Hearing something 100 times, goes an old Chinese proverb, is not as good as seeing it once.
Eighteen students put this adage to the test earlier this month when they flew 13 hours and 7,300 miles to immerse themselves in China’s culture and business practices in Shanghai.
The new program, called “Doing Business in China,” is the latest addition to the College of Business and Economics’ (CBE) Global Lab program—a best-in-class model of a course-based international experience. It joins the successful Singapore Global Lab that was launched in 2010.
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The CBE’s 2010 Strategic Plan charts a path for taking the college to the next level of excellence. Developing international experiences to ensure that all graduates are prepared for today’s global marketplace is a priority that Dean Paul R. Brown and college faculty take seriously.
“Our learning community and the world at large are interconnected,” said Brown. “We want to give our students an integrated global perspective.”
The Doing Business in China Global Lab is one of a variety of international options from which students can choose to develop a global perspective. Jake Mutchler ‘15 said it was helpful to have the experience early in his college career.
“This trip had such a positive impact on me that I already plan to return to China in the near future to study even more,” he said.
Bridging theory and practice
The students were led by a Lehigh team consisting of CBE associate dean Katrina Zalatan; Oliver Yao, the George N. Beckwith ‘32 Professor; and John Chrin, chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council, partner at Circle Wealth Management and former global financial executive-in-residence at Lehigh.
The group was hosted by the School of Economics and Management (SEM) at Tongji University in Shanghai. The agenda for the trip included a seminar series given by SEM faculty as well as company visits and cultural experiences.
“The Tongji faculty did an outstanding job of introducing the group to the many facets of conducting business in China,” said Zalatan. “Well-planned seminars addressing the challenges, opportunities, business culture and consumer behavior in China provided the context for our students to bridge theory to practice.”
The students were able to compare the Chinese and U.S. business cultures. “Learning about the concept of ‘saving face’ was very interesting because it is so different from American business practices,” said Natalie Bates ‘15.
Brenda Gruver Tarulli, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council and tax director at Ingersoll-Rand in New Jersey, arranged for the Lehigh contingent to meet with Jeff Song, president of Ingersoll-Rand in China.
“I enjoyed getting first-hand experience at companies and getting to see the production process at BAO Steel and Ingersoll Rand,” said Bates.
“From a business perspective,” said Chrin, “students got an expanded view on how business is conducted in China and a heightened sense of what globalization will mean for their careers.”
Yao said the Chinese proverb about the superior value of seeing summed up the students’ experience.
“Given that China is the world’s second largest economy, trailing only the U.S., it is imperative that our students understand Chinese business culture,” said Yao. “Any experience or understanding about China will give our students a competitive edge as they launch their careers.”