Overseas Travel Enhances Perspectives of CoBA MBA Students

March 7, 2014

By Daniel Perez / UTEP News Service

COBA travel Laura Uribarri, assistant dean for M.B.A. programs, left, and Beatriz Lucero, M.B.A. program outreach manager, join a trio who will take an International Research Course in Hong Kong during spring break. They are, from left, graduate students Olga Alonso and Lani D. Miranda, and Roland Nunez, accelerated/executive M.B.A. program manager. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Servicee

More than 30 UTEP M.B.A. students are headed to Hong Kong for spring break, but they’ll be doing more than sightseeing.

The students are going overseas to experience a different social and business culture and learn about the systems, principles and processes that govern companies as part of their International Research Course.

The 34 students from the Executive M.B.A. (E.M.B.A.), and Accelerated and Full-time M.B.A. programs will spend the better part of a week immersed in a country with one of the most competitive economies in Asia. The cohorts will attend academic seminars at Hong Kong Baptist University that explain the nation’s business governance and practices, and will meet industry leaders during corporate visits.

The University of Texas at El Paso students have spent the past month preparing for their trip, and like modern-day Marco Polos, they believe their exploration will be an adventure of a lifetime.

The trip is an example of academic travel used by the College of Business Administration to help its students build relationships with future colleagues and employers around the region, nation and world. The leadership and student organization conferences, the corporate tours and the international business courses help UTEP students, including undergraduates, get a better sense of the global economy.

The E.M.B.A. students have studied corporate governance, read selected academic research articles, and familiarized themselves with planned presentations to ask critical questions during discussions with academics and business leaders. Upon their return, they will submit a research report that assesses or compares corporate governance in China and America.

“The experience will broaden their views and bring in different and new perspectives to their professional fields,” said Feixue “Faith” Xie, Ph.D., associate professor of finance. She will lead the 17-member E.M.B.A. cohort.

Many of the students have experienced international business around the El Paso-Juárez region, or along the U.S.-Mexico border, but this opens up a new foreign market. The CIA’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Hong Kong No. 1 among the world’s free economies, and said its regulatory system promotes innovation and business formation.

Among the students who plan to attend is Maria Elena Giner, general manager for the Border Environment Cooperation Commission. She is a professional engineer with 20-plus years of experience in the public sector and more than 11 years in senior management. The first-generation college student is part of the E.M.B.A. cohort.

She said she looks forward to learning more about Hong Kong’s ethics policies, how the country’s public and private business sectors interact, and how they balance the triple bottom line of profits, the environment and social responsibility.

“It’s sort of the ying and the yang,” Giner said.

Olga Alonso, an Accelerated M.B.A. student, called Hong Kong the “Asian New York” because of its financial prowess. The Chihuahua, Mexico, native said she has been to Wall Street and looks forward to feeling the energy of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Alonso, who spent a semester as an undergraduate in Barcelona, Spain, to study finance. She speaks English, Spanish, and French, and learning Mandarin is on her to-do list.

Later this spring, eight business undergraduates from different disciplines will fly to Munich for a weeklong course that includes presentations about the history of the European Union and the European debt crisis. Student mentors at the German Armed Forces University will conduct the classes. The mid-May trip will include a visit to Siemens, a multinational engineering and electronic conglomerate based in Munich, and presentations from government and business officials.

The students will become familiar with economic issues and the German culture before the trip, said Laird Smith, a business lecturer with more than 25 years in the automotive and consumer electronics industries. He went on the first Munich trip in 2012.

“From a faculty standpoint, it is essential that our students get some exposure to an overseas environment,” Smith said.

While some cultural excursions are included, organizers stressed that the focus is on academics.

“(These trips) are a unique opportunity that will open minds to a different market,” said Laura Uribarri, assistant dean for M.B.A. programs. “It is a time to learn and absorb. You’re getting exposed to high-level executives and thought leaders. This is not a sightseeing vacation.”


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