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The Value in International Study Trips

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In the Executive MBA programs, we offer two international trips for each cohort. (A cohort is a group of students that stays the same as they all go through a program together.) While these study abroad trips are a lot of fun, provide bonding opportunities for the cohort and allow our students to take in local tourist attractions, there are a number of academic objectives for the international study trips.

The academic goals often help me, the program director, answer the first question for every study abroad program: Where do we go? Is the idea to compare and contrast an emerging market with a fully developed country, such as Malaysia and Singapore? Do I want to students to evaluate the competitive advantage of a country within in a region — for example, how does Australia compete within the eastern Asia economy? The location is keyed to the course objectives, and the location must be relevant in today’s economy.

During the executive international study trip, students begin on Sunday with cultural visits in the first city. This “soft start” allows students to take in the local sights. On Monday, we begin our company visits. The goal is to get students in front of senior leaders who will talk candidly about their company’s business strategy and competitive advantages. We frequently visit corporate partners of UT Dallas, such as Ericsson and Texas Instruments. In fact, we have visited Ericsson offices on five continents, and we hope to make it six when we visit South Africa next year.

Some company visits allow for manufacturing tours, where we can observe firsthand such industrial processes as how Stanley Black and Decker manufactures nails in its facility outside Beijing. Since the company can’t compete cost effectively in China, it builds superior products and sends them to the U.S. The Corning manufacturing facility outside Istanbul produces fiber cable. The company reduces costs by having no finished inventory on site — everything is made to order.

After company visits on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the students travel to the second city on Wednesday afternoon. More company visits follow on Thursday and Friday. Cultural visits are scheduled on Saturday, and students depart for home on Sunday morning.

Going on a study abroad trip enables students to learn from business executives and ask candid questions about growth, strategy, operations, cultural differences. The company visits enable students to apply what they have learned in their MBA program directly to the companies that are visited, and they can take in the local culture, as well as bond with their classmates.

Pamela Foster Brady

Pamela serves as the director of Executive MBA programs at UT Dallas. She previously served as a vice president, senior business development director, for Atkins, an international civil engineering firm. She has more than 25 years of experience managing large domestic and international projects. Pamela received her undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Tennessee and her MBA from The University of Texas at Dallas. Read more articles

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