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UC Davis MBA Students Make Corporate Tour of Japan

March 15, 2007

Any trade delegation to Japan would be envious of the itinerary: exclusive meetings with leaders of more than a dozen major corporations, a visit to the Tokyo Stock Exchange and dinner with senior officials responsible for the country's industry and trade.

But this two-week trip begins this weekend for 13 MBA students at the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis. The trip is the culmination of the school's 10-week international management practicum -- one of the ways the management school helps prepare its students to lead in the global economy.

The course and field study, introduced 10 years ago, integrate concepts from every discipline in the MBA curriculum and open a window onto the markets, industries and business practices of the region studied.

Professor Robert Smiley, who is leading the course, approved it as part of the school's curriculum when he served as dean of the management school. "The course increases students' exposure to international business and economic policy," he said.

The students, from the full-time and Working Professionals MBA programs, will be accompanied by Smiley and an interpreter as they travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya.

They'll have in-depth conversations with executives and behind-the-scenes tours at corporations including Toyota, Matsushita (best known for its Panasonic brand), IBM Japan, NEC, FedEx's Asian hub and athletic-equipment manufacturer Mizuno.

MBA student Cassie Hilder of Sacramento, who's concentrating her studies in finance, will be among the travelers. "I would like a better understanding of the Japanese business arena," she said. "What are the trends? How do the Japanese do business differently from us?"

Students have researched and made presentations to their class about the culture, history, economics and business climate of the country. "That's so we're prepared and can ask more interesting questions," said Hilder, a full-time MBA student.

The students themselves decided which country they wanted to visit -- India and China were the closest contenders. Then they set up the meetings and organized their own transportation and accommodations.

"People have done a lot of legwork," said Hilder. "We've been spending all this time talking and planning. Now we're going."

Other years, the practicum has taken students to China; Chile; Argentina and Brazil; and Southeast Asia with stops in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

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