Colorado State University’s College of Business Executive MBA students traveled to France, Germany and Russia this summer for an international study tour. The students, who are working managers, executives and entrepreneurs, visited German and Russian companies, participated in a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, interacted with government leaders and studied issues concerning business and cultural differences.
“Personally, I thought the trip was a transformative experience,” said Beth Wallace, one of the students who participated in the trip. “It was truly exciting to see first-hand the emergence of a market economy in Russia. The trip allowed us to synthesize a lot of the key concepts we learned in our first year, from strategy and competitive advantage to comparative economics and finance.”
Besides studying supply chain management, economics, trade issues and marketing, the tour gave the EMBA students an inside look at cultural differences concerning leadership.
For example, some of the leadership principles learned in the MBA curriculum are based on the book, “The Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner, which champions five major directives. These principles, including Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart, may resonate with Americans, but not necessarily with Russians who have grown up with a much different leadership culture.
“The annual international study tour provides the opportunity to apply the classroom discussions in a very direct way,” said John Hoxmeier, associate dean for the College of Business. “From a business perspective, we don’t understand Russia very well, and Europe is very complex. The students had a unique experience.”
Europe is struggling at the moment trying to make the EU work effectively while facing considerable financial crises among its member nations. From a commerce perspective, this makes understanding the risks and relationships even more important.
“The ideas of entrepreneurship and market development are not yet comfortable to them,” Hoxmeier said as he described the interaction with Russian managers. By way of contrast, in Russia everything is difficult yet everything is possible. “Barriers are merely toll-gates, as long as you can figure out how to work the gate,” he said. “The end tends to justify the means” according to traditional leadership norms in Russia, so doing business creates many ethical dilemmas. That is the focus of the international study tour; to expose the Denver Executive MBA students to the challenges and the opportunities for the multi-national enterprise.
EMBA students enjoyed learning from European and Russian managers and also participated in:
– business visits to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), Boeing/Jeppesen, Opel, Baltika, and Rusnano Corporation;
– discussions with the cultural attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the dean of the Strasbourg School of Management, and the director of Economic Development for the city of Russelsheim, Germany;
– presentations on the state of the European Union by Marek Siwiec, member of Parliament from Poland, and preparations for the Universiade Olympic Games in Kazan, Tatarstan; and
– tours of the European Parliament, Moscow, St. Petersburg and visits to the Kremlin and the Hermitage.
Amy Parsons, CSU’s vice president of Operations accompanied the MBA students on the tour. “Being able to experience this with the students was invaluable. I was able to view strategy from different perspectives, and I learned something from every visit.”
The CSU Denver Executive MBA (DEMBA) program replicates a corporate environment with evening classes in the downtown DEMBA Center. Classes draw on a diverse mix of experienced professionals representing organizations from Colorado as well as national and multinational corporations.
For more information about distance, on-campus or Denver MBA programs, visit http://www.biz.colostate.edu/degreesCertificates/mbaPrograms/pages/default.aspx.