Part-time Professional MBA students get first-hand glimpse into Business in China
Professional MBA students studying in
stand with Sandra Sokol (back row, third from left), director of the Fox School’s Executive and Professional MBA and MS programs, in Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City is behind them.
(Photo courtesy Will McDonald)
For students in the Fox School’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program, the world is a classroom.
In between working full time and taking business classes part time, nine PMBA students and Sandra Sokol, director of Executive and Professional MBA and MS programs, traveled to Beijing and Shanghai during Summer Session II to experience China’s thriving economy firsthand.
“Business is booming in China,” Sokol said. “We wanted to personally experience dynamic changes and growth in business in China. The learning experience provided knowledge of China that could not be gained elsewhere.”
The pilot group received a $15,000 sponsorship from Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research. The CIBER’s executive director, professor Arvind Phatak, taught the “International Business” independent study class that facilitated the class.
Before the trip, the students in Phatak’s class were required to research different aspects of Chinese corporations, and afterward they each completed a research paper.
“International field study experiences for part-time MBA students are available through only a few programs in the U.S.,” Sokol said. We are proud that the Fox Professional MBA began an international trip this year.”
Students visited Chinese corporations including Caterpillar, SAP, Towers Perrin and Dragonlinkage.com exploring both factories and boardrooms. They also visited Shanghai Micro, an outsourced site of Data Color, a Philadelphia-based company that is a worldwide supplier of color management solutions, such as instrumentation and software. They also interacted with Chinese students enrolled in Temple’s Master of Laws program.
PMBA student Harris Otubu, an IT support center manager at Princeton University, enjoyed learning about job placement for recent college graduates.
“It changed my way of thinking about communism. I had the perception that once Chinese students finish college, they are assigned jobs, but that’s not what happens,” Otubu said. “People go to college, and are permitted to apply for jobs at companies of their choice.”
The corporate trek also exposed students to the human resource issues plaguing the country, and helped them gain an understanding of business relations in China.
Job retention is one of the main struggles facing employers. Sokol, along with her students, learned that Chinese employees, unlike many employees in the United States, do not feel a sense of loyalty to their employers.
“It’s common to see employees frequently switch jobs,” Sokol said. “People want to advance themselves and to increase their salaries, and the opportunities for well-qualified employees are abundant.”
Traveling to China also gave the students an inside look at business relationships inside a Chinese company. “In Western culture, people feel free to disagree, but in China, where the work culture is more strictly hierarchical, people are afraid to disagree with what the supervisor says, even if it’s obviously wrong,” Sokol said.
Also, Sokol pointed out the word “networking” is an understatement about how people conduct business in China.
The Chinese use “Guanxi” — strong interpersonal relationships — in order to conduct business. Guanxi is based on who you know and what these people believe their obligations are to you. The resulting network that businesspeople develop is the force behind corporate China.
Sokol, with the support of CIBER, plans to lead another trip for the Fox School’s Professional MBA for the spring 2007 semester, and is currently considering India or Latin America.
By Rebecca C. Carroll
For the Fox School