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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
“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.”