A course during winter break that met in New York City proved that we can study international business without traveling very far.
One way students can learn about international business is to travel. But it’s not the only way. What if the world could instead travel to students?
This was the reasoning behind the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business‘ decision to offer a special intersession course this past January on international business. The intensive two-week program met mostly at Adelphi’s Manhattan Center in New York City.
“We took advantage of the global nature of New York City to provide a rich multicultural experience for these students, without having to travel to another country,” said MaryAnne Hyland, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate programs and student success at the Willumstad School.
Adjunct faculty member Joseph Sheldrick, M.B.A. ’97, who taught the course, and associate professor of management Pamela Buckle, Ph.D., who led the experiential aspects of the course, introduced students to the concepts of international business by focusing on China.
Besides classroom instruction, the course included talks on conducting business in China from visiting experts and a visit to J.P. Morgan. It also included a cultural component, with six Chinese graduate students acting as liaisons and helping the 16 undergraduates learn from a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America, lunch in Chinatown and a performance by Shen Yun, the Chinese dance and music company.
“The course gave students an understanding of the global nature of business,” Sheldrick said, pointing to how they took apart a common lead pencil you could buy from Staples and discovered how five different countries contribute to its production.
It also emphasized the link between culture and business. “Especially today, when so much of business is globalized, there’s more to it than just reading about it in a textbook or watching a video on YouTube,” Sheldrick said. “We designed the course to immerse the students in all aspects of business without their having to leave the city.” A vital aspect of this was to challenge and develop students’ cross-cultural social intelligence—their ability to interact with people and function effectively in unfamiliar cultural surroundings.
The course’s cultural liaisons provided students with real-world perspectives on Chinese business and consumers, which was vital information for end-of-semester projects where students pitched their proposals for new businesses that could succeed in today’s China. With guidance from the liaisons and Sheldrick, students developed ideas on how they would introduce new products in the Chinese market. One group, Sheldrick said, presented a plan for selling a bottle with a built-in water filtration system.
“Students had to address questions like where would the bottles be manufactured, how would the bottles be advertised, and what kinds of government regulations would be in place,” Sheldrick said.
The students discussed case studies such as Google’s operations in China and compared how Uber and Lyft do business in the United States contrasted with the way their Chinese equivalent, Didi Chuxing, operates.
“We repeated many times that we’re not here to critique any country’s way of doing business; we are here to say that if you want to be competitive in this country, you have to follow the country’s rules and here’s how you do that,” Sheldrick said.
The course’s success has prompted calls for making it an annual offering, which is being considered.
“Our approach has always been to provide distinguishing and enriching experiences for our students, and this course is consistent with that,” Dr. Hyland said. “Seeing the students really engaging inside and outside the class with the cultural liaisons was rewarding. Those are the kinds of connections we were looking to create.”
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