Twelve Niagara University graduate students recently participated in a 13-day international experience that reinforced their MBA curriculum and furnished them with knowledge of another country's business practices, customs and culture.
The 2015 MBA Global Trade Mission brought participants to Vietnam May 15-27. It's the first time the annual venture had visited the Southeast Asian nation. In previous years, NU students traveled to China, Singapore, Argentina, Latvia and several European countries, including England.
"The primary purpose of the MBA global trade mission is to teach our students how to do business in other countries," said Dr. Peggy Choong, the associate dean of NU's College of Business Administration who has served as the trip's adviser since 2009. "We chose Vietnam because we view it, economically speaking, as where China was about 20 years ago. As such, there is vast opportunity for growth and development."
In addition to Choong, the students were accompanied by Dr. Hung Le, NU's vice president for international relations, and Edward Kowalewski, director of the International Trade Program in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Prior to joining Niagara in 2013, Le served as a partner in a Hanoi-based consulting service and was previously president of a bilingual private school for Vietnamese students.
Kowalewski's experience is grounded in encouraging American businesses to enter or expand in to international markets, and vice versa. He and Choong co-taught a course prior to the trip that helped the students learn more about Vietnam, its culture and business operations.
While abroad, the students have the privilege of meeting with top executives from large multinational companies, local enterprises, consultants, bankers and financiers. They also converse with key government officials, with whom they have deep discussions to learn about local issues, trade opportunities and business.
This year, Le arranged for the students to meet with high-ranking representatives of several Vietnamese businesses, an effort that was appreciated by MBA student Matthew Abrantes.
"Niagara University opens the door to new and exciting possibilities through their global trade mission trips," he said. "The ability to travel halfway around the world and experience new cultures, businesses and daily life takes the lessons past the textbooks and out of the classrooms. Words from books and lectures become tangible real-world experience.
"This eye-opening experience should be considered for anyone that has interests in international business, global marketing, business development in emerging markets, or those just looking to explore a beautiful country."
Daytime sessions in Vietnam included meetings with government representatives in the Quang Nam Province, exploring state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities such as the Truong Hai Automobile Corp. (THACO) and touring historical locales such as the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.
At night, students were able to take in the cities and sites, often with student-guides from Foreign Trade University, an institution with which NU maintains an academic articulation agreement.
Two Niagara students, Megan Marcin and Katie Clifford, were even treated to surprise birthday celebrations in Ho Chi Minh City.
All in all, it was a unique opportunity for students to explore a developing a country, network with top business executives and gain valuable international experience.
"Traveling abroad takes you out of your local bubble, and opens your perspective to the world and the great things it has to offer," MBA strategic marketing major Peter Valone said. "Actually seeing the companies your textbook talks about enhances your business experience, creating an advantage over your peers. I can guarantee that, if you travel abroad, you will get out of your comfort zone, discover great things about yourself, become more global minded and make incredible memories with amazing people."
The global trade mission is a three-credit course that can be used to fulfill graduation requirements for all 10 of Niagara University MBA concentrations.
To learn more, visit mba.niagara.edu.