A Trip That Was Over the Top:
College of Business Students Travel to China

From Beijing to Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen and Shanghai, the global forces of entrepreneurship were the subject of scrutiny when 14 students from the College of Business participated in the Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) First International Entrepreneurship Study Trip to China in January 2005.

The students met with entrepreneurs at various stages of their innovation and growth cycles, toured various science parks, business incubators, and business facilities, and were exposed to the emerging system of value-added service providers such as early stage financiers, lawyers and other business professionals.

This study trip was designed to enhance the educational experience of entrepreneurially minded students in the College of Business by exposing them to the global forces of entrepreneurship. CED Director Dinesh Ahluwalia said that that the trip helped students "understand the relevance and scale of entrepreneurial forces that China has just started contributing to the global economy and the implications of these forces on technology innovation and new venture creation, not only in the US but on a global basis."

The tightly packed agenda during the 11-day journey consisted of back-to-back meetings for 8 to 10 hours a day. The group met with some internationally known China entrepreneurs including Dr. Richard Chang, founder, president and CEO of SMIC; Mr. Jian-jun Li and Mrs. Hai-tao Xiong, general managers and co-founders of Guangzhou Kingfa Sci. & Tech. Co., Ltd.; and Dr. Ge Li, founder, chairman, and CEO of WuXi PharmaTech Co., Ltd.. The group also met with "rising stars" such as Feng Jun and Li Yan, co-founders of Beijing Emay Softcom Technology Ltd.; Lingping Gao, founder and president of NetBrain Technologies, Inc.; Pengkai Pan, founder and CEO of Saybot; and Rong Chen, founder and CEO of Koretide Corp.

RC2 Corporation, a leading designer, producer and marketer of high quality, innovative, branded collectible/ hobby, toy and infant products targeted at adults and children, sponsored the study trip. RC2 CEO Curt Stoelting said it was a practical way for students to be exposed to the world-class entrepreneurial opportunities in China. RC2 has a history of successful partnerships with Chinese entrepreneurs. "During that time we've seen tremendous change and an ever-growing entrepreneurial culture that cannot be ignored," said Stoelting.

Aleksandrs Kalnins, a first year MBA student pursuing a joint MD degree was one of the student travelers. "Just as the rapid economic growth of China has been a significant force in the global economy, the CED trip to China has been a paradigm shift for me. It expanded the way I view the world on a personal and educational level."

The students squeezed in visits to some cultural events including the Ming Tombs, Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the bright city lights of Beijing and Shanghai. Ethnic dances and acrobatic shows and the more modern elements of karaoke were also enjoyed by the students.

William Effendi, an undergraduate in material sciences and engineering who is also minoring in business, said the trip "unveiled" China. "I am excited about China now and I can't wait to go back!"

Other important highlights of the trip included student-to-student interactions with MBA students at Tsinghua University in Beijing and with IMBA students at Lingnan (University) College at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou.

During the group's visit to Lingnan College, Ahluwalia was asked to participate as a guest lecturer during China's largest annual business plan competition and entrepreneurship forum. In exchange, he was able to have the College of Business named as a partner/sponsor for this event along with US Consulate General's office. The exposure gave the College some brand name recognition and visibility in the local China press.

Brian Precious, another first year MBA student, called the study trip valuable and rewarding and an amazing opportunity to experience first-hand the political, economic and social changes that are helping to transform China into an economic powerhouse. "By meeting with business professionals, entrepreneurs, lawyers, professors and bankers, I gained a better understanding into the culture, work ethic and professionalism of the Chinese people."

Reflecting on the journey Ahluwalia commented that reactions to the trip were "spectacular" from both the students and from CED's friends in China. ""The trip was over the top. If the students look back in a few years and say this trip was a meaningful educational experience in their lives that resulted in some tangible decisions that were made, then we all win."

Brian Precious summed up his feelings about the experience:

"The CED Entrepreneurial Study trip to China was an amazing opportunity for students to experience China during a period of great social, economic and political change. Seeing the emergence of entrepreneurship and the trend towards a market economy offers hope and excitement to a nation that has long suffered under a socialist economic policy. It was a privilege meeting the scientists, lawyers, bankers, and business people that are working diligently every day to turn this dream into a reality."

The Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) was established in 2002 to serve as a focal point and to coordinate entrepreneurial initiatives of the College of Business. The International Entrepreneurship Study trip is an integral part of CED's mission to enhance the educational experience of students by organizing activities that expose students to global forces of entrepreneurship.

--Ginny Hudak-David
February 2005

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