[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
 June 1, 1999

Foreign students get help on MBA conflicts

BOULDER — Cultural differences are causing conflicts in MBA classrooms.

And Boulder’s Economic Institute and administrators from U.S. business schools are teaming up to tackle the issues.

In February, the E.I., in partnership with Emory University, hosted its second workshop on “Integrating International Students into U.S. MBA Programs.” Integration problems first appeared when administrators increased international student enrollment to globalize MBA programs.

“American students were resentful since international students on teams were not contributing and carrying their weight. Some American students shunned international students or did the work. This created tension and problems for everybody,” says Ingrid Martin, assistant professor of marketing at the E.I..

Founded in 1958, the E.I. prepares international students for graduate studies in economics, business and related fields, and offers career-development programs for professionals in these disciplines.

At the E.I.’s first forum, held last January in Boulder, MBA administrators from the University of Colorado, Emory, Tulane, University of Texas, University of Rochester, University of Michigan, and UCLA identified language, and misconceptions about university and MBA culture, as issues affecting international student integration.

“It was very enlightening for me to learn that common problems were shared by many MBA programs,” says Diana Marinaro, director of MBA programs at the University of Colorado. “Schools with 30 percent international students still had problems.”Ten percent of CU’s 80 full-time MBA students are from other countries. At the University of Rochester, foreign students are 50 percent of the MBA program.

Language difficulties, for example, often go beyond reading and writing. Many students do not understand American business idioms and abbreviations. And some foreign students are not prepared for the high level of class participation and teamwork required in MBA programs.

“Students are spending so much time to not only grasp business knowledge, but are also struggling with these basic things,” Martin says.

To help international students bridge cultural gaps, faculty and administrators from the E.I. and MBA schools developed “Language and Culture of U.S. MBA Programs.” Taught by E.I. business faculty and English for Specific Purposes instructors for the first time last summer, the five-week program integrated language and business topics to teach American business culture.

Of the 26 students who participated in the program, 17 responded to an open-ended survey evaluating “Language and Culture.” The students completed the survey after one semester in their respective MBA programs. Respondents cited a client project with a local business as the most effective method for team building. The project involved site visits and interaction with company employees.

According to students, a case study course was helpful in developing discussion and class participation skills. When asked where the program could be improved, students said computer classes should fit different needs, there should be more flex time, and complete business courses should be offered. The students also wanted more classroom experience with American students.

They want to “see the movie twice,” Martin says.

Based on these suggestions, “Language and Culture” was redesigned at the E.I.’s recent workshop. The program, which will be taught this summer, is 10 weeks, has flex time, and includes full business courses. In addition, students have the option to enroll in two MBA courses on the CU campus this summer.

Tulane will hold the third workshop in New Orleans in 2000. Still, looking at international students as a group may be the wrong approach to integration.

“The only thing international students have in common is having a passport and visa to get into the country,” says Sanjai Bhagat, professor of finance at CU. “Integration depends on the student. The quality and competency of the international student is important when talking about integrating into an MBA program.”

And the attitude of certain domestic students toward foreign peers could be a factor in successful integration.

“I feel that Americans do not want to learn from international students,´ said Hsiao Ching Liu, a CU MBA student from Taiwan who completed E.I.’s pre-MBA program. “During a marketing management class, the professor showed television images from different countries such as Japan. Not one American asked me whether there were commercials in Taiwan.”

Next fall, CU’s MBA orientation week will include a half day of team building and cultural-issue discussions between international and domestic students.

“To develop leaders and managers that have only interacted with Americans does not make sense,” Marinaro says.

BOULDER — Cultural differences are causing conflicts in MBA classrooms.

And Boulder’s Economic Institute and administrators from U.S. business schools are teaming up to tackle the issues.

In February, the E.I., in partnership with Emory University, hosted its second workshop on “Integrating International Students into U.S. MBA Programs.” Integration problems first appeared when administrators increased international student enrollment to globalize MBA programs.

“American students were resentful since international students on teams were not contributing and carrying their weight. Some American students shunned international students or did the…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]