By Tina Ray
In a global business climate, Spartans prepare to make business happen across the world.
In the 2015–16 academic year, the Broad Executive MBA (EMBA) Global Residencies program sent students to Argentina, India, and South Africa, as well as a contingent studying in East Lansing. By engaging with some of the largest global business entities, students learned how they operate in different economies and effective strategies to thrive overseas.
Sixty EMBA students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, where their activities included participating in an interactive panel with Dow Chemical Company’s Sub-Saharan Africa leadership team. Dow’s top executives discussed the complexities of business operations in an emerging economy, including Dow’s Africa strategy, balancing challenges and opportunities on the ever-changing continent, the importance of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and harnessing local talent.
Dow, headquartered in Michigan, partners with Broad on initiatives such as the Midland Research Institute for Value Chain Creation, but the sub-Saharan experience put students front-and-center of something completely new. “Interacting with Dow in an African setting was a unique opportunity,” said Kirt Butler, associate professor of finance. “Hearing firsthand what it takes to be successful on an emerging continent – or even to get started – is something you can’t learn from a textbook. Dow’s Africa team challenged the students to think out of the box – to see opportunities rather than obstacles, to take the long view, and to appreciate local dimensions of international business.”
“I was very proud to see how far Dow has come in Africa,” said Chris Anderson (EMBA ’17), himself an executive support service manager at Dow. “Unlike many other American companies, we are not just talking about Africa – we are there with a clear strategy, a dedicated team on the ground, and an infrastructure that is serving our growing customer base.”
“Interacting with these bright, open-minded, and engaging students emphasizes once more the value of having partnerships with leading universities like MSU,” said Ross McLean, president of Dow Sub-Saharan Africa, who discussed Dow’s journey and ambitions in Africa with the group. “To think fast and have the ability to understand that all emerging markets are not the same, and that ‘localizing global design’ is just not good enough anymore, are key characteristics for succeeding as a world leader, for example, in Africa,” he said.
Spartans didn’t stop learning after business closed for the day: immersing themselves in the cultural aspects of their travels meant they got the most out of their experience. The 26 students in Argentina took tango lessons, learned to make empanadas, and sampled local steaks and red wine as they learned about the country’s focus on entrepreneurship and resilience in spite of economic volatility.
Upon return, students applied what they took from their full experiences to a global project, where they presented recommendations for a set of diverse companies considering global expansion.