BIV Sounding Board: SFU’s Beedie School of Business looks south

Jan 07, 2015
Members of the first cohort of the Beedie School of Business' Americas MBA for Executives program marked their time in Vancouver with a friendly game of soccer in Stanley Park.

Members of the first cohort of the Beedie School of Business’ Americas MBA for Executives program marked their time in Vancouver with a friendly game of soccer in Stanley Park.

The following article was published in Business in Vancouver’s Sounding Board December edition.

Vancouver has long been known as a gateway to the Asia Pacific, but the recent push by YVR to the South American market, coupled with Vancouver’s expertise in the natural resources sector, has seen it become a gateway to Latin America as well. At the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, a number of initiatives exist that connect the dots between the regions.

Since 2011, the Beedie School has offered a pioneering Americas MBA for Executives program. Delivered in partnership with three top business schools in Brazil, Mexico and the US, the program brings together a cohort of classmates from the four schools for two years of coursework and collaboration.

The program aims to prepare a new generation of leaders for the challenges of global business in the Americas. Students spend the first year of the program on their home turf, immersing themselves in a standard executive MBA curriculum. During the second year, they become frequent fliers – every few months, the entire cohort converges on one of the member universities for 10 days of face-to-face collaboration, classes and primers in local business practices.

Like any program at the Beedie School of Business, the Americas MBA for Executives places an emphasis on experiential learning. Students are given real-world business issues to solve, based on problems faced by existing companies with a stake in different countries across the Americas.

The case studies offer students a first-hand look inside Vancouver businesses with international reach, paving the way for future partnerships. Participating companies include, among others, Vision Critical, a global leader in online market research, and Ballard Power Systems, which develops and manufactures zero-emission fuel cells.

Through the case studies the students are exposed to executive-level management at organizations looking to expand into South American markets, offering the students experience in conducting business across borders and cultures.

The projects also provide tangible benefits to the organizations themselves. Through the student projects, participating organizations gain access to research and strategies produced by experienced, motivated professionals from varied backgrounds – with the results sometimes revealing new pathways for the companies to explore.

“The case studies are not treated like a student project by the organizations – they recognize the value they get,” says Daniela Blettner, Assistant Professor at the Beedie School of Business, and supervisor for the Americas MBA for Executives student projects in Canada. “In some instances, the information presented by the students has resulted in the organization marketing their services in ways they had never even considered.”

Students in the Beedie full-time MBA program are also increasingly looking south for business opportunities, learning from distinguished Latin American guests at events like the Vancouver Board of Trade’s recent Pacific Alliance gathering. In addition, the cohort will travel this year to Colombia and Peru to immerse themselves in Latin American business culture, having visited Argentina, Brazil and Chile in previous years.

“The MBA Study Tour to South America has been a highlight for many of our full-time MBA students for a number of years now,” says Jeff Nehajowich, Manager, Graduate Programs at the Beedie School of Business. “As business in BC continues to strengthen ties with South America we decided to fully integrate the trip into the program – it provides a rare opportunity for students to see first-hand how business is conducted in Latin American cultures.”

The full-time MBA program has become increasingly diverse in recent years, with an uptake in students hailing from Latin America. Upon completion of the program, students put their newly acquired skills, knowledge, and fresh ideas into action in a four- to eight-month internship. Opportunities exist for business seeking to hire Beedie students with experience in South American business practices.

Read the full article in the December 2014 edition of BIV’s Sounding Board.

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