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February 5, 2010

ULM students explore Hong Kong culture while pursing MBAs

Since 1979, the University of Louisiana at Monroe has offered a fully accredited Master of Business Administration program at Hong Kong’s Shue Yan University.

Not only is it well received by the Hong Kong students who realize the advantages the program offers, it also provides a unique opportunity for ULM’s College of Business Administration faculty to teach courses while immersed in a culture completely different than their own.

Although faculty have taught in Hong Kong over the Summer Sessions and Winter Session break for years, this year marked the first time three ULM MBA students also participated in the academic and cultural exchange between East and West.

When MBA students Joel Ramsey and Connor Clark, both of West Monroe, and Juan Ospina, an international student hailing from Medellin, Colombia, approached Dr. Donna Luse, Associate Dean and Graduate Coordinator, about the possibility of taking the management seminar course taught by Dr. Bruce Walker, she readily agreed to help them achieve their goal.

“This is an opportune time … and international study is one way to make their resumes really stand out,” said Luse. “As a teacher, you interact quite a bit with the Hong Kong students on a totally different level. I wanted our students to have that same opportunity.”

Luse said private funding helped offset the cost of housing the students; all three were responsible for their own airfare, school fees and incidentals.

Ramsey and Clark both expressed surprise at how Westernized China had become; nearly a fourth of the population is fluent in English and the English language was prevalently displayed on every sign in the city. While Ospina has travelled more extensively and fully expected some Westernization, all three students commented on the friendliness of the people.

“Everyone there is extremely nice, even off campus,” said Ramsey. “And the other MBA students from Hong Kong were very helpful. It was just something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting them to be so interested in us.”

“All of their courses are English based so they understand the language even if they don’t always speak it. They know how to write it, as well,” said Clark. “And we even learned a little bit of Cantonese, how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ – it’s a very hard language.”

Ramsey, Clark and Ospina are all keeping up with their new friends from Hong Kong though social media such as Facebook. But beyond the friendships they established, their time in Hong Kong gave the MBA students another window into how 21st-century business is being done.

“The class is similar to any class at ULM, but the experiences you gain seeing another culture so intimately is unlike anything else,” said Clark. “The way the business world is growing, it’s becoming a lot more global. More and more businesses are growing, globalizing, and in turn are requiring their employees to work overseas for months or even years at a time."

“Their economy is growing sharply there,” acknowledged Ospina. “They are now either the second or third most powerful economy, very close to Japan, and almost tipping them over as a major world player.”

The students’ success has encouraged College of Business faculty to make accommodations to potentially send more students over the summer sessions this year, according to Luse, who feels the Hong Kong experience is mutually beneficial for students and for the university as it positions itself as an international player.

“We not only grew as people, we grew as professionals,” said Ospina. “Now we know more about how to make it in business. It was an incredible trip and when we graduate from the program we can talk to companies about this experience.”

“Just to get to go see other parts of the world and learn other cultures, to have that experience and also be able to take an MBA course in 3 ½ weeks, it was the trip of a lifetime,” Ramsey added.

“I want to thank the College of Business for helping us with everything. It was an experience I will never forget,” said Ospina.

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