Management Undergrads Offered a Gateway to China

Posted: September 14, 2009 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: February 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

By Jennifer Edgerly

The Triumphal Arch in Hong Kong. Photo by Hiroyuki Matsumoto from Google Earth

The Triumphal Arch in Hong Kong. Photo by Hiroyuki Matsumoto from Google Earth

Graduate students in Mason’s School of Management (SOM) often rave about the global residency requirement that is part of their curriculum. As a result of this requirement, since 1991, Mason graduate business students have traveled on one- to two- week residencies in Australia, China, India, the Pacific Rim and other regions of the world. Soon, undergraduate students in SOM will be able to have a similar experience thanks to a U.S. Department of Education grant.

Mason was one of 31 universities — and the only one in the D.C. metro area — to receive the grant titled “Strengthening Global Business Education: Gateway to China.” SOM faculty members are planning two short-term study tours for selected undergraduate students in January and May 2010.

“The study tours will be very similar to the global residencies in which SOM graduate students participate, including identifying a business concept on which to focus while visiting businesses and speaking with management and employees,” says Alison O’Brien, associate dean for undergraduate programs in SOM.

“The intent is to give students majoring in finance and management the opportunity to really experience global business practices and not just read about them in a textbook.”

The study tour will be set up as a three-credit course, including pre-study tour prep work, lectures at the Beijing Language and Cultural University, visits to businesses in both Beijing and Hong Kong and follow-up seminars upon returning. SOM is partnering with the Confucius Institute to provide the pre-study tour workshops on language and culture.

Ultimately, O’Brien and SOM faculty members would like to develop a platform for undergraduate business students to participate in an international internship program. Initially students would intern with firms in Virginia that do business in China, and later in firms located in China that do business with the United States.

“One of the benefits to students of spending time on the ground overseas is that there is as much value in understanding the similarities in business practices between China and the United States as there is in understanding the differences,” says O’Brien.

In addition to expanding the characteristics of globalization in the business curriculum within SOM, the grant also requires the university to promote cultural, lingual and economic development practices in China to the Northern Virginia business community.

“Not only do we need to have an educational partner, which we found in the Beijing Language and Cultural University, but we are also required to have an external partner from the business community, and that will be the Business Alliance,” explains O’Brien. “Along with educating students on global practices in the classroom, our faculty will host information seminars for local businesses interested in doing business in China.”

According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, China is currently the third largest recipient of exports from Virginia. As such, there is interest not only from companies affiliated with the Business Alliance but also from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to bring more business to Fairfax County and to understand business practices in China.

Finance and management faculty members will go on the study-tours with the students and then hold seminars with the business community following the trip. Using an integrated approach to sharing information, faculty members will be able to share their experiences overseas and what they gleaned from their time there and also receive information from companies based in Virginia that are currently doing business in China.

“There are many firms that are members of the Business Alliance that are already doing business with Chinese firms and many more who would like to learn how,” says O’Brien.

Other SOM faculty members involved with the grant are Catherine Cramton, associate professor of management; Jerry Hanweck, professor of finance; Karen Hallows, EMBA and Master’s in Technology Management academic director; Michelle Marks, associate provost for graduate education; and Karl Zhang, assistant professor of Chinese, modern and classical languages.

Write to mediarel at