Engaged and Enlightened: MBA Experiential Learning in China and Singapore

The sights, sounds, colors, and smells form a tapestry: The hawker stalls. The culture. The ornately-manicured trees and chaotic-yet-somehow-organized subway traffic. The beauty of the Chinese and Singaporean people.

But let’s start from the beginning…
It was with eagerness and a measure of trepidation that we boarded our 14-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. We’d heard the descriptions: Shanghai is like New York and Las Vegas smashed together, a city of 23 million filled with towering skyscrapers and neon lights, much of which was rice paddies 10 years ago. The hype was real: The scale is on another level. The drive from the airport was populated with high-rise apartment buildings, and the city itself was filled with the promised sparkling, whimsical and gravity-defying skyscrapers.

Our tour began at Spraying Systems Co., a world leader in automated industrial spraying technology, where fellow Oregon MBA’ers Mason Atkin, Aaron Bush, Leah Goodman, and Seth Lenaerts spend the summer as interns driving innovation and sustainable business practices. The visit highlighted some differences between US and Chinese practices, including ideas of credit and performance guarantees, as the company prepares for the changing business demands of the 21st century.

Our next stop was Silicon Valley Bank, where the Chinese branch of this bank has made inroads in the country through use of patience and partnerships. Our host for this visit was Head of Corporate Banking, and U of O alumnus, Tim Hardin. As the Chinese banking system slowly opens to Westerners, SVB has positioned itself to take advantage of this exploding market.

At China Steel, an online steel trading startup and client of SVB, we were exposed to the pace and adaptability of the Chinese startup culture. Within a few short years, the startup has grown from an idea into a multi-million-dollar company, completely changing their business model almost yearly as they adapt to this new arena. Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai-based startup accelerator, was another impressive example of the pace of the Chinese startup market. Here businesses are created, funded, and launched within a matter of months.

The next leg of our adventure took us to Beijing, the cultural center and seat of Chinese power for thousands of years. Our first visit was to AECOM, an international engineering and consulting firm that has designed and built several large-scale projects for the Chinese government. AECOM is truly synthesizing the old and the new, with aesthetics that combine traditional techniques and styles with modern materials. The company is also innovating creative solutions to public transport and urban congestion, helping China steer away from polluting combustion-engine vehicles that clog the streets towards efficient and effective public transportation.

Next was a presentation at the Silk Road Fund. This collaboration between government and private entities is funding projects that advance China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which strives to reestablish and reinvigorate trade routes between China and Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor. By investing in infrastructure, energy, and transportation projects, China is reopening the historic “Silk Road” trading routes and transitioning its economy from a manufacturing power to a service, innovation, and knowledge economy.

That wrapped up our time in China, and it was truly bittersweet to leave behind our new friends and favorite foods. It’s one thing to hear the hyperbole about China: Rising superpower, a billion-and-a-half people, a culture and political system so different from ours. But it’s altogether different to see it firsthand, and I think it’s safe to say I was changed by the experience.

Next it was on to Singapore, the tropical nation-state and financial powerhouse known as the “garden city.” After meeting with some local politicians and businesspeople who delved into Singapore’s political and socioeconomic realities (Western ties, and close proximity to a rising China), we toured Sports Singapore and Singapore Airlines. Sports Singapore is a terrific example of the push to invest in its people. Through a focus on active play, healthy competition and beneficial lifestyles, the government is preparing its people for the dynamic, competitive world that lies ahead. At Singapore Airlines, we were briefed on their success from small airline to regional player with multiple subsidiaries, as well as getting an up-close look into their training program.

Last on the agenda was a special visit to the Singaporean Parliament building, where we learned of the island’s brief but storied history from British colony to independent nation-state. Such visits provide valuable insight into our own, mostly unquestioned, mores and beliefs.

Overall, my takeaways from Engaging Asia 2017 are that I grew personally and professionally in ways that I can’t quite quantify, but are tangible and real. Many of our world’s conflicts come from misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, and we reduced that in a way that could have ripple effects. Professionally, I think my basket of potential career destinations and job titles got bigger, and I also think there’s a spark to build stronger international connections and networks.

Engaging Asia changes and bolsters perspectives in an irreversible way, a way that hyperbole simply cannot. As we boarded the return flight to San Francisco, we left a piece of ourselves behind, but took a piece of China and Singapore with us. Until next time!

Written by bfordham

Fordham is a writer and journalist who believes in addressing the future with clarity and vision. He has most recently written for the Mad River Union, an award-winning Northern California newspaper, where he helped bring subjects like biogas production and bond procurement to life. Through the Oregon MBA’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Fordham plans to build out his overall skill-sets, taking advantage of rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities to gain a strong framework of business fundamentals. After graduation he plans to work toward renewable energy solutions for a changing world. Fordham will graduate in Spring '18.

2017 Honors Program Spring Banquet

On May 15, the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program hosted its 19th annual spring banquet at the Ford Alumni Center. Students, their families, and faculty members gathered together to celebrate and recognize the 2015-2017 cohort and their completion of the Honors Program curriculum and resulting graduation from the program.

Keynote speaker Jonathan Evans began the evening by sharing his experiences as co-founder and CEO of Skyward IO, a Verizon company. Skyward is a revolutionary drone operations company that Evans started during his time in the Oregon MBA program in 2012. Since then, Skyward has grown tremendously and recently merged with Verizon. Evans shared inspiring stories from his company as well as important lessons that he learned through his business experience. As Evans discussed making it through Skyward’s most challenging years, he emphasized the importance of persevering and maintaining core values. By sharing his story, Evans hoped to spark students’ curiosity to explore new things—after all, that’s how Skyward began years ago.

Sahar Petri, the 2016 Leadership Award recipient, announced two award winners. First, Julie Meunier of the 2016-2018 cohort received the 2017 Leadership Award. Meunier is highly involved in the Lundquist College of Business, notably working as a Duck Guide and as a member of the Oregon Consulting Group. Next, Doug Wilson was recognized as the recipient of the 2017 Faculty Award. Wilson taught the honors capstone course, BA 453H, in which teams of students worked on projects with the City of Albany.

Next, Amanda Gonzales led a look back on the 2017 Honors Program alternative break trip to Guatemala. Gonzales took time to thank the generous sponsors, donors, and all of the other individuals who made it possible for 11 students to travel with Where There Be Dragons, an experiential learning organization, this past spring break.

Honors Program director Deb Bauer followed Gonzales to present the final award of the night, the 2017 Student Achievement Award. This award is given to the graduating member with the highest GPA. This year’s recipient was Jack Miller. Bauer also recognized members of the student management board for their hard work and contribution to the program’s success this past year.

Graduating senior Ben Tesluk ended the night with a speech reflecting on the 2015-2017 cohort’s time in the Honors Program. He emphasized his appreciation for his cohort, whose members are now close friends, and for the opportunities the program provided. Tesluk also thanked Bauer for her enormous contributions to the program over the years, as she is finishing her final year as program director. Bauer received a standing ovation from banquet attendees as Tesluk presented her with a thank you gift from the graduating class.

The evening was full of inspiration and recognition of notable people involved in the Honors Program. The banquet marked 35 students’ successful completion of the program, a significant challenge and honor worthy of celebration.

Story by Carolyn Graeper ’18. Graeper is a business administration major with a minor in art. She will spend this summer working before traveling to Denmark to participate in a fall semester exchange program at Copenhagen Business School. Graeper will graduate in spring 2018.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

2017 Honors Program Spring Site Visit to Nike

In May, members of the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program were invited to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon for a campus tour and panel discussion with long-time Nike employees.

The tour included visits to numerous buildings dedicated to the different departments that make up the Nike brand. Some notable buildings included the Michael Jordan building and Prefontaine Hall. It was amusing to hear about Nike’s humble beginnings making sales out of the back of a van in Eugene. The storytellersmdash;as Nike fondly calls their guides—gave students insight into how the campus and numerous intramural clubs, courts, fields, and gardens all contribute to Nike’s incredible business culture. The stories of sports legends like Mia Hamm and Jerry Rice demonstrated Nike’s culture of treating its sponsored athletes as part of the team.

Students explored the many food options available during their lunch break, during which they shared what they had enjoyed most about the tour and what they had learned about Nike’s history. Nike’s cafeteria space provides employees with a place to come together and interact over lunch, creating an exciting and vibrant atmosphere.

After lunch, students attended a panel discussion comprised of Nike employees, the majority of whom were part of the golf division. The panelists included Aaron Heiser, David Pearce, Collette Hemmings, Jarod Courtney, and moderator Heather Broderick. Each panelist shared the story of their career paths and the challenges that they faced along the way. Many of the panelists had experienced career journeys best described as nomadic, experiencing Nike’s global reach by landing positions in the U.K., Europe, and Asia. Another aspect of Nike life the group discussed was how interconnected the business culture is to their everyday activities.

Each panelist discussed the Nike company value that spoke to them most and that they keep in the back of their mind to help guide their way through decisions and challenges. During the Q&A portion, the panelists were candidly open and honest about their experiences. From the closure of the golf equipment sector to the struggles of following your career in unfamiliar places, their stories resonated with students on both a mental and emotional level.

To conclude the day, Honors Program students received access to the Nike company store, where they had the opportunity to purchase merchandise and further mingle with their peers. All students left full of insightmdash;many left with bags full of Nike gear as well.

Story by Liam Jacobs and Nick Miller, 2016-2018 Honors Program cohort members. Jacobs is a business administration major, concentrating in sports business with a minor in economics. He will spend this next school year as a marketing and promotions intern for UO Athletics, and graduates in spring ‘18. Miller is a business administration major with a concentration in finance. He is also pursuing a second major in economics. This summer he will hold a position as a summer analyst at Ascent Private Capital Management, a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, in San Francisco. Miller will graduate in spring ‘19.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Reflections on a Case Competition

Ok, deep breath, you got this, 15 minutes and it’s all over. This is what was going through my head right before presenting in the final round of the Simon Fraser University Sustainability Challenge. This was my first live case competition and I never thought our team would get this far. We were three Americans, competing in Canada, in a business and cultural setting we knew little about despite the similarities between our countries.

When we first heard about the SFU Sustainability Challenge, my team including Seth Lenaerts, Leah Goodman, and I, were all excited. We saw it as a great opportunity to compete in an international live case competition with a focus on sustainability.  Once we saw the case, however, we knew it was going to test our education, business ethics, and values. The case prompt was to provide feasibility and pre-engagement advice to the FortisBC team with respect to the potential for natural gas conversions in First Nations communities on Vancouver Island. Our initial reaction was, “are we supposed to market natural gas to First Nation communities?” It was difficult to see the link to sustainability and tested our ethics.

Feeling confused and a bit disheartened we sought guidance from a couple of advisors. We were questioning our values and trying to decide what our next step should be. Upon re-reading the case we realized we were not being asked to come up with a marketing plan but to consider if natural gas could be an option for these communities, what these communities’ values were, and how these related to the natural gas company. Once we realized this, we were reenergized and dove back into the case, viewing it as a challenge to bring environmental values to a fossil fuel company.

Incorporating sustainability into our proposal was not the only challenge we faced. We were also dealing with the cultural differences between Canada and the United States. Canada is a big proponent of natural gas as a clean energy source whereas our group still viewed it as an extractive fossil fuel. We were also playing catch up on the cultural context and understanding the history and relationship of First Nation communities in Canada. While these challenges hampered our understanding of the case initially, having an outsider’s perspective may have helped us in the end.

Our team worked wonderfully together, building off each other’s ideas and helping each other understand the nuances of the case. When someone struggled with an idea or concept we would take the time to go over the issue and ensure everyone was on the same page, often leading to a breakthrough in how we structured our case. Our finalized product was something we could all be proud of, a values-driven suggestion on how FortisBC could use renewable natural gas (something they were currently offering at a premium) to these First Nation communities.

When we made it to Canada we weren’t quite sure what to expect. During the opening ceremony, we were chosen as the first to present the following day. We quickly returned to our hotel room and practiced our presentation until we knew it backwards and forwards. We felt good about our presentation but were not confident we would move onto finals.

The next morning, we got ready, practiced once more, and headed off to present. Wow, that was rough. We were torn apart by the questions the judges asked us. We recognized our weaknesses: some points weren’t supported enough, some examples not fleshed out, some questions we simply couldn’t answer. At that point, it was hard to focus on what we did well, especially without getting to see other presentations for comparison. We decided that no matter what, this was a valuable experience and at least we would be able to see the final presentations to learn what a winning presentation would look like.

After a few hours exploring beautiful Vancouver we came back to hear who would move onto the finals. Four finalists were chosen, each picked out of a cup in dramatic fashion to determine what order teams would present in. Once the third name had been called our team was pretty convinced we were not going to be picked; we were happy to simply enjoy the other presentations and learn from our competitors. Then it happened, they called our name “Sustainasaurus.” We were to be the last finalist presentation!

A variety of emotions passed through our group from disbelief and excitement about making it to the finals to disappointment that we would be unable to see any other presentations. After taking in this new information we quickly made our way downstairs where we would spend the next two hours practicing our presentation and working on answering those tough questions we faced during the first round.

And now here I am, taking a deep breath and about to step out in front of the panel of judges and students. Our presentation went well. Again, we were faced with tough questions, many of which we could answer well, some of which we had no answer for. We then took a seat ready to hear the judges overall feedback for the day.

We all got it wrong. Almost every single team managed to read the case incorrectly. We were never asked for a plan on how natural gas could work for First Nation communities. We were asked what information the company needed to gather in order to make their own plan. The entire audience of students sat stunned once we heard that. A case that did not require a plan of action? Being MBA students meant we were trained to associate presenting cases with presenting solutions. The judges went on to give us more feedback on how the teams could have performed better, what information could have been included and what information should not have been.

We reflected on what had just happened and were reeling from some of the feedback we had heard. We felt good about our presentation but had no context on how we compared to others. We didn’t know if the judges only hit us with the tough questions or if everyone had faced those. We didn’t even know what other teams had proposed to see if what we said was even viable.

Walking into the ending ceremony felt amazing. There was a giant sense of relief that presentations were over and that, no matter what, we had made it to the finals. When they began to announce the winners, there was a sudden hush around the room as we all crowded around the podium.

“Third place goes to team Sustainasaurus.”

No one has been more excited to receive third place then us. We quickly found each other in the room and made it up to the podium. For the rest of the night people kept coming up and congratulating us; we could not have been happier! We made positive connections with other competitors and professionals within the industry, several of whom we are looking to work with in the future.

We learned a lot from this experience and are eagerly looking forward to taking that knowledge with us when competing in future case competitions.

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

Honors Students Travel to Guatemala

The Lundquist College Business Honors Program took its sixth annual alternative break trip to Guatemala during the week of spring break in late March 2017. The program partnered with Where There be Dragons, an experiential learning-based organization, to expose students to cross-cultural education, global citizenship, and opportunities for individual growth. Eleven students from the program—led by Honors Program director, Deb Bauer—participated in the trip and engaged in extending their learning outside of the classroom.

The group travelled to Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as various communities around Lake Atítlan, where the group was able to experience local Guatemalan culture. For four nights of the trip, students stayed with host families in San Lucas Toliman. Living with host families proved to be a very challenging, but also a rewarding experience for all. Many students didn’t speak Spanish, but learned to communicate in other ways and made meaningful connections with their host families by cooking together, playing games with their host siblings, or spending time together in the evenings.

The group spent their days visiting various organizations and individuals in the community where they learned about traditional Mayan culture, Guatemalan history, sustainable agriculture practices, and the current social, political, and economic challenges that the people of Guatemala are facing.

The group spent a number of days with the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute (IMAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching local Guatemalans how to incorporate sustainable agricultural practices and traditional Mayan agriculture techniques into their daily lives. IMAP serves communities around Lake Atitlan and is dedicated to promoting food sovereignty, community development, and the preservation of local biodiversity and ancestral knowledge. With IMAP, the group learned about Mayan cosmovision and engaged in hands-on projects, including introducing new plants into a community garden.

Overall, the trip was a great success, allowing students to interact with local Guatemalans and learn about a new culture. Expanding our knowledge of the world around us is an invaluable lesson that the future business leaders in the Honors Program were able to experience.

Story by Amanda Gonzales ’17. Gonzales is an accounting major minoring in Spanish. She will spend this summer working as an audit intern with Deloitte in their Portland office. Gonzales will graduate in the fall of 2017.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.