George Mason UniversitySchool of Business

Taking the Classroom to Beijing

Written by Rosa Vivanco on .

As more companies look to expand into China's booming market, an understanding of global business gives any business student a tremendous advantage in today's job market.SOM 498 students visit Great Wall of China

A group of eight School of Business students got the opportunity to see the world's second largest economy firsthand. They participated in the pilot section of the SOM 498 Capstone course offered in Beijing, China this past summer. Management professor, Yan Ling, taught the two and a half week course and helped coordinate the study abroad program along with Denise Elles-Mdahuar, senior program officer at the Center for Global Education, and Alison O'Brien, associate dean of undergraduate programs at the School of Business.

The SOM 498 Capstone course is a required course for all School of Business students and is typically taken in a student's last semester. The course is an advanced, integrated exploration of business models and industry dynamics that uses case analyses to assess organizational strategy and performance. Students examine strategic change in organizations from multiple perspectives, integrating knowledge from core course work into several papers and a major presentation at the end of the semester.SOM 498 students visit Beyondsoft in Beijing

Although the capstone course in China included the same content as in the course offered to students on the Fairfax campus, it also featured professional site visits to eight Chinese and multi-national organizations, including China Telecom, DHL, ABB, and Beyondsoft.

These site visits allowed students the opportunity to meet and hear from top level management—often CEOs— at companies from different industries.

"I learned how different companies do business in China in different industries and the struggles they face when so many of them are government controlled," says Hadil Alyamani, a recent School of Business graduate in management who took the course . "We also learned about their strategies and how they entered into different markets."

The visits also gave students the opportunity to relate course content to today's global business environment.Yan Ling

"Students get a view of theory in class and the application of the theory in practice at the companies we visited," explains Ling. "We hoped to make a stronger linkage between theory and practice so students could see the true value of this class."

The approach seemed to resonate with students who took the capstone course in China.

"I can definitely apply everything I learned into the real world," says Alyamani.

Apart from the opportunity to visit with different companies, another aspect unique to the capstone course offered in China is the cultural experience. In today's business world where mergers and acquisitions lead to the international expansion of many organizations, it is no longer enough to just learn about doing international business; it is necessary to experience it.

"The most important takeaway for me was that learning how to adapt to a new culture and environment is vital for any career and is a great skill to have," Alyamani reflects. "Being able to easily adapt and embrace the culture helps build relationships for a lifetime."