Overseas Eye Openers
by Kirsten Wile
International-track MBA's aren't the only students required to travel and study abroad at the David Eccles School of Business. Every year prior to graduation, students in the Executive MBA program take leave of their studies and professional responsibilities for a taste of the global marketplace on a 10-day tour of a foreign country. The school has administered such trips for 12 years to more than 15 cities in Asia and Europe and is looking to Mexico, South America, and Central America for future trips.
Director of Executive Education David Dungan BA'56 says the affects of globalization are not restricted to people who work overseas or for large multinational coporations. "It impacts everything from our values to our work habits, even the way business is conducted here in Utah," he says. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 1996 the most recent year for which statistics are available Utah organizations exported $3.3 billion in goods and services around the world. "Like it or not, the world is getting smaller and smaller," says Dungan who encourages all students to reflect on the cultural, historical, political, and economic forces driving world economies.
"Students aren't going to learn everything about a country on this trip," admits Dungan, but the nuances of each country's culture make a lasting impression they're unlikely to forget. With world democratization, business practices are becoming more universal but cultures remain relatively distinct, he adds. "Technically, business is business. Ideas and concepts may not differ greatly, but the people that we do the business with may. Therein lies the importance of these trips."
Cliff Yeckes MBA'97 and John Rees BA'81 JD'84 MBA'91, are two former executive MBA students who discovered, among other things, that the media doesn't always provide the most accurate account of international conditions. Their class tour of Hong Kong just a few weeks prior to the end of British sovereignty in May 1997 allowed a unique vantage point from which to view Hong Kong becoming part of China.
"This sounds trite, but trips like ours to Hong Kong tend to open your eyes," says Yeckes. "What struck me most about that part of the world is how vibrant, thriving, and alive it is. As for the handover, many of the Asian Hong Kong citizens did not seem too concerned. They were very pragmatic about it. It's such a huge economy, it seemed inconceivable before I went and after I came back that the takeover by the [People's Republic of China] was going to fundamentally change things. I'm a huge advocate for Asia in general and Hong Kong in particular. Asia is the 21st century." Yeckes is vice president of environmental health and safety services for Terracon, a privately held environmental consulting firm in Salt Lake City.
Rees, a business transaction attorney for Callister, Nebeker & McCullough, visited the capital cities of Japan and Korea in 1991. "At the outset, I was very skeptical about going on the trip. I even said to one of my professors, ŒDon't you think we could better spend our money buying laptops for everybody, something people could use?'" he recalls. "Since then, I've been a strong advocate. I gained more there than I could have ever learned in a classroom about how the people operate, what kinds of things motivated them, about their culture and society. We witnessed firsthand how they escorted you into a room or treated women in formal business settings. Experiences like this spoke volumes about the culture and conveyed information a textbook could never convey. If I was to do business in Japan or another country, I'd have a much better understanding of what I don't know and the kinds of things I need to learn to become better acquainted with a country. What struck me most is the reality that we're in a global market and that there really are no barriers."
Kirsten Wille BA'92 MA'97.