Students exchange agreements with leading Chinese universities are part of a larger globalization initiative by Krannert and Purdue that is taking the school beyond the classroom and into the heart of Asia's growing economy.
By Eric Nelson
Ongoing efforts by Purdue’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) and Krannert’s International Initiatives and Global Supply Chain Management Initiative (GSCMI) have already created a learning environment that extends far beyond management classrooms.
Combined with the University’s Asian Initiative, including agreements with three Chinese universities, Krannert students and faculty members are now venturing into the hub of the continent’s unprecedented economic evolution.
Brad Feuling, MBA ’07, stayed in Shanghai for a week during spring recess with fellow GSCMI master’s students, where they visited with MBA students from Shanghai Jiaotong University, met Krannert alumni living and working in the city, and took a whirlwind series of ‘best practice’ tours at China facilities of such Fortune 500 companies as Intel, Cummins, and Kimberly-Clark, among others. Industry partners enabled the effort by providing contact information for their “in country” operations to facilitate the broadly diverse site visits.
Feuling returned to China after classes ended in May as part of a larger Krannert coalition. He and 43 other master’s students spent two weeks at Tsinghua University in Beijing, while 20 undergraduates visited Guanghua School of Management at Beijing University. Lectures on topics relevant to each group’s level of knowledge were complemented with trips to such historic landmarks as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
“China is where every business is going — companies are scrambling to put their products in front of 1.3 billion consumers,” says Feuling. “Global knowledge on and specifically knowledge of China is critical to doing business today. These two trips have given me a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities this country faces, as well as a foundation of cultural knowledge about this part of Asia.”
GSCMI in action
Because it focused on operations and manufacturing, the weeklong trip to Shanghai in March attracted students who want to work for global companies that have suppliers or other facilities abroad, says Amanda Thompson, former assistant director of GSCMI and the Dauch Center for the Management of Manufacturing Enterprises (DCMME).
“I think the biggest value for them was just being there and correcting the misconceptions they had before the visit,” she says. The prolific construction was a particular surprise to many attendees, some of whom may have expected third-world conditions. “They saw beautiful brand-new factories full of hard-working people,” she says.
David Chipman, MBA ‘06, agrees with Thompson that the ‘best practices’ plant tours were the highlight of the trip. “Visiting China was a great opportunity,” he says. “I saw the global supply chain at work in actual manufacturing settings and learned about the cultural nuances of doing business in Asia. It was a feet-on-the-ground, out-in-thefield learning experience.”
“I have always been amazed at the speed of development and the evolution of the manufacturing industry in China,” adds Mohit Bhandari, MBA ’06. “This opportunity allowed me to go right to the heart of this development and interact with some of the top managers of global organizations.”
Even though she’s originally from Taiwan and familiar with Asian culture, Ruby Chou, MBA ’07, found the trip equally stimulating. “The most memorable part was seeing how fast China has grown and how eager Chinese people are willing to learn from Western experience,” she says.
For Feuling, who also went on the trip to Beijing in May, another highlight was meeting an active group of Purdue and Krannert alumni in Shanghai for networking and dinner. “It was fun to connect with them and learn how their careers led them to China,” he says. “It was also a nice way to feel a part of a larger global family.”
Partnerships bring opportunities
“To do business in China,
it’s important to have
people there, even for a
short time. This program
was sort of like immersion
learning — students attended
lectures to learn about
the country’s economy,
culture, social, and even
legal environments, and at
the same had opportunities
to see it firsthand.”
—Prof. Kwei Tang
Unlike the GSCMI trip in March, the two-week “Doing Business in China” student exchange visit to Beijing in May grew out of Krannert’s recent agreements with Tsinghua University and Peking University, the two best universities in China, says Kwei Tang, Krannert associate dean for programs and student services and director of international learning activities.
“To do business in China, it’s important to have people there, even for a short time,rdquo; he says. “This program was sort of like immersion learning — students attended lectures to learn about the country’s economy, culture, social, and even legal environments, and at the same had opportunities to see it firsthand.”
Adam Smiley, MBA ’07, says the trip built upon his other study abroad experiences in Western Europe and Thailand. “It was incredibly exciting to learn about China’s culture and business climate,” Smiley says. “I hope to work for a company with a large international focus, so it made sense to spend time acclimating myself to doing business in Asia.”
EWhile lectures and team projects kept students busy during much of the visit, the two-week schedule left a suitable amount of time for sightseeing, shopping, and cultural excursions, adds Smiley.
“As many would echo, my most memorable experience was going to the Great Wall and visiting the many different historical and cultural sites around Beijing,” he says. “I also formed strong friendships with both my fellow Krannert classmates and my Chinese cohorts, whom I can remain in contact with throughout my career.”
Combined with his earlier trip to Shanghai, Feuling says his experience in Beijing will continue to enhance his studies at Krannert. “We read case studies regarding China, but you have a very limited perspective when you haven’t actually visited the country being discussed,” he says. “This program gave me the opportunity to witness firsthand how the country is building to become a major economic player.”
Exchanging expertise, research
The exchange of students is only part of Purdue’s Asian Initiative and Krannert’s partnerships with Chinese universities. Another goal is the exchange of expertise and research, exemplified by a visit in June by Cheng Siwei, one of the country’s leading economic officials.
Siwei, who serves as the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, has created a field of the “fictitious economy,” which studies transaction activities of fictitious capital such as securities, futures, and options, economic activities that are carried out with information technology as well as visual economic activities with computer simulation.
Known as the “father of China’s venture capital,” Siwei spoke in Krannert’s Rawls Hall about China’s market status and future development, not only addressing the country’s many economic concerns, but also offering solutions.
Though China’s gross domestic product is the fourth largest in the world, it has 38 million people living below the poverty level, Siwei noted. “One critical task for us is to improve living for people in the countryside,” he said. “We need to let some people move from the countryside, and provide support for those who want to transfer to the city.”
In its role as a manufacturer for the world, Siwei believes that China needs to reduce its reliance on petroleum and coal and find alternate sources of energy. “We have to solve this problem in two ways — conservation of energy and developing different kinds of energy,” he said.
Siwei also believes that China has a bright future in regard to venture capital investment, assuming the country’s leaders play a proper role. “Government should encourage but not control,” he said. “They should lead the country, but not manage it.”
CIBER builds momentum
A key player in these various globalization efforts is Purdue’s Center for International Business and Research (CIBER), based at the Krannert School. CIBER recently received a four-year, $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will extend its existing programs and reinforce those of GSCMI and the Asian Initiative.
“While the CIBER program has been doing good things at Purdue since 1993, this award is based on the proposal for innovative activities to improve and enhance American competitiveness internationally over the next four years,” says Greg Hundley, director of CIBER and the principal investigator for the grant.
“Our charge is to produce ‘nationally exemplary’ programs in curriculum development, research, and outreach that will make American businesses better global players.”
“Our charge is to produce ‘nationally exemplary’ programs
in curriculum development, research, and outreach
that will make American businesses better global players.”
— Prof. Greg Hundley
Hundley, a Krannert professor of organizational behavior and human resources, says that the proposed program also has direct implications for regional business. In addition, CIBER’s efforts to raise the level of international business competitiveness operate at all levels of education, including graduate, undergraduate, executive, K-12, and in the community.
“As an example of our extensive commitment to graduate education, we will work with the CIBERs at several other major research universities to conduct special doctoral training programs in specific business disciplines, including operations management, organizational behavior, finance, and marketing,” he says.
SAs a result, when candidates graduate, they will be well equipped to conduct international business research and integrate international business principles and practices into their classes.
In Hundley’s view, competing better internationally is not optional for business schools. “Either you’re globally competitive or you’re not competitive at all,” he says. “Just as businesses must compete globally, business schools must be international, or in 10 years they will not even be able to compete domestically.”
Several existing CIBER programs focus on the emerging Asian giants, India and China. In addition to the Purdue CIBER initiatives that took both undergraduate and MBA students in China this summer, says Hundley, “We will be bringing leading academicians and representatives to West Lafayette for two major national conferences on Chinese business languages and culture.”
Over the next four years, CIBER will further the development of new international programs for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as for professors and researchers. Hundley says one CIBER initiative will be in the area of corporate public diplomacy, focusing on how U.S. companies and their managers do business in the world and how this influences other countries’ perceptions of the United States.
“You can view American companies doing good international business as part of the country’s homeland security effort,” Hundley says. “It is certainly a plus when Eli Lilly and Company donates life-saving drugs to a country in a time of disaster, but it is just as important for companies and their managers to understand the necessity of being good global citizens every day.”