School of Business study abroad program celebrates fifth anniversary

A degree in business can take you anywhere. Here at Wayne State University, the School of Business is committed to exposing its students to how business really works ... all around the world. During the 2014-15 school year, the school hosted three separate study abroad programs, to Central Europe, Italy and China - all of which will be repeated in summer 2016.

The programs were in such high demand that they reached capacity and even yielded a waiting list. John Taylor, chair of the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, led much of the planning for the trips. Taylor said that students and faculty alike keep the program going strong.

"If the students aren't interested, the program doesn't exist," Taylor said. "That's why my colleagues and I work so hard to incorporate new aspects to the program based on the interests of our students and the needs of industry."

All three trips focused primarily on the global high-tech auto industry in order to help bridge connections to Detroit's "hometown industry." However, Taylor noted, other types of companies were visited as well, and the programs are ideal for students in many majors.

European adventures

The Central Europe program included trips to cities in Hungary and Poland, such as Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw. Toni Somers, chair of the Department of Management and Information Systems, was the faculty advisor for this trip. While in Hungary and Poland, the students visited Delphi Corporation, General Motors and Lear. Somers said she enjoyed her first experience doing the study abroad program. This was the third year the program traveled to Central Europe.

As part of the Italy program, 20 WSU students visited Turin, Florence and Naples. Tim Butler, associate professor of global supply chain management, was the faculty advisor for this trip. Butler previously served as the advisor for the Central Europe segment. Students participated in plant tours and lectures at Fiat Chrysler, Comau Robotics, Mopar and Lear. The students visited cities in Italy such as Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio, Pompeii and Capri.

In Naples, the group visited the Fiat Chrysler Panda plant, Lear and the Fiat engine plant. Butler said he and many of the students were surprised that Fiat imports engines for the Fiat Panda model from Hungary, even though there is an engine plant in the city. The students learned that the engine plant in Naples exports products to northern Italy and North America for luxury cars. Butler said that robots in the Panda plant were extremely high tech, even more so than robots in the United States.

When students weren't getting to know future employers, they visited historic and cultural sites like the Amalfi Coast and the Egyptian Museum of Turin. The Egyptian Museum has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. Butler said incorporating cultural aspects into the course gives students a mature view of the world.

"It is important for students to become comfortable with people that speak different languages and are a part of different cultures," Butler said. "So much that happens in Europe affects us here at home. Understanding the way other people live is important to understanding ourselves."

Butler said one of the most powerful aspects of the trip was the conversations students had processing what they just learned.

Warriors in Asia

As part of the school’s first-ever China study abroad program, 22 students visited the cities of Shanghai, Bejing and Wuhan. Sheri Perelli, senior lecturer of management, and Tingting Yan, assistant professor of global supply chain management, served as the faculty advisors for the China segment.

As part of the trip, Yan taught an intensive 10-day, 3-credit course on purchasing at Wuhan University. The course promoted an understanding of business and the business environment in China, with visits to companies such as GM, Honda and Meritor.

"All of the experiences I had in this program have changed my life and how I see the world," said senior global supply chain major Sara Gray. Gray said she was able to apply the skills she learned in China to her summer internship with Ford Motor Company.

Perelli said she hopes all the participants will be able to use the skills they learned. Perelli said she wanted her students to "build awareness of and encourage critical thinking about country specific geo-political and economic issues and how they affect business."

Yan concurred, adding that, "Giving students an opportunity to observe management, marketing and supply chain concepts and principles in action in an international context is invaluable. The chance to interact with business, government and academic professionals in China - as well as Chinese students - is not just enjoyable, but a résumé-enhancing experience."

New for 2016

The China, Italy and Central Europe trips will all be offered again next summer, and the school is adding a program in Brazil. Hugo DeCampos, assistant professor of global supply chain management, will serve as the faculty advisor for the trip. DeCampos, who had nearly a decade of international experience at General Motors before joining the WSU faculty, expects this trip to fill up early.

In Brazil, students will increase their knowledge and appreciation of sustainability in global supply chains, Brazilian culture/ history and the Brazilian auto industry. The trip includes visits to Rio de Janeiro, São Paul and Manaus. DeCampos said students will be especially interested in Manaus, a city built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest with one of the largest free-trade zones in South America. In Manaus, students will participate in a jungle tour where they can witness one of Earth’s most fragile and important natural resources.

In all, 56 students participated in School of Business study abroad programs in 2015. According to John Taylor, the goal for 2015-16 is 75 or more.

Shutterfly photobooks of the 2014-15 trips are available here:

China

Europe

All three trips

For more information on the 2015-16 study abroad offerings, contact Dr. John Taylor at taylorjohn@wayne.edu.