A global summer for URI, international MBA students

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 10, 2008 – Twenty students in a new global master of business administration program at the University of Rhode Island traveled more this summer than the U.S. Olympic team.

A grant from the Global U8 Consortium, a group of 12 universities formed to address emerging issues confronting the global community, allowed the students to study at URI and then in France, China and South Korea. URI President Robert L. Carothers is the current president of the consortium and URI Business Professor Judy Beckman is the group’s secretary general. Beckman led the global effort and secured supplemental funding for the students, while URI Assistant Director of Outreach Melissa McCarthy, coordinated housing, transportation, meals and logistics of the U.S. leg of the program. URI also provided major funding for the program.

“At URI, we began by researching the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which was approved in June 2007,” said Douglas Hales, assistant professor of business administration.

In the spring, 20 students from URI, Inha University in South Korea, the university of Le Havre in France and Xiamen University in China started their odyssey in Kingston. The students were all members of Global U8 universities. The five URI students completed their masters’ degrees through the Global MBA.

“The students spent two weeks in each of the countries and took courses at each university,” Hales said.

At URI, the students examined global supply chain management, and visited Hasbro, the Pawtucket-based toymaker, the CVS/Caremark Distribution Center, the Ocean Spray food processing facility in Middleton, Mass. and the Shaw’s Supermarkets’ cold storage unit in Methuen, Mass.

Hales said the universities set up company tours in each country, while the students served as hosts in their respective countries for cultural and social events.

At Le Havre, the students studied logistics and visited an oil refinery, while at Xiamen University, they studied marketing and visited a van production facility. At Inha, they studied knowledge management and visited a seaport.

“The program far exceeded the students’ expectations,” Hales said. “Not only did they gain an excellent global perspective of business, they visited historic and cultural sites in each country. They also learned to overcome language and communications barriers by traveling and learning together.

“The students were able to see how businesses are managed in a capitalist system versus a socialist system,” Hales added.

They also experienced different teaching and learning cultures.

“In France, they found that starting times were very fluid, where in China and Korea, you are expected to be there on time and to stay there until it is time to leave.”

Westerly’s Kenyon Murphy, a vice president at his family’s car dealership, Hoxsie Pontiac, Buick, GMC, said the experience was spectacular.

“By far it was the best part of our MBA, and while the URI MBA is a tremendous value, this global program was amazing because we studied supply chain management and logistics in four countries,” Murphy said. “This was by far more intensive and fulfilling than any internship or directed study program.”

As a local General Motors dealer he said it was interesting to see that the company is making a profit in Asia.

“A Buick Lacrosse that retails for around $30,000 here sells for $50,000 to $60,000 in China one of my Chinese classmates told me,” Muprhy said. “Buick is a prestige brand in China.”

He said he and his fellow students became very close. “We hit it off with the French students, but it took a little while for the Chinese and Koreans to get over their initial shyness. But as we got to the know them, our bonds became very strong. In fact, they were probably the most broken up when we departed.”

Murphy said the program’s affordability was key. The program paid for flights and room and board. He was hopeful the program could be offered again next spring and summer.

Classmate Chris Sao also said the program was invaluable.

“The Global MBA program is an amazing opportunity to experience the world with your new international friends,” Sao said. “You get to discover the real local lives of the countrymen that you would have not been able to do on your own as a typical tourist. You see the truth, the good and the bad. In addition to exploration, you develop business connections and the opportunity to work in an international corporation.”

Sao said his favorite part of the program was being able to meet company officials, such as the chief executive officer of Hasbro, Brian Goldner, and former head of Hynix Semiconductor, Eui-Je Woo. “The lectures were insightful and I will take with me their stories that have inspired me. Mr. Woo’s lecture about crisis management was especially inspiring because he was involved in the largest corporate turnaround in Asian history. Being able to talk to these inspiring people drives me to be as influential in the business world.”

Hales said he and others at URI involved with the Global U8 Consortium are seeking funding sources for next year. “It would be great if we could obtain long term sponsorship through the University’s alumni.

“Most of these international students had never been to this country and they probably had negative feelings about capitalism and a perception of it being a cut-throat environment,” Hales said. “What they learned is that Americans are cooperative and value teamwork, while our students learned about different cultures and developed a social conscience.”

Pictured above

CLASSMATES IN PORT: A few of the members of the University of Rhode Island’s Global MBA program pose at the Port of Le Havre, France. From left are John Conlin, Kenyon Murphy of Westerly and Chris Sao. Photo courtesy of Kenyon Murphy.

TOP CHOICE IN CHINA: Westerly’s Kenyon Murphy, a vice president at his family’s car dealership, Hoxsie Pontiac, Buick, GMC, poses in front of a Buick LaCrosse while taking a break from his studies in China. Murphy said a LaCrosse retails for around $30,000 here, but one of his classmates told him the model sells for $50,000 to $60,000 in China. Photo courtesy of Kenyon Murphy.