Fourteen participants, seven individuals from China and seven from Vietnam, embarked on a four-week journey to Duluth to partake in the LSBE Summer Institute.
The immersive study abroad program that was hosted by LSBE, titled "Managing for Superior Outcomes: Leadership Skills for the New Normal," was meticulously designed and led by LSBE's Associate Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management Wenqing Zhang. It was conducted by LSBE and UMD's International Programs and Services Office and seamlessly integrated three essential components: corporate visits, specialized seminars on pertinent topics, and culturally enriching scenic excursions.
Participants were undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty members. They had the unique opportunity to glean insights into the latest trends in management theory and practices while benefiting from the expertise of academic scholars and industry leaders.
Zhang held high hopes that this experience would prove to be transformative for all involved; indeed, the four weeks did affect the students—in big and small ways.
The highlight of the institute was the corporate visits, as noted by most of the students.
Corporations visited included Mayo Clinic, 3M, Target, and Fastenal, where students “witnessed firsthand the brilliant management performance of these renowned organizations,” said Zhang.
“We met many leaders who are great in their field and learned the many things that make effective leaders,” said Long Hai Vu.
Many thought the institute was just going to be classroom lectures and regular study. They were surprised that it was so much more.
“I thought we were just going to learn,” said Quynh Le Nguyen, “but when we went to the corporations, we saw how they work, and how the CEOs get to their positions.”
“I asked everyone one question—what do you do to overcome difficulties,” said Dung Tien Nguyen. “I found they all are trying to overcome difficulties every day. I look up to them because they’re CEOs and presidents, but they are just normal people, not superheroes or geniuses.”
“We’re business students; it’s crucial to visit big companies,” said Lezhan Wang. “But as students in China, we cannot see such big companies like Target.”
The second component of the institute, the special topic seminars, were taught by LSBE’s faculty and included data analytics, international trade, U.S. economy’s interface with the rest of the world, and behavior economics.
“We wanted to equip the students with technical and soft skills necessary for success in today’s turbulent and disruptive business environment,” said Zhang.
Additionally, excursions ensured the students had a “well-rounded experience,” said Zhang. The group visited iconic Minnesota areas and events, such as the state park on Lake Superior’s North Shore, Duluth’s Canal Park and lakewalk, Grandma’s Marathon, the Mall of America, and more.
“We got to see sights and the beauty of Duluth, Minnesota, and America in general” said Quynh Le Nguyen. “We went to Glensheen Mansion and played dodge ball. It was an amazing experience.”
“This incredible mix of cultures and backgrounds is a testament to the global reach of our institute and the opportunities it provides for cross-cultural learning and collaboration,” said Zhang.
The students were very happy they attended the institute and offered advice to others who may be thinking of doing a study abroad experience.
“Research the weather,” said Nhi Quynh Lin Phan with a smile “I come from a tropical area. Summer here is still kind of cold. I became inseparable from my jackets.”
“Don’t consider it anymore,” said Wang. “Just come.”
“You will make friends and meet faculty and other people,” said Mo Thi Hong Quach. “They welcome you and make you feel at home. You will get a lot of knowledge, and it will prepare you more for your career.”
When asked about their careers, plans varied from going to graduate school to starting a business.
“I want to work for a multinational company and will try my best to make my dream come true,” said Quach.
And some realized they needed to learn more before they could decide on a career path.
“I’m open to opportunities and different experiences,” said Dung Tien Nguyen. “I have to experience more.”
Many had never been to another country, and the institute made them grow in several ways.
“I’ve never been far away from my family or for a long time,” said Phan. “This was a very precious experience. I was out of my comfort zone, but it was very exciting.”
“I thought if I’m brave enough to do this, I will overcome difficulty and have confidence,” added Quach.
“Last year I had been through many difficulties,” said Dung Tien Nguyen. “I thought I can choose to leave myself in my room in the house all summer, but I got this opportunity. It’s a relief to be here. I have learned a lot—not only knowledge and experience—but about my emotions. I’m still on my way to balancing myself. Taking this trip, I realize I can make it.”
Photo: Interim LSBE Dean Praveen Aggarwal (left front) and Associate Professor Wenqing Zhang (right front) with the LSBE Summer Institute participants at Target Corporation.