One way DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business prepares its students to work in today’s diverse and globalized corporate environment is through its international business seminars. Led by faculty with real-world experience and connections in the regions visited, the seminars transport undergraduate and graduate students to study established and emerging business centers around the world.
The offerings include short-term seminars that allow evening MBA students who are working professionals to gain global business exposure, while being away a limited number of work days. Here, Lynn Safranek, pictured below, a candidate for the DePaul MBA Class of 2015, tells what she and her classmates learned about business practices and culture in Japan during a recent business seminar tour of the country.
Experiencing Global Business in Japan
Businesses in Japan excel at providing customer service, a fact that MBA students can glean from a textbook or learn from a lecture on international business.
Or they could experience it themselves.
They could walk through the door of a Japanese restaurant and hear employees shout the friendly greeting “irrashaimase!” They could watch store clerks seal shopping bags with a single piece of tape—edges carefully folded under for easy removal later. Or they could learn about the emphasis on hospitality directly from Japanese business owners.
DePaul’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business provides its full- and part-time MBA and MS students this very opportunity in the form of short-term study abroad experiences called International Business Seminars. Undergraduate business students also can take advantage of these opportunities.
By completing the travel, participating in the scheduled business visits and fulfilling the seminar’s other requirements, graduate students can earn four hours of credit—equivalent to a single course. In addition to Japan, Kellstadt offers International Business Seminars in India, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Spain, China, Turkey, Ireland and other destinations.
The experience fits well into busy professionals’ lives and class schedules. Business visits and cultural activities are packed into a trip that lasts less than two weeks. Led by one or more DePaul professors with experience traveling in the region, the seminars typically are offered during spring or winter break and summer quarter.
Why Choose to Study Abroad?
International study first grabbed my attention two years ago when I picked up an International Business Seminar flyer at my part-time MBA orientation. I was sold on the experience instantly. Selecting Japan from destination list was easy, too. The country is unlike anywhere I had ever been and its business practices would stand in clear contrast to what I’ve seen in the U.S. and elsewhere.
That’s how I ended up on a 13-hour flight to Japan over spring break with two Kellstadt professors and 17 other graduate and undergraduate students.
Our group was diverse. Some of us were raised in other countries. Ages ranged from undergraduates barely in their 20s to a professor who was in his 80s (and still walked faster than all of us). Many of the MBAs were mid-career. We worked in retail management, executive recruitment, scientific research, public relations and market strategy and research.
Our reasons for choosing Japan were diverse, too. The country drew us for its changing economic landscape, its long history of producing innovative products, its unparalleled customer service and its reliance on a “keiretsu” corporate structure.
10 Days in Japan
The trip began in Tokyo with an enlightening lecture from a Japanese professor about “Abenomics,” the three-pronged economic strategy by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The lecture lent important context to the business visits we would make on the trip.
Since we arrived on a holiday weekend, we had free time to learn how to navigate the inevitable language barriers, as well as Tokyo’s sprawling web of public transportation. We ate our fill of sushi and went straight to the source—the famous Tsukiji fish market—to learn how a Japanese wholesale market operates.
Our company visits in Tokyo included RedWorks, a subsidiary of Ogilvy & Mather; the Advertising Museum Tokyo operated by Dentsu, Tokyo’s largest advertising agency; and an Italian restaurant in the Chinatown section of Tokyo that is operated by a Kellstadt alumnus.
The manufacturing hub Nagoya was next. We took a Shinkansen, one of Japan’s famous “bullet trains,” to the city to visit Mitsubishi Aircraft Company and learn about its new production of regional jets. At the expansive Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, we learned about Toyota’s start as a textile manufacturer and gradual shift into the automobile industry.
From Nagoya, we traveled to Hiroshima. Led by a guide whose husband survived the 1945 bombing, we visited historically significant sites associated with the bomb and memorials to the victims. A major highlight was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which examined World War II in startling honesty. Our sober day ended with a short trip to nearby Miyajima Island, considered one of the most beautiful places in Japan.
In Kyoto, our final destination, we mixed old with the new: learning about ancient Japanese arts and visiting Ritsumeikan University to see how Japan is encouraging entrepreneurship. We met people associated with the university’s business incubator and learned how Ritsumeikan provides support to people who want to turn their ideas into businesses. We also met Ritsumeikan students for a panel discussion about the differences in Japanese and American higher education.
Before leaving, we spent a whirlwind day visiting as many of Kyoto’s famous shrines as possible and enjoying the hospitality at the traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, where we stayed.
In 10 days, we traveled to four cities and gained immeasurable insight into global business. The International Business Seminar in Japan brought classroom lessons to life and taught us valuable lessons that one can only gain through such a unique experience.