Home > Global Leadership, MSGL Classes, Student Life, Study Abroad > Study Abroad: Comparative Management in China

Study Abroad: Comparative Management in China


This past August, I joined fellow MS in Global Leadership students from Cohorts 52, 53 and 54 on a highly successful study abroad trip to mainland China.  The trip was the first of its kind for the MSGL program, and had been driven by an increasing interest among students to have an experience that went above and beyond the typical European or South American study abroad program.

Those of us who managed to dodge a passing typhoon on the flight over took advantage of the first day to explore downtown Shanghai, a city with a staggering 23 million people.  The remainder of our week in Shanghai was filled with a walking tour of local eateries by an American expat, a visit to the historic Yu Garden and Jade Buddhist Temple, and a meet and greet at WD40’s distribution center at the outskirts of the city.

MSGL Students at WD40 in ChinaUSD alumni Stephanie Barry manages the WD40 office with about 30 local employees, and took the time to explain some of the challenges that managers of foreign companies face when operating in a Communist country.  One of WD40’s biggest challenges in China is that it must convince vendors to not opt for counterfeit brands, a telltale sign of the disparity between our two countries’ enforcement of property rights.

When we were not taking in the sights, we listened to lectures by USD’s Dr. Cynthia Pavett as part of MSGL’s Comparative Management course (MSGL 503 is normally taught in MSGL’s third semester).  We also enjoyed Q&A sessions with Professor He Jianmin of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics along with local restaurant operations director and German expat Andre Lense.

After our course work was completed in Shanghai, we flew to Beijing for a whirlwind two-day tour of China’s most recognizable tourist destinations.  Our first stops were to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and were followed by a rickshaw ride to lunch at a local household (meals in China were frequently served on a Lazy Susan, which let us try multiple items in each sitting).  The second day was devoted entirely to hiking China’s Great Wall, and was the biggest highlight of the trip for many of us.

MSGL Students at the Great Wall of China

As a veteran of two SBA study abroad trips in my first two semesters, I was proud by the level of camaraderie and professionalism shared by my fellow travellers.  More impressive was the fact that this trip was built from the ground up in six short months, and was a testament to the “can-do” attitude that is exhibited by many candidates in our program.  Such initiative will be needed if future cohorts want to plan a trip of their own, but this trip proves that such plans would be very worthwhile.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of USD faculty and students.  Bob Schoultz, Dr. Denise Dimon provided support for us at the administrative level.  Katie Singleton, Stephanie Kiesel and Suzy Wadsworth helped with planning and logistics, while Sam Chung travelled with us to China and provided Dr. Pavett with further logistical support.

The idea for the trip came from Shabnam Karimi of MSGL Cohort 53, and with help from Cohort Leader Troy Hanson, she drummed up support from her fellow students and faculty.  Overall, I think that our trip demonstrated that all you really need to enhance your grad school experience are some motivated people who want to try something new.

Sean is a graduate student in MSGL Cohort 53.  He earned his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the US Naval Academy in 2003, and now serves as a Naval Helicopter Pilot at Naval Air Station North Island.  He traveled to Germany, Turkey, and China this summer for study abroad.

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  1. September 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I know this crowd – they could have gone to the armpit of the world together and made it a good time – Shanghai with them must have been awesome! Wish I coulda been there with you. thanks Sean for the great write up! Bob

  2. Lisa Thompson
    August 16, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Hey, Sean, This is Lisa Thompson from MSGL 56-12 and guess what? I’m on the 2nd China trip abroad. We are in Shanghai right now and will be taking the WD40 tour tomorrow. We are having a terrific time also and are very appreciative of the time and effort put into the planning for this trip. Tonight we went on a river cruise–the lights of the city are spectacular! Thanks for putting together this site . . . happy to stumble upon it. If anyone else ever has the chance to take this trip, my recommendation is a big thumbs up!

  3. August 17, 2012 at 12:45 am

    August 17,2012. Thank you Stephanie and Phil for taking the time to host our MSGL group again. We all learned some valuable lessons about doing business, managing people and life as an expatriate in China. I hope future MSGL students will have the honor of partaking in a similar learning experience.
    Cynthia Pavett
    Professor of Management

  4. Cynthia Pavett
    August 17, 2012 at 10:03 am

    August 17, 2012. All of us loved the trip also. Thanks WD 40.

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