Building confidence, building bridges: Graduates of the MIT Sloan School-Tsinghua University IMBA program forge high-profile international careers

Program combines a rigorous curriculum with cross-cultural learning experiences

Cambridge, Mass., August 27, 2010 — An entrepreneur who developed the first-ever portable liquid crystal display monitor, the director of investor relations at China’s leading Internet search engine, and the head of human resources at a Beijing-based clean engine company are among the many successful graduates of the MIT Sloan School sponsored international MBA (IMBA) program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The IMBA program is part of the MIT Sloan China Management Education Project, which was established in 1996 to strengthen graduate management education in China. MIT Sloan and three Chinese institutions, including Tsinghua, Fudan University in Shanghai, and Lingnan (University) College, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, developed an English-language management program - the IMBA - that emphasizes the international dimensions of business and the global competitive environment.

“When we began this program these schools had virtually no international outreach,” says Alan White, Senior Associate Dean at MIT Sloan, who is responsible for the school’s international activities. “Rather than establish just another MBA, we worked with colleagues in China to establish an international MBA, the first in China. The goals were to one: train Chinese students who want to work for Chinese companies in international business; and two: train students who want to work for international companies that plan to do business in China.”

The program brings Chinese faculty to MIT Sloan for professional development, and sends MIT Sloan faculty to the Chinese campuses to offer lectures and seminars. It also provides IMBA and MIT Sloan students with the opportunity to work in small teams on a consulting project with a Chinese entrepreneurial firm on site in China and at MIT in Cambridge.

Upon graduation, all IMBAs are offered affiliate alumni status with the MIT Alumni Association – a designation that greatly increases the size of their network. To date, the IMBA program has had 3,415 graduates, 1,188 from Tsinghua University.

One alumnus, Eric Liao, graduated from the IMBA program in 2008, and today is the CEO and co-founder of MEDL Technology Corporation, which designed and developed the first portable 13” LCD monitor. Liao divides his time between Shen Zhen, China, where his engineering team is based, and San Jose, Ca., where he has a business development team. The monitor has already won plaudits from gadget websites, such as Wired.com.

As an entrepreneur, he’s made use of almost everything he learned from the IMBA program. “From developing a financial plan to devising a marketing and sales strategy, I've used the training from my IMBA to think through all aspects of the business,” says Liao, who hails from Toronto, Canada.

But, he says, it’s the soft skills he learned from the IMBA program that have come in most handy. “Every day I have to negotiate with vendors, deal with investors, and navigate the Chinese business environment. The program was the perfect setting to practice and improve interpersonal skills and develop leadership ability.”

Another alumnus, Victor Tseng, graduated from the program in 2006. He is now the head of investor relations at Baidu, China’s leading Internet company, which is listed on the Nasdaq exchange.

Tseng, who is based in Beijing, says that the IMBA program enhanced his ability to compete for jobs. “It gave me a unique competitive advantage in the job market,” says Tseng, who is from Los Angeles, Ca. “I got a truly exceptional Chinese educational experience from Tsinghua, while also benefiting from MIT Sloan’s robust and rigorous curriculum. Many jobs now require not only strong professional skills, but also cultural awareness, and I feel this is where the IMBA program stands out.”

Helen Li, who is from Hebei Province in China, graduated from the IMBA program in 2003 and today works as the Director of Human Resources at Beijing Foton Cummins Engine Company. The company, which manufactures clean, high-performance diesel engines, is new and has projected annual revenue of 8 billion RMB, or about $1.2 billion.

Li, who has 13 direct reports, says the team-based projects she completed during school helped her become a better leader. “The IMBA program built my confidence to work in an international environment with people with vastly different cultural and professional backgrounds,” she says.

“I remember a course I took with a Sloan professor on cross-cultural understanding. One of our assignments was to watch the Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The next day the professor facilitated a lively class discussion about how Eastern culture is perceived around the world. It's the first time I had ever even thought about Chinese culture from an American perspective. It was such a new and exciting way to learn, and to this day it has helped me think about how to find common ground between people with different perspectives but also how to use those perspectives to spark new ideas and approaches to solving problems.”

Yanming Liu graduated in 2004, and is now the Special Assistant to the President at Founder Group invested by Peking University, a conglomerate that does business in information technology, pharmaceuticals, real estate, and finance. The company last year had revenue of 47 billion RMB, or about $7.1 billon.

Liu, who is originally from China’s Sichuan Province, says she hopes to have an international posting within the next five years – a professional goal inspired by the IMBA program. “My IMBA taught me about the Chinese economy, and also gave me exposure to the global economic environment,” she says. “The program gave me both the capability and confidence to work in the international business community.”

For further information

Paul Denning
Director of Media Relations
Tel: 617-253-0576 (office)
E-mail: denning@mit.edu

Tsinghua: Fay REN
PR Manager, MBA Programs
Tel: 86-10-62796165
E-mail: renf2@sem.tsinghua.edu.cn