interior static banner

King University News :: King MBA Students Study International Business in Netherlands and France, Present to Eastman Chemical Company European Division

King’s traditional Master of Business Administration (MBA) students travelled to Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands and also to Paris, France as part of coursework focusing on International Business.  The formal part of the trip was from May 11 through 20; the trip was extended till May 24 so students would have additional time to visit several European countries. 

“Historically, the reason for taking the MBA students to Europe has primarily been to provide students with a beneficial cross-cultural understanding, which, is essential in business,” said Dr. Todd Erickson, dean of King’s School of Business and Economics.  “Everyone in business needs to have an appreciation for the impact of different cultures and how that affects things as simple as purchasing trends, how different people relate to those trends, and how a business might need to respond as a result.  This trip is the best way for students to learn this concept.  You can read about it, but experiencing it is always better.

“When creating the budget for the trip, it was created out of the total tuition for the MBA program,” commented Erickson.  “This way the primary cost of the European trip is built in to the tuition.  We let students know they will want to plan for spending money while on the trip, but the others costs are included in their tuition for the program.” 

For many students pondering the idea of continuing their education by attending King for their MBA, the idea of the majority of one of the courses taking place in Europe and the cost for that trip having been built into the programs tuition is a great incentive for many.  “There are not many programs with travel components built in like the one we have designed at King,” said Erickson.

“The other change we instituted this year was to make the course more academically rigorous.  Eastman Chemical Company requested our MBA students assist them with a project for their European division.  As a result of accepting an offer too good to pass up, a significant amount of work had to be done prior to heading to Europe.”

The project the MBA students were given was to perform a market opportunity analysis for Eastman Chemical Company Europe.  Students analyzed a specific product segment within the European market that Eastman Chemical had not yet researched themselves.  As a result of King’s students performing this analysis, Eastman had the opportunity to get a valuable second opinion on an opportunity that they had only just begun to look into.

“This was a chance for our students to tell Eastman – ‘here is how you might think about this market space, here is who is already competing in it, here are some of the consumer dynamics from a consumer interactive point of view, and here is how we would talk about the opportunity.’  The research in essence provided Eastman with a starting point for this potential new project,” said Erickson.

Once their presentations were prepared, the MBA students along with Dr. Erickson and Dr. Mary Conner, associate professor of Management and Accounting (specializing in International Business) and chair for the MBA program, headed to their first destination - Eastman’s Europe, Middle East Africa Regional Headquarters located in Capelle aan den IJssel, an area near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 

At Eastman’s European headquarters, students presented and discussed their research conclusions with Eastman executives.  The student’s research not only layered new information onto the minimal amount of information that Eastman had begun to obtain but also corroborated some things that the executives did know.  The student’s research also gave Eastman some triangulation of data to help corroborate hypotheses about the potential market. 

The student’s study focused on certain product categories within three Euro-zone countries – France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  Data was presented about the economic viability of each one of the potential European target markets.  “It was very enlightening for the students to discover that the countries under study were impacted by the Euro-Zone crisis in very different ways, which in turn created remarkably different product opportunities for Eastman Chemical,” said Erickson.

In addition to presenting to Eastman in the Netherlands, the students travelled to Paris, France for several days.  “We booked time in the Louvre and spent a day at Versailles.  The American Chamber in Paris arranged for the students to spend an afternoon with Microsoft executives at their Technology Center in Paris.  The students enjoyed seeing a totally different work environment and had the opportunity to ask questions about the company’s retail strategy in France.  Microsoft also opened up the X-Box lounge to the students at the end of the day.  The students were also given assignments to observe the retail industry in Paris and analyze cultural differences and how they impact how business occurs.  Having been given free time to explore their surroundings, students excursions also included trips to Italy and the United Kingdom. 

Of the MBA curriculum, particularly European learning experience, Erickson said, “Each year we take a fresh look at the European economic environment and determine how we should change the trip for the students’ benefit. We feel that we owe it to our students to make adjustments and enhance the learning experience regularly. This keeps the curriculum fresh and experiences relevant.

“We would like to express a heartfelt thank you to Eastman Chemical Company, both divisions in Kingsport and the Netherlands, for their participation in our MBA Europe project, and for allowing our students to perform such significant analysis on their behalf,” said Erickson.  “Eastman created an invaluable learning experience which our students will be able to apply to their own careers paths.”