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EMBA Students Experience Chilean Business, Culture on Immersion Trip to Santiago

Second-year students in the Philadelphia-based Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive MBA Program traveled to Santiago, Chile, for six days as part of a global immersion trip to gain exposure to the business practices and culture of another country.
May 22, 2013

E M B A Trip to Santiago, Chile
The Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program traveled to Santiago, Chile.

Second-year students in the Philadelphia-based Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive MBA Program traveled to Santiago, Chile, for six days as part of a global immersion trip to gain exposure to the business practices and culture of another country.

Thirty-one students and three members of the faculty and staff went on the trip to Santiago, which included company visits in a wide range of industries such as banking and agriculture.

The class of 2013 voted on where to travel for its immersion trip, and Santiago won in part because of its strong global economy and balanced budget.

“Chile is a country in South America that has really started to shift from developing to developed,” said EMBA student Rob Page, vice president of operational risk oversight in Card Services at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “It’s a country that is attractive to North American business in many ways, and this trip gave us a chance to see for ourselves some of the opportunities available there.”

The company visits were also a chance for students to learn more about the unique challenges facing businesses in Chile, such as education and talent recruitment.

“It is very hard for companies that want to expand globally to find Chilean employees who speak English, and it’s difficult to attract top talent when salaries in the mining industry are so high,” said EMBA student Jeremy Fernandez, senior project manager at The Hartford.

Page added, “The issue of education came up in almost every presentation—specifically higher education and the role of government subsidies for tuition, but also in the context of advanced degrees in fields like engineering that are in high demand.”

“Chile is a country in South America that has really started to shift from developing to developed. It’s a country that is attractive to North American business in many ways, and this trip gave us a chance to see for ourselves some of the opportunities available there.”

There are energy issues, too. According to Glen Kreiner, associate professor of management, who accompanied students on the Santiago trip, green energy production is growing in southern parts of the country, but demand is higher in the central and northern sections.

One of the standout experiences of the trip, according to Kreiner and students, was hearing from the CEO of Scotiabank Chile.

“Scotiabank has a presence in many countries, and we were fortunate to hear from leadership there about the financial and banking situation in Chile,” said Kreiner.

The EMBA global immersion trip serves as a capstone experience for students, allowing them to fit together all the lessons they’ve learned over the course of the previous two years and apply them toward understanding the business and economic situation of another country.

“I was able to relate to the language used in presentations even outside my areas of expertise,” said Fernandez.

The immersion also gives students a chance to make international contacts.

“The trip really opened up possibilities for making connections with businesspeople and suppliers in Chile. I took advantage of that, and I know many of my classmates did as well,” said Fernandez. “It’s a way of expanding your horizons and your networks.”

Through company visits and presentations from company representatives, students received a unique opportunity to view Chile’s business opportunities and challenges as a whole.

“There is so much you can learn from immersion that you can’t learn from a book,” said Kreiner.

About the Penn State Executive MBA Program
Launched in 2001, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program is a 21-month program designed for working professionals with classes held on alternating weekends at the ACE Conference Center in suburban Philadelphia. The program features personalized executive coaching, intensive communication training, a weeklong international residency experience, and coursework focused on the unique challenges of the students’ firms. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/execmba.

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