In the subterranean catacombs of the Norris Theater Film archive lies a film technology collection worthy of the Smithsonian.
s globalization becomes the mantra of increasing numbers of American universities, study abroad is taking on new incarnations.
A trailblazer on this enlightened path is the USC Marshall School of Business. Four years ago, it became the first American B-school to send its entire first-year class of traditional MBA students on a mandatory foreign trek. In 1999, it went a step farther, requiring all part-time students – typically working professionals who study by night – to go overseas.
Today, students in all four of the Marshall School’s MBA programs must go abroad as a degree requirement. All told, the Marshall School is responsible for almost 700 international airline ticket sales a year, just among its graduate students.
Most of these overseas experiences are one- or two-week trips, the culmination of a semester of study and preparation. All involve field work, site visits at international companies, interviews with senior managers and usually a client presentation consulting on a real-world business problem.
Some purists don’t regard these short, intensive experiences as real study abroad. “That’s old-fashioned thinking,” insists Richard Drobnick, USC vice provost for international studies and a faculty member in the Marshall School. “Most professional school students can’t do a semester abroad, or a year abroad, or even a summer abroad.” Becoming an international business school means finding ways to fit foreign experiences into a realistic schedule.
The school’s biggest overseas undertaking is unquestionably the Pacific Rim Education Program (
PRIME). Now in its fourth year, PRIME divides students in the flagship Marshall MBA program into eight groups. For two weeks, each group bones up on a designated Pacific Rim nation and a specific industry. Next they board a plane for a week’s worth of site visits at multinational corporations in a given nation. Back at USC, they prepare consulting papers for one of the firms they visited.
“I can talk all day about the business climate and culture in today’s China or Mexico, but it means little to the students until they see it for themselves,” says professor Ravi Kumar, who directs the program. Last May, traveling in groups of 40, more than 300 PRIME students saw for themselves how business gets done in Tokyo, Osaka, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Santiago and Mexico City.
The logistics alone are astounding. Sixteen Marshall School professors – a tenth of the school’s entire faculty – accompany the PRIME teams. “There is no comparable program in any American educational institution, though some are talking about emulating ours,” says Drobnick.
Similar to PRIME is
PM Globe, a required course in the Marshall School’s part-time MBA-PM program. The course begins with a classroom overview of open-economy macroeconomics, then applies this learning through country-specific training sessions at USC, a week-long international trip, and final projects completed and presented back in Los Angeles. Last spring, about 220 Marshall MBA PM students went to Tokyo, Shanghai or Mexico City with this course.
Even senior managers in the Marshall School’s Executive MBA program need a passport to complete the second-year international business field trip. “Each year, we go to two countries so students can compare the cultures and the economies,” says professor and academic director Larry Greiner, who introduced the required trip 10 years ago, making it the first of Marshall’s four MBA programs to go overseas. This fall, 63 EMBA students are bound for Santiago and Buenos Aires.
Lastly, there’s the International Business Education and Research (
IBEAR) program. A crucial component of this unusual 12-month, full-time MBA degree is a thing called the International Business Consulting Project. Working in four-person teams, each spring’s crop of 50 IBEAR MBA students complete a consulting project for a paying business sponsor. Past sponsors – who pay $15,000 for the IBEAR students’ services – have included 3Com, Disney, Cisco Systems, Philips and Sony Pictures. Team members, working under faculty supervision, put 500 hours into consultations on such business challenges as country-focused market entry or expansion strategy, off-shore manufacturing feasibility, international sourcing and cross-border acquisitions. When the work is done, each team travels to the sponsor’s headquarters to deliver a formal presentation and report.
If that isn’t enough international exposure, Marshall students are free to take advantage of the
MBA International Exchange Program. Second-year students can spend a semester at one of 27 top-flight international exchange partners, ranging from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark to the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines. The semester abroad often comes with a corporate internship and foreign language instruction. For students who want a shorter academic experience abroad, the school offers three- and four-week summer exchange programs with partner B-schools in Austria, Brazil, France and Germany.




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Related Links

USC Study Abroad Programs

Pacific Rim Education Program (PRIME)

International Business Education and Research Program (IBEAR)

PM Globe

MBA International Exchange Program

Drobnick photograph by Carl Studna

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