The final semester of the UMKC Bloch Executive MBA includes a course on Global Perspectives in Management. This course concludes with a ten day residency abroad where students explore the business landscape in a specific country, reflect on how it resembles and differs from the United States, and what implications those differences have for management, strategy, and leadership in that country.
Sure, these things can be discussed in a classroom, but there’s no substitute for firsthand experience. The Global Residency pushes students beyond their comfort zone and into a new environment where a different culture redefines the rules of engagement. They must adapt quickly to a new time zone and lifestyle, and be present in each moment. Reflection time is baked into the experience and students discuss observations, unexpected challenges, and new perspectives throughout the course. By the time they leave, they’ve gained deeper insight into a different culture and other ways of “doing business” that they can add to their toolkit and adapt for their work in the future.
For the past four years, each class has selected the destination for their residency from a short list of locations determined by the relationships we have in each place and the suitability of the location for the purposes of the course. This year, the Class of 2019 selected Portugal.
Over the past ten days, they met with business and government leaders, and learned about the unique culture of the country and what is expected to do business with and in Portugal. They began their journey in Porto where they toured the Lameirinho Textile Company; met with Bruno Ribeiro and learned how Douro Azul financed and rapidly expanded their global cruise and shipbuilding business; and met with Rui Moreira, Mayor of Porto, who spoke about the business environment, social programs, and economic development in Portugal’s second largest city. From Porto, they continued by train through countryside dotted with orange trees and vineyards to their next stop: Lisbon.
Engagements in Lisbon included journalist and television anchor, Paulo Salvador, who spoke about the media industry in Portugal, current challenges, what the future might hold, and…wine. They were also welcomed to the headquarters of Logoplaste by the Chairman of the Board, Filipe de Botton. Logoplaste is a global plastics manufacturing company that also has a location Overland Park, KS. Students learned about plastics manufacturing, environmental challenges, and how Logoplaste is innovating more sustainable and responsible products for their clients. Students toured the Logoplaste Innovation Lab and small batch production room where new award-winning designs such as the Vimágua reusable water bottle are brought to life.
One day was dedicated to entrepreneurship. Students visited PME Investimentos, the organization that manages the distribution of government funds to drive entrepreneurship in Portugal, where they spoke with the President of PME, Marco Fernandes, and the Head of Strategy for Startup Lisboa, André Costa, about the growth of the start-up culture in Portugal and the resources and programs fueling it. Later that afternoon, they visited the U.S. Embassy and met with commercial counselor, Rafael Patiño, and economic unit chief, Stephanie Hutchinson, who spoke about the services offered through U.S. Department of Commerce to U.S. companies seeking to expand into Portugal.
Another day was reserved for healthcare. Students visited the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown where they spoke with the President, Leonor Beleza, enjoyed a tour of the center by Maria João Villas-Boas, and learned about the research efforts from Dr. André Valente. The Champalimaud Center is dedicated to advanced medical research of complicated cancers, neuroscience, and blindness. The patient experience is designed for peace, comfort, privacy, and above all – maintaining patient dignity and agency at all times. Students also met with Dr. Fernando Leal de Costa, a former minister of health, who spoke about the public and private health systems in Portugal, including outcomes and funding. Later that evening, they were welcomed to the private residence of the United States Ambassador to Portugal, the Honorable George Glass, for a reception hosted by Mr. & Mrs. Glass with occasional appearances by their rescue dog, Stella.
On the final day, student teams delivered detailed presentations that they’d been working on throughout the semester on launching a business in Mexico, Canada, China, and Germany. The presentations included an overview of the business culture, identified opportunities and barriers, and detailed an entry and growth strategy for a product in each country. At the close of the final presentations, the class was complete – and celebration was in order.
Next year, instructor Mike Allison and the Class of 2020 will visit Australia for the Global Residency, but first they’re headed to Washington D.C. in May for the Public Policy Residency. We will share highlights from that trip soon.
In the meantime, drop me a note to learn more about our curriculum and how the Bloch Executive MBA helps leaders expand their perspective and enhance their leadership capacity.
A Note of Thanks
I’d like to extend my gratitude to Ambassador Allan Katz, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, and Alana Mueller who coordinated the meetings, tours, and engagements for this residency. To Fatima Airey, who welcomed our group warmly and provided exceptional in-country support and friendship. And to Mike Allison, the fearless new instructor for this class who encouraged students to make the most of the experience, facilitated reflection and discussion during the residency, and ensured that everyone consumed the highest possible number of scoops of gelato.