Dr. Michael Sullivan Accompanies UNLV EMBA’s Cohort 12 on South American Seminar

Cohort 12 visits São Paulo University for a presentation from São Paulo Tourism during their International Seminar.
Dr. Michael Sullivan
Jan. 14, 2015

A group of 16 UNLV Executive MBA students in Cohort 12 visited Buenos Aires, Argentina, and São Paulo, Brazil, during their 10-day International Seminar in December 2014. Highlights from Argentina included a talk at the American Chamber of Commerce; a visit to General Motors (GM); learning to Tango, and horseback riding at a gaucho ranch. In São Paulo, the students spent time with the general manager of Danone (Dannon Yogurt); met with managers at Rockwell Automation, and visited the World’s only Football (soccer) Museum.

“The seminar is aimed at giving students a first-hand look at strategies that have led to business success in other countries and to expose them to the potential of international opportunities,” said Dr. Michael Sullivan, professor of finance who has taught 12 of 13 cohorts and accompanied the group on its international excursion.

During the International Seminar, EMBA students witness how local economic and cultural environments affect business practices and experience aspects of international culture. “The contrast in management styles between Argentina’s GM and Brazil’s Danone was dramatic,” observed Sullivan.

During a Q & A session with GM’s CFO, the cohort learned of the company’s Phoenix Rising project designed to produce a new business model for South America.  The project includes a new production plant and a new car model that is affordable to the average Argentine whose income is classified as lower middle-class.

“The CFO, a ‘fix-it’ guy, brought in from a previous assignment in China, was a no-nonsense executive temporarily stationed in Argentina for only one to two years to re-vamp the operation. His assignment is so specific and brief that he had no need to learn the language,” which was a telling comment according to Sullivan.

Further demonstrating how the economy and culture affect business practices, the group took a break from riding horses at the gaucho ranch to speak with the owner about her employees: “I have 22 problems,” she said. Sullivan explains, “Argentina employment laws weigh heavily on the side of the employee. Dismissing someone can cost an employer as much as 1.5 times the employee’s annual salary.”

In contrast, the cohort found the culture at Brazil’s Danone to be open, relaxed and encouraging of employee participation. In discussions with the general manager, he explained that Danone’s Brazilian focus is to create an expanding market for yogurt and other Danone products among the health-conscious population of Brazil. “The company has implemented educational programs for schools as well as other community-based organizations. Additionally, Danone has worked with Brazilian medical authorities to create products that address dietary deficiencies and aid in reducing sugar intake,” said Sullivan.

During their down time, Cohort 12 had a chance to share their thoughts on the completion of their UNLV EMBA program and the impact of their international experience.  “A few expressed interest in pursuing corporate opportunities outside of the U.S., while still others recognized the potential for entrepreneurial endeavors specifically in South America,” Sullivan said.

The UNLV EMBA International Seminar is the capstone of an 18-month broad curriculum that provides an understanding of the major elements of business while examining the global implications of management.  The program is designed to groom executives for making decisions in a rapidly changing world.  “Our program prepares EMBA students to take their learning on to a global playing field,” Sullivan said.