While most Yale undergraduates used winter break to recover from finals and catch up on sleep, first-year School of Management students spent the vacation in places as diverse as Beijing and Buenos Aires in an inaugural component of the school’s new curriculum, which was launched this fall.
Participating in the first “International Experience” trips, MBA students from the class of 2008 chose from eight international excursions led by one or two SOM faculty members. For two weeks, the students explored the commercial and social aspects of their destinations in meetings with government officials and visits to high-level business executives.
With the new required trips, Yale has become the first business school to require students to study abroad in some capacity. While both participants and trip leaders said they recognized the inherent glitches in such a novel program, most praised the smooth execution and the educational value of the trips.
Students chose among trips to Argentina, China, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Singapore, a combined trip to England and Poland and another combined trip to South Africa and Tanzania. Each of the expeditions was linked to one or more of the new curriculum’s first-year MBA core classes.
Kristen Silvi SOM ’08, who went on the Argentina trip related to the curriculum of the “State and Society” course, said her itinerary — which included a meeting with the American ambassador and visits to the country’s largest manufacturers — was designed to show how Argentina had recovered from a disastrous financial crisis in the late 1990s. SOM professor Keith Chen led the trip.
Students said they appreciated the balance the trip schedules attained between tailoring activities to the specific character of the country and exposing participants to a variety of educational experiences. Ross Mellor SOM ’08, who went on the China trip led by professors Zhiwu Chen and X. Frank Chang, said he enjoyed the variety of events, including visits to J.P. Morgan and to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
“I think the great part about it was the exposure we received to various industries as well as government officials,” Mellor said.
Many also lauded some of the trips’ more unusual stops. On the Costa Rica excursion, Amy Emerick SOM ’08 said a visit to a banana plantation helped heighten her awareness of the labor conditions faced by third world workers. Emerick said the SOM group also visited a biological field station to hear noted biologist Debra Clark speak on the topic of climate change.
“Everything was perfectly in topic order,” she said. “It was just planned out so well.”
Despite the general praise for the program, some students and professors pointed out a few difficulties about the organization of the trip.
Professor Doug Rae, who chaired the faculty committee that created the International Experience component and who led the Poland and Britain trip, said that while the trips were a “spectacular success,” many faculty members now want to shorten future expeditions to one week.
“My main task was to talk faculty into doing these, and most faculty have a limited tolerance for long trips that don’t include their families,” Rae said.