Ramapo College MBA Program: Creating Business Leaders with Global Perspective
Technological advances and global competition have changed almost every facet of our economy requiring workers to commit to a path of continuous learning and the development of new skills,” says Tim Landers, Assistant Dean and Director, MBA Program, Ramapo College of New Jersey.
With this changing economy in mind, Ramapo College developed an accelerated, twenty-month MBA program specifically designed with a broad-based curriculum and an emphasis on leadership, versatility, and gaining a global perspective. Emphasizing the importance of global management, second-year students sharpen their international skills during a nine-day trip to China.
“Students need to be aware of the broader issues facing managers and the cultural dynamics of international business. Today, thanks to the Internet, new businesses often begin life with an international footprint,” remarks Mr. Landers. “You can’t graduate with an MBA without an appreciation for what it is like to manage in a global economy.”
The Ultimate Class Trip
The nine-day China Immersion Trip, led by Professor Huiping Li, who teaches Managing Global Business and Global Immersion Experiences, is intended to introduce students to the history, culture and business environment of China through tours and meetings.
The trip takes place in the fall of the second year of the program and is factored into the curriculum and the tuition. Professor Li convenes a mix of colleagues from her Ramapo College MBA Program: Creating Business Leaders with Global Perspective MEADOWLANDSUSA I meadowlands.org I DECEMBER 2013 29 prior experiences working with global companies and Chinese government agency to help students gain a wider perspective on the many international business opportunities there.
This fall, eighteen students participated in the nine-day trip, visiting Beijing and Shanghai.
“The students saw tangible evidence of China’s remarkable economic growth and observed how the country’s history has shaped its society and current business environment for domestic and foreign firms,” says Professor Huiping Li. “China is such an important player in the global economy. The best way for emerging business leaders to understand it is to take them there, so they can see first-hand China’s economic development and meet both foreign and Chinese people working there.”
“We learned how a supply chain was managed in class, but to actually see it in reality was eye-opening,” said Pooja Augustine, a second-year MBA student in reaction to touring the Havi Logistic Service (Beijing) Ltd., which supplies more than 500 McDonald’s stores and was selected to deliver customized solutions during the Beijing Olympics.
During their stay, students met business executives, consultants, government officials and local MBA students. They got to see new developments such as the Jinqiao Economic Zone, the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone and the Shanghai Financial Center. The students toured markets that sold knock-offs of brand-name products, gaining a first-hand appreciation of the challenges foreign and local businesses in China face in protecting their intellectual property. The students were shown how foreign multi-national corporations negotiate in this difficult environment and learned about both the opportunities and the challenges for foreign firms.
The group toured the Havi Logistic Service (Beijing) Ltd. and Wangxin Property ManagementCompany in Beijing, and Bao Steel, one of the world largest steel mills, in Shanghai.
At the Wangxin Property Management Company, the students experienced a day in the life of its operations, including security, catering, supplies and outsourcing.
“They went out of their way to make us feel welcome. It pretty much blew our minds. Some of us have traveled a lot, but nobody was used to being treated with this much luxury,” added Ms.Augustine. “It’s because they have seen a lot of luxury and dealt with lots of executivesso they know what to put forth and how to impress.”
“We got the A1 treatment, people were willing to do anything for Professor Li’s class,” said Earl Crooks, a fellow student. “Going to China involved learning so much about their culture. Professor Li has tremendous access and lots of connections. It’s part of guanxi, the system of relationships and friendships. It’s different from the U.S., where knowing someone helps. The Chinese take what they’re willing to do for each other seriously.”
Both Mr. Crooks and Ms. Augustine were overwhelmed by the amount of food and variety of dishes at meals, most of which Professor Li ordered to push the students outside their comfort zone. They learned that the hospitality customs and the business culture are entwined. For example, one important protocol is to refrain from discussing business until your host introduces it, or that part of the culture includes over-providing for your guests, known as mianzi, or saving face.
“Future leaders, whether politicians or business professionals, need to understand China,” adds Professor Li. “My friends and associates in China contribute to the program because they share this view. It’s very unique that students have first-hand knowledge of China. Our MBA program stands out because of the personal touch it offers.”
The students prepare for the China Immersion Trip in the classroom, learning China’s history and culture; and about foreign investment and trade relations. After each meeting and experience during the trip, the students debriefed with Professor Li. Back in class, they digest, discuss and analyze their experiences abroad.
The Right Mix to Prepare MBA Graduates for a Post-Recession Economy
Ramapo’s MBA program was born in the midst of the great financial crisis, which prompted the College to evaluate what kind of program would create the most successful leaders – in any economy. Where did this leave Ramapo College? “In the perfect position,” says Landers. Ramapo had the unique opportunity to respond to the changing nature of the economy and develop a new MBA program that focused on leadership skills with a real-world perspective.
“It was extremely opportunistic for Ramapo to design an MBA program in the midst of the financial crisis,” Landers noted. “The accelerated part-time format emphasizes shared experience while allowing students to hold on to their paying job.”
Mr. Landers points to a ripple effect during the recession, saying executives were criticized for not taking proper steps to avoid financial trouble, which eventually led to a trail of finger pointing at business school curricula. The recession created an opportunity for business schools to reflect on what they were teaching and what they could change. Meanwhile, the underemployed were heading back to school to strengthen their credentials.
“The thing that most attracted me to Ramapo was the brand-new curriculum,” says Mr. Landers, who joined the College in the summer of 2012 as the new MBA program was being launched. “It is difficult for any entity to change processes in place. I quickly realized what an advantage it was to oversee Ramapo’s new curriculum.”
The Ramapo MBA program focuses on developing adaptive skills that serve the current demands of the information and technical eras, with an eye on the global markets and new technologies that will follow. Students are given a broad skillset that allows them to succeed in any job function, any industry, at any point in their career. The pace of change and need for continuous learning drive the broad-based curriculum, with emphasis on leadership and critical thinking.
In 2010, Ramapo College’s Anisfield School of Business received accreditation from the AACSB, (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), a distinction earned by less than 6% of business schools worldwide. In 2012, the first group of MBA students began an accelerated twenty-month journey. Students meet twice a week on campus for three-hour sessions and complete additional coursework online. The forty-two credit program is comprised of seven, ten-week terms.
Ramapo College’s MBA program distinguishes itself by focusing on four key principles:
• Ethical and effective leadership
• Cohort, or co-shared learning.All the students take the same classes and go through the program together.
• Global experience, including the MBA Immersion Program in China
• Critical thinking, featuring real-world consulting projects
Good Neighbors Make Good Experience
Corporate Consulting Partnerships
Another unique aspect of the Ramapo MBA is the Capstone Consulting Project. It is the culmination of the students’learning experience because it allows students to apply their business education in a real-world setting with one of the school’s corporate partners.
Student teams consult with executives at local corporations during the course of their final term. The teams meet weekly and have accessto company information and personnel, so they can ask questions, collect and analyze data, and understand the nuances of the project. After ten weeks, the students deliver their recommendations to company executives in a formal presentation and detailed reports.
“The Capstone project is fascinating for students, they get to apply their new education as a consultant in the real world. It’s also a benefit to the companies because they get a new perspective on real challenges at their organizations,” says Landers.
Cohort Model: Everybody Work Together … Right Now
Ramapo’s MBA program is designed for experienced working professionals and relies on a cohort platform, or co-shared learning environment. Students begin and end the program together, and complete all the courses in the same sequence, which creates a strong bond and motivation to work together. They all build on the same foundation of core classes. Professors and students share their career experiences in lively classroom discussions.
“The cohort is great because the professionals in the class actually mix. Our class was chosen from across industries so when working on group projects, different people bring different views to the group,” says Ms. Augustine, who works in technical project management at Pearson.
“It’s like family. We got to know the people in our cohort; everyone came from different backgrounds. It wasn’t just the professors teaching, we were learning from our classmates,” adds Mr. Crooks, an accountant and business manager for an international Norwegian company.
From the diverse, knowledgeable professors with careers in finance, marketing and global business to the working students whose backgrounds include information technology, accounting, healthcare and media, the school thrives by bringing together multiple perspectives. The whole class begins the program together and shares the same curriculum, until their final terms, where they complete the cohort selected electives.
“Regardless of what these students took as undergrads, they are now in a business role. They are coming back to school to fortify those skills they need in a business environment,” says Landers. “Classroom discussions are never dull, you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always exciting.”
The strengths of the accelerated schedule and cohort model are the interactions and shared experiences of the students and professors. Students complete the program and realize actual work benefits sooner. Students cite the small classes and professional staff, who enjoy teaching and mentoring, as a big draw of the AACSB accredited Ramapo MBA program.
“Every professor knows every student’s name,” says Ms. Augustine, who hopes the MBA will help her advance to more strategic roles within her company. “Tim [Landers] and his assistant Karin are constantly sending us articles to read, jobs that might be a good fit. Everyone is constantly in contact, they’re always on your mind in some form.”
“Talk about an open door policy,” says Crooks. “Everyone accommodates us, the staff really triesto help with anything that comes up.” Mr. Crooks travels for work and said professors even make taped classroom sessions available. “Professors are very understanding. They expect you to be there, but if you cannot, there’s a workaround. There’s no break from doing the work though. The compressed schedule means more energy is required over a shorter time; it’s hard work, but that’s expected. And the cohort pushes us to push each other. We can achieve everything other programs achieve.”
On-Site Business Training
Ramapo College has a big presence in the state and Bergen County and regularly collaborates with its world-class corporate neighbors to fill open internships and full-time positions. Ramapo also reaches out to the business community by conducting satellite operations. If a company wants their employees to develop essential business skills or work toward a particular certification, Ramapo staff will bring the program to them with on-site short-term seminars or training.
“It’s an exciting time to be at Ramapo,” concludes Landers. “We went back to the drawing board and rethought every aspect of our curriculum, always considering how it would address our constituents. Education is about changing and responding to the needs of the community and collectively trying to help each other.”