,” says Johnston. “Henry led a superb discussion of the U.K. debate as to adopting or rejecting the Euro, as well as the decision regarding admitting the new accession countries to the European Union.”

Visits with government officials from Poland and Malta also provided a rare glimpse at both the benefits and disadvantages of EU membership for each country.

On her most recent residency, Marks guided 45 Technology Management students and four alumni on a tour of Japan. The residency featured visits to several multinational corporations, with human resource management issues in Japan a prominent theme in the group’s discussions with executives.

Not all lessons from the global residency programs come in the boardroom or classroom, Marks notes.

“One of my favorite moments of the Japan trip was at a Japanese baseball game,” she recalls. “As an indicator of Japan’s collectivistic culture, thousands of fans chanted and cheered – in sync! No fan yelled out any individual comment, as you would hear at an American baseball game.”

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form in the SOM Times magazine.

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