Engaging Asia

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.

Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Engaging Asia Recap

As second year Oregon MBA students, we experience the trip of a lifetime for two weeks in September to Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore. This trip was filled with trips to visit companies, amazing food and company, and plenty of time to explore. Students from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center took some time to highlight their favorite memories and experiences from this incredible trip.

What was your favorite experience in Shanghai, Beijing, or Singapore and why?

Ismael Nunez-Oliva:

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 3.19.05 PMThe Sports Matters conference was quite the highlight of my trip. We had the opportunity to attend the most important sports conference in Asia at the Marina Bay Sands. During the conference, we met professionals of the industry from different locations, such as China, Thailand and Australia.

James Stewart:

My favorite experience had to be the Great Wall of China. I never really thought too much about it before actually being there and walking along the wall. How something of that size was built on top of these mountains and is still there today is mind-blowing.

Will Eidam:

received_10206952594325133Being able to visit the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena in Shanghai with Charles Humphrey Smith was a great behind-the-scenes experience that one could only get through Warsaw’s connections. Not only were we given a private tour of the heavily-guarded complex, but we also learned a lot about the political structure of sports in China, specifically Shanghai, that you don’t hear too much about unless you’re talking to someone who has experienced it first-hand.

David Ehrlich:

My favorite experience was the Formula 1 practice in Singapore. I have a huge passion for the sport of Formula 1 racing and to see the cars up close was beyond amazing. The speed, the technology that goes into the cars and the love that fans have for specific manufacturers and drivers. The American market hasn’t embraced Formula 1 much like a country like Singapore. The sport has helped put Singapore on the global sports landscape and provides the opportunity to bid on additional events like junior world championships and the upcoming Rugby 7’s.

received_10206987356154157Vanessa Pollitt:

I most enjoyed the visit to the Olympic Village in Beijing. I remember watching the Olympics back in 2008 and it was incredible getting to see the facilities that made that type of event possible. I personally enjoyed the tour of the Water Cube. As, a former swimmer seeing the pool where Michael Phelps won a historic eight gold medals was definitely a highlight of the trip.


What was the best meal you had on the trip?

Ismael Nunez Oliva:

Chinese hospitality can be overwhelming. As part of the Chinese culture, you need to provide as much food as you can when you are hosting. Some days, we were invited to taste local Chinese dishes that were an explosion of flavors and weird components, such as duck heads.

Will Eidam:

MrShisDumplingsAs great as the large family meals were– and they were amazing and stomach-filling — my best meal was when I went off the beaten path and explored the Hutongs of Beijing. (Alleys formed by lines of historical, traditional courtyard residences.) There, I discovered Mr. Shi’s Dumplings, a Euro-friendly modest restaurant where I was treated to various combinations of steamed and fried dumplings. (The pork, cheese and coriander combo was the best.) Sampling duck head or other non-traditional food items during family meals were great, but it’s hard to beat a well-served plate of hot dumplings.

Benji Bryant:

Breakfast at the hotel in Shanghai was my favorite meal of the trip. It was the most epic breakfast buffet that you will ever see. I seriously spent 2 hours every morning trying to make it to every buffet station. Also, the meals with duck were amazing. It is like a better version of turkey.

What was your favorite company or site visit of the trip and why?

Ismael Nunez-Oliva:Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 3.30.57 PM

I enjoyed our visit to Sport Singapore the most. We had the chance to work and engage with different professionals on a two hour workshop about specific obstacles of the local sports industry. In addition, the opportunity to visit the National Stadium in Singapore was overwhelming and we ended up our visit with a small game of Netball against SportSG. We had a close game but at the end we lost.

Whitney Scott:

IMG_7647 (1)I really enjoyed going to the NFL activation in Beijing. The NFL is still working through how to market in China, and seeing a true activation was a great learning experience (and super fun to take part in). I thought they did a great job of using technology to promote and make their activities more fun and engaging, but also very easy on the “consumer”. I enjoyed hearing about the challenges that China is facing with the NFL, but more so how they are going about tackling those issues.

Christine Lutz:

My favorite company visit was to a hat factory in Shanghai. We received a tour of the entire facility and were walked through the process of making a hat, from idea generation to fabric selection to manufacturing. It was incredible to see the inner workings of a factory and I was amazed at how many famous brands were made under the same factory roof. We then got to explore their showroom and learn a Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 3.35.11 PMlittle bit more about their sales process.

Vanessa Pollitt:

My favorite company visit of the trip was the Sentosa Golf Course in Singapore. I really enjoyed the presentation as well as the tour of the grounds. I also felt it was a fun experience to share between all of the centers.

What city did you most enjoy and why?

James Stewart:

Each city was great for its own reasons. If you were dropped in the middle of downtown Shanghai, it seemed like any other large city in America, except much bigger. The lights and buildings at night were amazing along the river. You could find other people who spoke English and stores and restaurants that you recognized. Beijing was great because it was the first time I really felt like I was in China. The Great Wall was an experience I’ll never forget and a few of us got to check out the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Singapore was very interesting. It didn’t seem like there was a stereotypical Singaporean culture or person, just a mix of all different types of cultures, and on one tour they were explaining to us that the country was growing by using imported sand to increase the size of the island. Pretty wild if you ask me. Being somebody who had never been to Asia before it was very eye-opening. There’s so much to this world that would never cross your mind until you go out there and experience it for yourself.

Jacob Rosen:

I had the best time in Singapore. It’s such a mix of so many cultures and despite the almost unbearable humidity, I wish we had some more time to wander around. Singapore’s history and culture is just so fascinating, including the fact they’ve built up 20% more land by being the world’s largest importer of sand. Since we Engaging Asia Great Wall of Chinahave such a good relation with SportSingapore, we had inside information from our peers and past trips of where to go all around the city-state. I’d love to go back.

Christine Lutz:

My favorite stop of the trip was Beijing. I enjoyed all of the rich history and culture of this city and definitely felt it was the most educational. Visiting the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven were just a few of the amazing places I explored while in Beijing. The food was very authentically Chinese and there were street vendors set up every night selling all sorts of exotic creations such as tarantula, shark, and silk worm.

What advice do you have for future students going on this trip?

Will Eidam:

To make the experience more rewarding, I would advise all students to do research on China’s political and social culture. Having even the most basic understanding will allow you to go more in depth during conversations with speakers who have graciously taken time out of their busy day to speak with students from across the Pacific. Also, you’re only in each city for a couple of days, so having an understanding of where you want to go and what you want to see during your downtime can make a huge difference between having a so-so experience and having an unforgettable one.

Engaging Asia SingaporeJacob Rosen:

Explore the cities during your free time. The long days of networking can be exhausting but you might only go to Asia once in your life. Take time to just wander out and explore the city. Wake up early in the morning or defer your naps until your return to Eugene. Cherish the time you’ve got overseas and make the most of it.


Benji Bryant:

Go! No matter what. This is a once in a lifetime trip that you definitely do not want to miss out on.

Written by Christine Lutz

Christine was born and raised in North Carolina and is a current second year MBA Student in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.

4 Cultural Trends That Will Affect Business in Asia

Engaging Asia BeijingHaving studied international relations and lived abroad for a number of years, I’ve experienced first hand the interconnectivity of our current world. One of the reasons I chose the Oregon MBA is because this program also understands the importance globalization has on business. The Oregon MBA takes it one step further by offering all students a highly subsidized international business trip to Asia to experience international business first hand.

Through the Engaging Asia study tour I was given the opportunity to experience the culture, history, politics, economics, and business of three very distinct cities: Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore. The two-week trip consisted of meetings and tours with leaders from a wide variety of organizations, from large international businesses, to local start-ups, to government officials. In the course of these meetings and cultural experiences I identified four common trends to watch as I enter my career:

1)   The rising middle class and consumerism: The United States middle class is no longer the driver of the world’s economic growth, with over 109 million people worth between $50,000 and $500,000 in China alone; the Asian-Pacific market is now the most influential consumer class. Since 2000, twice as many Chinese as Americans have joined the middle class (CNN Money)  and by 2030 two-thirds of the world’s middle class will be in the Asia-Pacific region (Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan
). What does this mean for international businesses looking for growth? You’d better establish a presence now and start building a Engaging Asia Shanghairelationship with this powerful market.

2)   Young consumers: Asian consumers are significantly younger than their Western counterparts. Chinese born after 1980 represent more than 50% of the Chinese population, and Indian’s median age is only 27. These young people have grown up in a connected world, are more receptive to Western ideas and businesses, and deeply aspire for a better life (Helen H. Wang). They pose a huge opportunity, but are also a difficult segment due to their ability to detect manipulations and false intentions. That’s why authentic brands are crucial.

3)   The importance of authenticity: Asian consumers are getting savvy to fake offerings and poor imitations and now that they have the financial ability, they want the real thing from brands that recognize traditional differences and cultures. What this means for new businessmen and women is that it is going to become vital to have someone on the Engaging Asia Beijingground who really understands what the Asian consumer is looking for and his or her pain points.
It is also a huge opportunity for people with strong people and relationship building skills if they are willing to live and work internationally.



4)    The increased awareness of health and happiness in place of money as a symbol of status: Chinese citizens have realized that a higher income doesn’t always have the expected correlation with well-being, thus recent trends have shifted. The increased importance on happiness and welfare as measurements of success has led Chinese citizens to be more physically active, more relationship and community focused, and care more about the state of the environment. Average Chinese citizens are sick of pollution and the illnesses it causes and are demanding more from the government. Chai Jing, for example, became a sensation with over one million YouTube views of her documentary Under the Dome Investigating China’s Smog. However, Chai Jing doesn’t claim to be an extreme environmentalist; she’s just a Nike Shanghainormal citizen bringing light to the questions that all Chinese have begun asking. She’s just a mom who wants a healthier life for her daughter, as do all Chinese citizens. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability will be vital to the success of businesses operating in Asia.


Written by Natalie Colvin

Natalie is a 2016 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of living abroad in Costa Rica, instilled in Natalie a passion for improving the world. After completing her MBA, she hopes to bring this passion to a career in corporate environmental and advocacy campaigns. Natalie received a dual undergraduate degree in development anthropology and Latin American studies from the University of Arizona honors college where she was also on the equestrian team.

Warsaw Heads to Singapore

The Warsaw Sports Marketing Center capped off a whirlwind trip to Asia with a few days in the cosmopolitan island nation of Singapore.  We knew it would be different than Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing, but the physical differences were felt as soon as we stepped outside of the Changi airport. Singapore is only 85 miles from the equator making for a very hot few days in business casual attire as we attended conferences, visited golf courses and paid a visit to the Singapore Sports Institute before taking in an F1 Racing night practice.

The initial culture shock came as we transitioned from the confines of Beijing to the more Western feeling Singapore, but with a twist. Extreme cleanliness and order, along with the intersection of multiple cultures, differed greatly from the homogenous hustle of China’s capital city.

Our entire entourage was graciously admitted into the second annual Sports Matters Conference. We listened as leaders of sponsorship, leagues, development and large-scale events expounded upon the opportunities and challenges facing southeast Asia and the global community. For two days our group experienced small panel discussions with professionals from HSBC, Samsung, Manchester United, the Women’s Tennis Association and more. Holding true to the global theme of the event, we met another attending group of students from Australia, allowing us to engage a bit of Oceania as well! Lord Sebastian Coe delivered a thought-provoking speech on large scale, worldwide events and what innovative strategies need to be vetted for future success, saying “The old chestnut that sport and politics shouldn’t mix flies in the face of reality.”

The next stop came on the island of Sentosa, a short ride from the center of Singapore. Sentosa Golf Club’s General Manager Andy Johnston hosted us, explaining how the club serves its 1,557 international members. The mix of international membership illustrated just how interconnected business in Singapore is with other parts of Asia.  We closed with a guided tour of the Serapong course, experiencing a green that included a preserved footbridge from WWII and stunning views of the harbor.

Our final visit for the entire trip was with Sport Singapore (SS). Two of our classmates interned there for the entire summer, continuing to enhance the relationship between Oregon and SS. The day included a deep dive into the emergence of sport in the lives of Singapore’s youth. We worked in teams along with SS employees to brainstorm ways to overcome challenges they face working with disadvantaged youth and government red tape. Though we were halfway around the world some of the SS’s challenges felt quite familiar. A tour of the lavish facilities preceded a “Sporting Friday” activity – netball. Though we brought our A game the Warsaw Class of 2015 did not prevail; we cannot wait for the rematch.

On our final evening in Asia we took in the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix practice event with the skyline as our backdrop and two weeks of multicultural business experiences under our belts.  The invaluable experience provided not only exposure to diverse ways to approach the business of sport in southeast Asia but also a once in a lifetime bonding experience for the Warsaw Class of 2015.

Written by kkostal@uoregon.edu

After a college experience filled with opportunities in journalism, creative advertising and guerrilla marketing Kostal began her career with a cross-country move from the University of Illinois to Las Vegas. There she worked as a producer in an event and media production company. She crafted sizable proposals to secure client projects worth over $100,000 in the pressure-cooker environment of live events. She spent the last five years at a Chicago medical liability insurance company in the risk management division. While there Kate utilized her event planning and marketing skills to promote, plan and execute multiple live events for over 10,000 policyholders and their staff throughout Illinois. During that time she also acted as the Sponsorship Chair for the Chicago Triathlon Club on a volunteer basis and earned her RRCA coaching certification for endurance runners. Another cross-country move followed when she decided to pursue her passion for sports as a career. Kate’s marketing experience, communication skills and drive to succeed will be an asset in any organization. Her passion for sports will lead her to pursue opportunities more closely tied to sports business after graduation, focusing on sponsorship and marketing.

Typhoons and Travel: Hong Kong Edition

Geographically, it quickly became apparent why the British had colonized Hong Kong. The land was full of deep natural ports surrounded by large mountains, offering ships protection from typhoons or whatever else Mother Nature might offer-up.

I guess we should have taken a ship.

In the days leading up to our travel from Beijing to Hong Kong there was a lot of talk about a typhoon that was hitting HK precisely when we where scheduled to arrive. Sure enough, it did. Flights were delayed and we spent a few extra hours in the airport but the storm cleared out just as fast as it came in and the rest of our trip was typhoon free.

Our first meeting was at a business complex called Cyberport. Cyberport was located on the west side of HK Island, so when taking the bus to Cyberport we got to see the layout of most of the city. For those of us who are Oregon natives it was very refreshing to see many parks scattered throughout the city and mountains in the distance. (We later found out that 60% of the land in HK was set aside for public parks and nature reserves, making only 40% of an already small landmass buildable.) Cyberport was a massive complex geared to spur the start-up environment, as well as cater to small businesses. Business located within the Cyberport complex had access to amazing resources. There were 3-D animation rooms, recording studios, prototype building facilities, unlimited office space, and grant funding that Cyberport offered to businesses deemed as having ‘great potential’. While talking with some of the entrepreneurs, it was not unusual for them to share that starting a business in HK only took “6 hours, and that you could conduct business the same day”, supporting the notion that HK was a business friendly environment.

We had a fantastic lunch meeting with Mr. Edwin Keh, the former SVP COO of Global Procurement at Walmart and currently the CEO of Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel. The location, The China Club, could not have been more fitting when talking to a man as acclaimed as Edwin. The China Club is a restaurant/private club in the old Bank of China building, which is now dwarfed by the new Bank of China building and other large skyscrapers. Keh discussed the business environment of China in depth, talking about the mass migration of people from the country side to urban areas, the role of the Chinese government in its immense growth and how business in Hong Kong is different than that conducted in mainland China. Many of us did not want to conclude the meeting due to the wonderful food and the fantastic stories that Keh was sharing.

In the final days of our trip we met with Lizette Smook, the founder of InnovAsians, a sustainability driven lifestyle brand building the “bridge to biodiversity”. Lizette was full of new and exciting projects underway at InnovAsians using a variety of eco-friendly fibers to create anything from clothes to towels at hotels to the plates and bowls restaurants serve food on.

After two weeks of traveling through Asia, dozens of business meetings, long days and short nights most of us were more excited to see the suits we had tailored the day earlier than meeting with the founding members of the investment bank REORIENT. Little did we know we were about to sit-in on what some may describe as the highlight meeting of the trip. The founding team consisted of highly educated young men who dressed like they had their own personal tailors, (a little better quality than we had got from our street tailors) and were paving the way for investment banks in Hong Kong. The banks’ senior management included Mr. Uwe Parpart, who took a few economics classes from Mr. John Nash himself (who Russell Crowe depicts in the movie ‘ A Beautiful Mind’) and has experience conducting business in China that dates back to the 1980’s. REORIENT’s strategy is to conduct business on a personal level, fully understanding the power of Guanxi (relationships) when doing business in China. The meeting was full of innovative ideas by the founders and compelling stories of start-ups that had crazy potential, much like REORIENT themselves.

Not only was business in Hong Kong exciting but the city as a whole was equally thrilling. The endless restaurants, amazing views atop skyscrapers or mountains, and the variety of people located in HK made this a great way to end a fantastic whirlwind trip to Asia.

-Blake Thompson (Class of 2015)

Blake is a second year MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of growing up involved in his family’s business, has led Blake to realize the importance of a holistic approach to business. He hopes to bring this approach to the organization he works for after completing his MBA. Blake received an undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon where he was also a student athlete. 

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.

Engaging Asia Part IV: Hong Kong

Just to recap, thus far on the trip we have experienced the organized chaos of Mumbai, the sparkly newness of Shanghai and the communistic tradition of Beijing.  Traveling to Hong Kong, in hindsight, is the culmination of all of these places.  The streets are packed and busy with people from all over the world intermingling and hustling from one place to another and exuded an attitude of capitalism and democracy.  Some buildings and attitudes were fresh and new. Finally, it was very much Chinese in appearance and language (I know they speak Cantonese over Mandarin, but the foreign feeling is the same).  If Shanghai is where the west meets China and Beijing is where the western attitudes conflict with China, then Hong Kong is where the west first engages with China.  There are strong sentiments reflecting British imperialism and they are joined with those of Chinese central planning.  It brought two worlds together wonderfully and was a great conclusion to the expedition.

In HK, I felt a stronger emphasis on the entrepreneurial ideas being applied in sustainable ways.   Our other visits ran the gambit in terms of size and focus.  From such conglomerates as J. Swire, which started out as a shipping company but has grown to an international conglomerate, absorbing multiple aspects of its individual supply chains and having a net zero impact strategy, to individuals like Edwin Keh and Lizette Smook who provided a wealth of knowledge over all aspects of business.  (On an aside, the places where we met these two individuals, the China Club and the Foreign Correspondents Club, were so historically important and prestigious that just being able to go in, let alone have a meeting with a member, was quite an event.)

The entrepreneurial community itself even had a large spectrum of opportunities.  We visited Cyberport which is a huge facility used to foster and create the next successful technology companies.  The great thing is that the technology was not limited to computers but digital art/media, telecommunications, and general digital tech as well. It was an accelerator and incubator and college campus all rolled into one and then put on steroids.  What made this even more interesting, was that it was a private company but the government owned a majority share.  Think on that one.  It had to delicately balance the needs of its shareholders with the needs of the government, which I am not sure always aligned.  It will be interesting to see what comes out of that facility in the future.  In addition to Cyberport, we also visited a smaller entrepreneurial incubator located near Central, Paperclip.  This had the more traditional focus and feel of incubators found in the US which highlighted the universal feeling of entrepreneurship.

Since Hong Kong has long been considered the financial hub of China, our trip was not complete without visiting a financial institution of some sort.  For our last meeting we visited Reorient, a startup investment bank formed by American and German expats.  This company is only three years old yet already listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. That is not a common occurrence.  While this was our last meeting and all of us were spent-emotionally, physically, and mentally-it was a fantastic finale in that it, for me at least, restored some lost trust in investment banks.  They emphasized the personal aspect of banking, which has been lost in recent years.  The bankers we talked to (including the CEO) were very open about personal and professional life in Hong Kong and were genuinely passionate about what they were doing.  They wanted to be successful, but not at the expense of carefully established relationships.  They had a deep understanding of not only where they got their money but also how.  Not to mention, the CEO had the best outfit of the trip.  Not many people can pull off pastel pink pants with royal blue and bedazzled house slippers.  It was awesome!

Final remarks: the Engaging Asia study tour will be an aspect of my MBA that I will never forget.  John Hull, director of our Business Innovation Institute, has said many times that one objective of the trip is to get students comfortable traveling overseas so when they have a professional job and the opportunity to go to Asia is presented, we can volunteer with confidence.  While it sounded really hokey before the trip, he was right.  Should I find an amazing company and have the opportunity to do work in Asia, I have complete confidence that I can go over there, not feel overwhelmed and jump right into my job.  I don’t necessarily have the desire to live over there for long periods of time, but a short assignment (6 months or less) would suit me just fine!

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.

Eight Thoughts on Shanghai and Beijing

The University of Oregon’s ninth annual Engaging Asia trip this past September was my first foray into Asia, and we were able to visit some pretty incredible and historic places in a little over two weeks.

We spent the middle part of our trip in China’s two biggest cities, starting in the south in Shanghai before taking the train up north to Beijing. Thanks to some relationships through the school (and many gracious alumni), we were able to take in a lot in each city. Here are my eight (since it is considered a lucky number in China) takeaways from our time in Shanghai and Beijing.


1. Scale. Everything in China (and particularly Shanghai) is massive. It is the world’s largest city, after all. Endless skyscrapers lined the smoggy sky during our drive in from the airport. The downtown combines the size of New York with the lights and glamour of Las Vegas. In Beijing, the city seemed to stretch on forever. It had much more of a ‘city feel’ to it than Shanghai, which was more of an oversized downtown (at least in the areas that we visited).

2. The middle class. China’s middle class is increasing very rapidly in size, and this boom has really propelled the economy forward. The Chinese are consuming more entertainment, sports, and technology than ever before. This meant lots and lots and lots of stores, shops, factories, and things for you to buy and consume. Everywhere.

3. The factories. We were toured around several factories in Shanghai by Josh Warsaw, the nephew of Jim Warsaw (the namesake of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center). Josh has been working in Shanghai for over a decade and gave us a crash course education in China and the manufacturing industry in Asia. Having exposure to the development and manufacturing of many of the products we consume in the United States, at the beginning of the life cycle, was very interesting and not something that many people get exposure to.


4. Street ping pong is very real. Just as you would see a basketball court in the middle of the city in the United States, there were sweaty and shirtless men playing ping pong in the middle of Beijing (in front of a pretty decent sized crowd, too). As a very amateur ping pong player, I didn’t feel brave enough to test my skills against them.

5. The culture. And more specifically, the cultural differences between Shanghai and Beijing. As a primarily English-speaking travel group, we had a lot more trouble navigating our way around Beijing compared to Shanghai (although having a Beijing native in our group definitely helped when it came to ordering food and figuring out the subway system). There is also an intense rivalry between people from Shanghai and Beijing – as a Canadian, this reminded me of the way Toronto is viewed by the rest of the country (and vice versa).

6. Food. Lots of it. We were treated to some pretty incredible food in both cities. I am an adventurous eater thanks to my upbringing (exposure to sushi before turning one probably helped), and the highlight of the time in China from a food perspective was definitely hot pot in Beijing after our morning at the Great Wall of China. I’d recommend the beef stomach, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping it onto the flame (I had to get a second hot pot from the restaurant and I could tell that the waitresses were unimpressed with my chop stick failure).

7. Nike’s RISE campaign in China. Warsaw alum Adam Antoniewicz walked us through the strategy and execution of Nike’s most recent basketball campaign in China (here is a look at Episode 1 of RISE). If I am able to work on one thing in my career as successful – both from a personal and professional standpoint – as this campaign, I would be a happy man. The way that this campaign connected with and motivated an entire country of youth through sport was incredible to hear about.

8. The weather. We had a lot of smog in China, as we were warned about, but we were treated to gorgeous day of sunshine and blue skies in Beijing (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post). On that day all of the locals from Beijing were telling us how lucky we were.

Written by Jeff Angus

Jeff is a 2015 MBA Candidate at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria (BC) in 2009.He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter @anguscertified and is passionate about writing, storytelling, fitness, health, and everything and anything sports-related.

Engaging Asia Part III: Beijing

After drinking the China kool-aid in Shanghai we headed to explore our second Chinese destination: Beijing.  So far on this trip we have traveled by plane and automobile, why not add a train?  The coolest thing about this train is it is part of the high speed rail system and travels at 300km/hr (about 186 mph).  Therefore the 819 mile trip took just under 5 hours.  Makes we wish we had something like that in the States.  Once we completed our entertaining train ride, we finally arrived in Beijing and could feel the difference from Shanghai immediately.  First of all, the air quality wasn’t the greatest but it wasn’t the worse it had seen, there was a welcome lack of heat and humidity, and there was a different attitude detected (more to be explained later).  Since we arrived in the early afternoon, we had the rest of the day to check in to the hotel and begin exploring our surroundings.  One really cool thing about Beijing is its hutongs.  These are small pockets of traditional Chinese buildings and neighborhoods that often do not have electricity.  Going in these is like stepping back in time.  Our wonderful fellow student and Beijing native, Dupree, showed us a great authentic Chinese restaurant in a hutong close to our hotel.  He probably went there at least three time to help different groups order.  The food here was absolutely amazing.  Served family style, we tried beef, chicken, pork, and tofu dishes that definitely set the bar for the rest of the trip.

The next day we were the ultimate tourists with visits to the Great Wall and Forbidden City.  The wall was, well, a big wall with amazing scenery.  Since the wall was built along the ridgeline of the mountains, you could either walk up the hill or take a two person chairlift.  All of us elected the lift.  We were able to walk for a few hours along the wall.  The weather was great and it wasn’t too busy.  To get down, we got to ride an alpine slide.  The only problem with the slide is the fact that the Americans (or at least the MBA students) wanted to go fast and there were lots of other people who didn’t share our same enthusiasm or who got too distracted taking selfies. This led to a few collisions between ourselves.  Thankfully we avoided hitting other people!  After all, we don’t want to be “those people.”  We made it down from the wall and headed to the Forbidden City. We passed Tiananmen Square, where the “so called incident” happened and entered the multiple courtyards of the city.  It was much bigger than I expected.  Since it was a main tourist draw, there was an increased presence of police and military personnel, not seen in Shanghai.  One could definitely feel big brother watching, especially when it came to internet usage.  Even using the VPN, accessing many of our regularly used sites was a challenge.  Anyway, after making it through the city and hiking to the Buddha statue in the adjoining park, Kate and I decided that we wanted to go shopping.  And, if you hadn’t guessed, that meant taking the subway to a big market where you could test out your negotiation skills.  Even though we went to a tourist market, I felt Kate and I got some good deals on our souvenirs.  This was the one time where my indecisiveness in purchasing was an asset!  Beijing, while definitely having a more organic and historical aura, felt just as safe as Shanghai.  This was good when Kate and I misplaced ourselves.  Now, I know what you are thinking…”isn’t being misplaced the same as getting lost?”  No!  We knew exactly where we were but not quite where that was in relation to where we wanted to be aka the hotel.  But after walking an additional 4 kilometers more then we should have, we arrived back to the hotel and promptly rewarded ourselves at the bar.

Beijing was not all tourism, we also had some very interesting meetings as well.  Our academic schedule started with a meeting from the US Embassy with representatives from the Department of Energy and the Department of State.  While the meeting started off a little slow, it picked up once our speakers got excited about our questions.  Seeing China from a US government perspective was one we hadn’t had yet so it was great to add another layer.  The biggest take away for me was optimism will get you through working in China but balance it with a healthy dose of cynicism.  There are also a lot of joint ventures between the US and China which give me hope for environmental issues.  We also met with AECOM, an architecture and engineering firm, Deutsche Bank, and the Bank of Tokyo.  DB was interesting as we met with a German expat working in a German based company.  He was able to provide yet a new perspective about how to do business in China.  He highlighted differences even between doing business in Shanghai and Beijing.  Since Beijing is the seat of the Central Government, its presence is more prominently felt.  Our visit to the Bank of Tokyo was our last one before we split from the Warsaw group.  They headed to Singapore for the last leg of the trip while, the rest of us went to Hong Kong.  This trip had been amazing up to this point, and knowing we were headed to our last stop was both sad and welcome.  But, thanks to a three hour delay in the Beijing airport, we were able to stay on the mainland a little longer and fully soak up the feeling that is China.

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.

Engaging Asia Part II: Shanghai

Whoever said that China is a developing country must use Shanghai to argue the opposite.  Coming from Mumbai, where extreme wealth is adjacent to extreme poverty and being the largest democracy in the world is a point of pride, Shanghai seemed to have the upper hand in the amount of development.  Perhaps it was where we were staying (Le Meridien on Nanjing Road).  (In case you were wondering this is the main road of all authentic high end shopping in the city.  Not quite my scene, but I divest.) Or the fact that with all the clean streets and flashing lights, I realized I was looking at the shiny new toy of a communist country.  The “hey look at this…and this…and this.  China rocks and is one of the cool kids now.  Yay!”  Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Shanghai.  It was clean, I felt safe walking around alone at night, and from an architecture perspective the buildings were really cool.  There are not many skyscrapers in the US that look like a bottle opener or will have a neat spiral for over a hundred floors and only has 65% (or less) space efficiency.  But having many of my courses refer to India and China as both “developing nations,” the differences between Mumbai and Shanghai illustrated how large that developing spectrum actually is.

Like in Mumbai, we had some time to explore the city and play tourist.  Our red eye flight led to a tired first day in China.  I can honestly say that my whole concept of space is vary skewed.  With time and plane changes it took almost 12 hours to travel from Mumbai to Shanghai!  (It always looked so close on the map.)  However, unlike Mumbai, our tourist time was spread out through the time we were there.  We would have afternoons off or given more freedom in the evenings to explore the city.  The subway system was super easy to navigate which made exploring that much more fun.  I will say taking the faculty to a pearl market they have never been to where you had to negotiate your prices for the first time was quite satisfying.

Tourism and bargaining for treasures was not the only highlight of the trip, we did have some pretty cool meetings as well.  There was definitely a financial emphasis with this city with visits to Mapletree Investments, Qiming Ventures, and the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  There is a move to make Shanghai the financial hub of China rather then Hong Kong.  However, from a personal point of view, the best visitations were to the Weiden and Kennedy office (a creative marketing powerhouse originating from Portland, OR) and our lunch discussion with Rob Schmitz, the China correspondent for NPR (National Public Radio).  Rob was able to provide a perspective that both positive and critical of China as well as US business attitudes.  We could have chatted with him longer than the 3 hours we took up discussing topics ranging from pollution to government regulation to commonly witnessed business mistakes to how he arrived in China.  Having that journalistic perspective definitely made Shanghai seem more real and placed it in the view of China as a whole.

To sum up Shanghai, Rob Schmitz said it best, “it is where China meets the rest of the world.”  And when you meet someone new, you always want to put your best face forward.  Shanghai was just that!

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.

Engaging Asia 2014 Part I: India

Since the beginning of my MBA adventure, there has been talk of this Engaging Asia program that is offered between first and second years in the Oregon MBA.  What was murmurs last fall turned into rumblings in winter term then full on discussions in the spring.  What actually happened during the first half of September was everything I was expected but nothing I expected at the same time.  The overload of sights, sounds, smells, and humidity is something I will never forget.  The balance of work and play was delicately met and the lack of sleep opportunities were matched with opportunities to fully explore and experience an area where I have never been.  But honestly, one of the coolest things this trip offered was the ability to fly completely around the world in 15 days—something that may rarely ever happen again.

Our adventure started out with an early morning flight from Eugene to Denver, then Denver to Newark, then Newark to Mumbai (a mere 15 hours direct).  The Mumbai airport was a complete dichotomy from the surrounding area.  A beautiful and new facility greeted us and allowed us ease our way into what was anticipated to be the largest culture shock.  Once we stepped out the door, however, we felt the full force of India: new smells, humid weather (even at 10 PM), honking horns, and feral dogs fighting in some bushes near the arrival pick up area.  Dorothy, we weren’t in Kansas anymore!  Our bus ride to the hotel was yet another wonder.  Cars zipping in and out of any open space available and traveling on a new bridge which diverted traffic across the bay and seeing everything from new buildings being built to blue tarp roofed dwellings right next door.  If you have ever seen Slumdog Millionaire, the images presented there about life in the city are accurate!  Seeing it in a movie is one thing, physically experiencing those images is quite another. We arrived at our hotel which was simply amazing!  We definitely felt in a little protected bubble whenever we returned here and the staff was definitely looking out for us.  Since we arrived at the end of the Ganesh festival, going out of the hotel was ill advised at times.  However, the food and service was amazing and it was closely located to the Gateway to India as well as other beautiful landmarks.

The first day we were allowed to explore and get adjusted to the jet lag and climate.  This consisted of a very sweaty walk to and from the Gateway to India, a terrifying cab ride (that never actually got us to our requested destination before we had to change plans and return to Nariman Point), and the Indian version of a tapas restaurant (I am not sure if they fully grasped the concept of tapas).  I also saw a multitude of creatures on the street including feral dogs and cats, cows, goats, chickens, and even a cobra (with its charmer).  India definitely held a surprise at every turn.

Our next two days were full of meetings which included Silicon Valley Bank, TCS (Tata Consulting Service), Khaitan & Co (one of the few full service law firms in the country), Qualcomm Ventures (with backed companies).  These meetings were informational and interesting (for the most part) and definitely highlighted the major differences one would face if they were to engage in business in India.  From major infrastructure or factory projects to daily consumer buying habits, business in India is its own creature and coming in with a western attitude doesn’t always work well.  One of the major company highlights was meeting the entrepreneur behind housing.com.  This website needs to be in the US!  His story, attitude, and product were awesome and this is definitely a company to watch in the next few years.  Finally, after three full days of this loud, bustling, and ­­­dichotomous country, we took a red eye flight to Shanghai to experience our second developing country

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.