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

Program combines a rigorous curriculum with cross-cultural learning experiences

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., November 2, 2010 — The chairman of a televised home shopping company, the director of public relations for a fast-growing solar products manufacturer, the head of e-commerce for a sporting goods group, and the business development manager for a European steel wire products company are among the many successful graduates of the MIT Sloan School sponsored international MBA (IMBA) program with Fudan University in Shanghai.

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 Fudan, Tsinghua University in Beijing, 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 train Chinese students who want to work for Chinese companies in international business; and, secondly, 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 these 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, 955 from Fudan University.

One alumnus, John Cai, earned his IMBA in 1997, and is today the chairman of Vive E-commerce, a Shanghai-based start-up specializing in television shopping, which is a potential $3 billion market in China. The company, founded earlier this year, has been profitable since September.

“Going through the IMBA was one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences of my life,” says Cai. “I learned how to set goals, blend work styles, divide tasks, and work to deadline. I learned how to manage conflict between different cultures, and how to formulate a strategy. Perhaps most important, though, I realized that I could stretch myself far beyond what I had imagined.”

Cai hopes to start his own business one day—a professional goal inspired by the IMBA program. He is a member of Acupuncturists without Borders, an organization where acupuncturists travel to communities in need to provide free treatment, and he would like to pursue a business idea along these lines. “I am very interested in social entrepreneurship in the area of human health,” he says. “The possibility of one day living and working overseas is very exciting for me; my IMBA inspired me to want to become part of a global business community.”

Another alumnus, Josie Zhou, graduated from the program in 2009 and today is the board secretary and director of public relations at JinkoSolar, a photovoltaic product manufacturer founded in 2006. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of $660 million.

Zhou, who is from Anhui, China, says that the IMBA enhanced her ability to compete for jobs. “It definitely has made me a more competitive professional in the global business community because the MIT Sloan name puts me in more ‘international company’ in the eyes of employers,” she says.

Shelly Lin, who graduated in 2001, today manages the e-commerce division for Li-ning, one of the largest sporting goods and apparel companies in China that last year had revenue of $1.2 billion. As the head of a relatively new unit, Lin says she’s made use of almost everything she learned from her IMBA. “The IMBA’s emphasis on general management has been a great benefit to my career,” she says. “Courses on marketing and human resources were very useful to me when I first started building my team at Li-ning. And courses on finance and accounting gave me a much deeper understanding about how to manage my division’s budget and bottom line.

“Overall, the program taught me how to think about running a new business in a strategic and rational way. This helps me when I am facing different kinds of problems, and need to make a tough decision under pressure—something I have to do almost every day.”

Roger Geng who earned his IMBA in 2000, is now the senior project manager for group business development at Bekaert, a Belgian company that manufactures drawn steel wire products. The company employs 25,000 people worldwide and generates annual sales of €3.3 billion.

Geng, who hails from Qingdao, China, says the team-based projects he worked on while enrolled in the IMBA program helped him become a better leader. “I remember participating in a teambuilding session offered by MIT Sloan students—we formed into small groups, analyzed case studies, and then did team activities together. This helped me understand the concepts of teamwork: how to negotiate, how to deal with different personalities, and how to navigate group dynamics.

“Leadership and team-building are rarely taught in standard Chinese curricula,” he says. “But these are very important practical skills that I use in my daily professional life. I am grateful for the IMBA training.”

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