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Students Experience Chinese Culture and Business Practices

Posted Aug. 29, 2011

Thirty-two students enrolled in Kent State University’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program had the opportunity to take their classroom abroad when they traveled to China as part of their studies on global business. The unique learning experience exposed the students to China’s culture and the business practices of companies that operate internationally.

During the trip, students met with business leaders, toured businesses and the U.S. Consulate and had some free time to explore the country on their own. The goal of the international business trip is to have students better understand the international orientation of companies today.

“We’re one of the first schools to offer an international trip as part of our EMBA program,” says Bob Krampf, Ph.D., academic director of executive programs for Kent State’s College of Business Administration. “We’ve done this for the past 20 years, and now it’s common for schools to do this. You can say that Kent State is a trendsetter.”

For 11 days, the EMBA students visited companies including Baosteel, a state-owned corporation; Beijing MTR Corporation, the first foreign invested cooperation company in urban railway transportation sector in mainland China; Li & Fung Limited, a privately held business entity headquartered in Hong Kong with three distinct core businesses in sourcing, distribution and retailing; and Coca-Cola. The students also visited companies with local connections. At the Shanghai headquarters of the Timken Company, the students received a tour and talked with its executives about the company entering the China market. The students also visited a Babcock & Wilcox Company manufacturing facility and spoke with one of its executives.

“The companies we worked with were awesome,” comments Joe Thibault, vice president of operations for Jo-Ann Stores Inc. and one of the Kent State EMBA students who traveled to China with the class.

“Many of the students view China as a place where things are manufactured,” explains Professor of Economics Kathy Wilson, who accompanied the EMBA students on the trip. “Now, they realize China is an end-user and a market that their companies should consider because of the country’s vast size.”

Wilson also said that following the company tours and speaking with their management, the EMBA students found that the issues facing managers in China are the same that face many companies in the United States: talent retention and intellectual property.

For EMBA student Debbie Buckeye, product maintenance supervisor at Carter Lumber Company, the trip was an experience of a lifetime. “What I liked most about it was the opportunity to see it from both a tourist’s view and from a business view,” Buckeye said. “Most people just taking a tour on a bus would not have the opportunity to experience touring a large steel plant the size of the city of Akron, Ohio, with employees training and living within the compounds of the factory and touring American companies in China with discussions of the work experiences they have had up to now.”

During their Kent State trip, the group also enjoyed cultural programming that included trips to the Great Wall of China, the Beijing Zoo, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Some students stayed longer than the scheduled 11-day trip for work purposes because their employers have operations in China.

Dan Franjko
, IS audit principal at Timken and Kent State EMBA student, said the international trip helped him with his current position at his company. “It gave me the opportunity to develop key contacts with our leadership team in China and better understand how Timken manages its business in China, what it considers to be its greatest risks and challenges in doing business there, and how the company is addressing these items,” Franjko says. “I will have to work with my colleagues in China more on a project I am doing now with implementing Continuous Control Monitoring at Timken, and this trip helped me develop a better understanding of our business there and develop key contacts that will be very helpful when I go to China again as part of this project.”

Students in the EMBA program carry such titles as manager, director or vice president. They represent a wide variety of industries, ranging from health care to manufacturing to professional services to government, from large and small organizations. Students in this current class are from such employers as Akron General Medical Center, AT&T, Babcock & Wilcox, Carter Lumber, Charles Schwab, the City of Ravenna, East Liverpool City Hospital, First Energy, the J.M. Smucker Co., Jo-Ann Stores, Moen Incorporated, Summit County Engineer and Timken.

“This was a very successful trip,” Wilson says. “We had a particularly cohesive and mature group of students. I appreciated the way they got to know each other, and the feedback I’ve heard from students was very positive.”

Krampf said that after four years of visiting China, the university plans to make next year’s EMBA international trip to Brazil and Chile. In the past, the program also has visited Ireland, Eastern Europe and Australia.

For more information about Kent State’s EMBA program, visit