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International Collaboration Enhances APEX Experience for Penn State Smeal MBA Team

In the spring semester of 2013, the Penn State Smeal MBA Program offered a new way for students to gain international collaborative experience in a real project environment.
September 19, 2013

In the spring semester of 2013, the Penn State Smeal MBA Program offered a new way for students to gain international collaborative experience in a real project environment. The Applied Educational Experience Program (APEX) offered a project in which a group of Smeal students worked with MBAs from the Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon, India, to explore growth opportunities for Sealed Air, a multinational company headquartered in New Jersey.

“This project was an excellent learning experience for our students,” said Lenze. “They learned to deal with the challenges of working in a cross-cultural team in order to deliver meaningful results in an international setting.”

David Lenze, director of the APEX Program, felt that providing an opportunity for global collaboration would give students a chance to learn about the specific challenges of doing work in an international setting.

“This project was an excellent learning experience for our students,” said Lenze. “They learned to deal with the challenges of working in a cross-cultural team in order to deliver meaningful results in an international setting.”

Amit Kapoor, professor of strategy at MDI and honorary chair of the Institute for Competitiveness, was also pleased with the project outcome noting, “The exposure of working with a cross-cultural, multi-location team presents challenges that cannot be experienced within a typical classroom setting. A project of this nature equips and effectively prepares students for a career that surmounts the typical idea of economic geography.”

Both contingents of the team did work in multiple areas, but each had particular advantages to moving the project forward.

“In general, the Penn State contingent focused on general desk research utilizing the significant electronic resources available at Penn State, while the MDI members leveraged their location to do in-person interviews with relevant people in India,” Belknap said.

Second-year students are assigned to APEX projects in their final semester of the program based on interests and skillsets. All the students assigned to the Sealed Air project had an interest in emerging markets.

“Sealed Air has been growing quickly in India but thought there was potential to capture an even bigger share of the market,” said Belknap.

The APEX Program functions as a capstone project for MBA students in which they take on real business projects for client firms during their final semester of study. Through these projects, students put together everything they’ve learned in their programs, from technical skills to teamwork and communications.

“Our project drew most heavily on marketing and strategy, but we still needed to take into account things like supply chain and finance,” said Belknap, who says his experience helped him interview for and land his position through MBAs Without Borders with SustainTech, a company in India.

About the Penn State Smeal MBA Program
The internationally ranked residential Penn State Smeal MBA Program is focused on positioning students for their future careers. The two-year program begins with a focus on business fundamentals. Through a summer internship and elective courses, students then personalize their experience to align with their career aspirations. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/mba.

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