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Midwest in the Far East-COB Q & A

Q & A with Tanvi Kothari, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management

UW Oshkosh professor Tanvi Kothari and students
What is the purpose of this trip?
China is the world’s 2nd largest economy. Exports and foreign investment are not the only engines to power the economic growth. Increasing middle class population and increasing government spending fuel domestic consumption thus, contributing to the future growth of the Chinese economy. U.S. companies have not only been sourcing from China, but also have started to sell significant amount of goods and services to China. The goal of the Business and Economics study abroad trip is to provide a platform for students to understand the strategies and business models of companies in China. Specifically, the trip exposes students to Chinese companies that are OEM suppliers (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and ODM (Original Design Manufacturers) to US businesses. Students also have an opportunity to visit Chinese MNCs (Multinational Companies) and US companies operating in China. Thus, the goal of the trip is to club business visits with experiential learning of the Chinese culture to give students a holistic view of business in China.

Why do you need to take students to China to learn about these things?
A significant aspect of changes in the global economy over the last few decades is the economic liberalization of protected economies including emerging markets. The emerging market economies like China are considered to be in a transitional phase between developing and developed status. These nations have been transitioning, both economically and politically, toward market-based systems. This important component of globalization has led to an increased participation of these countries in the global market both as markets for goods and services as well as production sites. In fact, a recent issue of the Economist suggests that ‘the emerging world, long a source of cheap labor, now rivals the rich countries for business innovation’ (The Economist, 2010, p. 1).
Given these changing trends in the world economy it is essential that UW Oshkosh business students be exposed to one of the world’s leading markets. We hope to convey the importance of China for business and illustrate the different opportunities available for students. 

What do you want students to get out of this?
We hope that students will have an understanding of Chinese history and culture, Chinese business practices and strategic issues being faced by both, domestic and international companies in the Chinese economy. We anticipate that each component of the trip contributes to their learning in different ways. For instance, students start out with a basic in-class introduction of Chinese Culture and Economy. Guest speakers from US companies with operations in China provide them with different perspectives regarding their entry into the Chinese markets. Students then actually visit some of these companies during their trip in China.
Further, students are also partnered with Chinese students from local university. These partnerships provide an intense learning environment allowing UW Oshkosh students to learn about the Chinese education system, culture, language and life in general.
Finally, companies from the area (Oshkosh Corporation, Bucyrus International, Kohler, SNC Manufacturing, Oshkosh) have a significant presence in China. We hope that their experiences on the Business and Economics study abroad trip will enable them to secure positions in international management in companies in Northeast Wisconsin Area. 

What was the most satisfying part of the trip?
Towards the end of the trip UW Oshkosh Business students presented a feasibility study for a US company’s ability to enter China. This presentation, allowed them to implement their knowledge from the various in-class presentations, company visits and sightseeing trips into a complete strategic plan. The four groups had innovative ideas for companies like Axletech, Ihop, Culver’s and Lowes to enter China. The proficiency with which the students presented their strategies was indeed a depiction of the wealth of knowledge they had gained during the three weeks of their China trip. This was certainly the most satisfying part of the trip for me.

What was your favorite part? 
I really enjoyed the group of students we had on this trip. It is fascinating to see how little time they took to adapt to the Chinese culture from relishing the local food (lazy Suzan and the chop sticks) to enjoying the rough taxi rides. The most favorite part of the trip for me was to observe these students bargain in Mandarin while they tried to shop their favorite things. Not to say they got the best deals too!!!

What was your greatest challenge?
One of the challenges’ for this trip was our inability to speak Chinese. In my opinion, if I spoke more than just the few basic words I would have been able to navigate more efficiently.

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