Mixing Business with Culture

by Robert Gano

‌For Montclair State MBA students, the world is their classroom. Whether climbing the Great Wall of China or visiting businesses that are fueling South America’s emerging economy, students are getting a close-up look at the global marketplace through the School of Business’ capstone international study trip.

A hallmark of the redesigned graduate business programs introduced in 2012, the required capstone trip sets Montclair State’s MBA program apart from most other programs in the region. Focusing on nations such as Argentina, Brazil, China, Thailand, India and South Korea with emerging economies poised for fast growth, the trip lets the University’s MBA students experience the culture and business practices of other countries.

Studying emerging economies

The seven- to 10-day trips combine cultural visits and business meetings with free time for sightseeing and exploration. Except for airfare and a few meals, the cost of the trip is covered by MBA program tuition and fees.

So far, students have traveled to South America and Asia. “Our underlying theme is the world’s emerging economies,” says Professor Nicole Koppel, MBA director. “Whenever possible, we like to fit more than one country into a single trip, to expose students to diverse economies.”

Onsite visits introduce students to the culture and business practices in other countries. “There was a lot of variation in the businesses we visited,” says MBA student Andrew LaBarbera, who traveled in May to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Some were non-profits, some were law firms, some were businesses but all offered a great experience.”

Kristin Mingione ’07 describes her MBA journey to Beijing and Shanghai, China, and to Seoul, Korea, in May as “a once in a lifetime trip.” In addition to studying the economy, she climbed the Great Wall of China and immersed herself in Chinese and Korean culture. And, in the process, she realized that the media had shaped her and her fellow students’ perceptions of that part of the world.

‌“Some students were scared to travel to South Korea – since it’s so close to North Korea – because of all the news stories we’d seen,” she says, noting that while there, she heard no mention of the threat from North Korea.

“Seoul is phenomenal,” says Michelle Garcia ’09, a member of Mingione’s group. “I’ve always thought that New York City is the greatest city in the world, but going to Seoul made me realize there is some major competition. Everything is more advanced than I imagined. It definitely made me want to consider working abroad after I finish school.”

The Montclair State advantage

“Our faculty believes that an international experience is an essential aspect of an MBA program,” says Koppel. “Seeing a different culture – particularly one from an emerging economy – gives a different perspective and exposes our MBA students to much more.”

Having an overseas trip as a part of the curriculum also attracts potential students. “We find that applicants research the program and say, ‘The fact that you include an international trip made me apply because I absolutely believe that globalization is the way to do business now,’” says Jonida Dervishi, MBA coordinator. “They value that component of our program.”

While an international experience clearly adds value to an MBA program, these trips are seldom built into the curriculum elsewhere. Koppel notes that at the majority of institutions, “The international trip is only offered as a part of an Executive MBA program. In this area, other than some Executive MBA programs, we have the only part-time MBA program that has an included international trip.”