SOM launches Immersion Week

More than 80 second-year MBA students from the School of Management will take intensive weeklong courses abroad this March as part of Immersion Week — one of the first initiatives of SOM’s new Global Network for Advanced Management.

Five schools in the international network, including SOM, will host courses taught by their faculty and hold various events for students from the other four institutions during Immersion Week. The goal of Immersion Week is to enable business students to interact with professors and MBA candidates from their peer institutions around the world, SOM administrators said, forging relationships that could result in collaborative projects in the future. The program at SOM will focus on behavioral economics, and the remaining schools will host courses that address the entrepreneurial and economic issues of their respective regions.

“[The initiative offers] a totally unique environment and is an innovation in that students will not simply travel to Brazil to study low-income consumer behavior, but they will do that alongside students from Turkey, China and Europe — which just changes the potential learning,” SOM Dean Edward Snyder said, adding that SOM Senior Associate Dean for Executive MBA and Global Programs David Bach ’98 and Dean of Renmin School of Business Zhihong Yi developed the idea.

SOM students will have to cover their flight and accommodation costs, but the school will provide students with $600 subsidies. The other schools participating in Immersion Week are FGV Escola de Administração de Empresas de São Paulo in Brazil, Renmin University School of Business in China, Koç University Graduate School of Business in Turkey and IE Business School in Spain.

Bach, a former dean of programs at IE Business School, said he has considered creating a program like Immersion Week for several years, but he added that he did not want to pilot an initiative involving just one other business school. The Global Network — a project involving 22 international business schools founded last academic year — provided him with “the necessary infrastructure” to implement his idea, he said.

Only second-year MBA students at SOM were eligible to sign up for the trips, as many first-year students attend required school-sponsored international trips at the same time. Bach said Immersion Week complements the first-year trips, with the distinction that the trips for first-years are intended to give students an opportunity to explore their international destinations while Immersion Week focuses “on topics rather than places.”

New Haven was the most sought-after program destination — SOM had to turn down over 80 students due to its capacity to host only 67. Due to overwhelming interest in the initiative, Snyder said there is potential for SOM to organize additional immersion weeks, adding that he has already discussed the option with Peter Crane, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies dean.

Participating students said they are excited to explore important issues pertaining to the countries they are visiting in a local setting.

“The business world has changed in the last 15 to 20 years,” said Emily Berger SOM ’13, who will travel to Madrid in March. “[We are] constantly trying new things in different geographic markets, and having the opportunity to practice that kind of cross-cultural dialogue is not something that can be taught from a textbook.”

Kevin Zygmunt SOM ’13, who will travel to Sao Paulo, said he thinks one cannot understand the events that happen in a country without immersing itself in its culture, a belief he said he strengthened through his international experience as a first-year student.

Amanda Turner SOM ’13 said she enrolled in the class at Renmin University in China because she was inspired by SOM professor Zhiwu Chen’s “Emerging Market Finance” class and wanted an opportunity to explore in-depth the finance and business practices in China.

Immersion Week will take place during the first week of March.

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