UNLV EMBA Students Get Down to Business in Seoul and Taipei

Cohort 13 visits LG Electronics Display division during their International Seminar
Jan. 28, 2016

In November 2015, UNLV Executive MBA Cohort 13 members embarked on their international seminar to South Korea and Taiwan that included visits to a variety of businesses, organizations and cultural landmarks in Seoul and Taipei. This is the first time that a UNLV EMBA Cohort has visited these Asia-Pacific countries.

The UNLV EMBA international seminar is a required capstone course to the 18-month UNLV executive MBA program. The trips develop students’ awareness and understanding of the complexities and nuances of doing business in an international marketplace. “Today, it’s absolutely essential for business leaders to appreciate the challenges and opportunities of working in a global economy," said UNLV EMBA Director, Nikkole McCartin, who accompanied Cohort 13 on its international seminar. “The seminars provide our EMBA students with insight into international business, the influence of culture on business practices and knowledge of how local markets work.”

“The experience is something that cannot be taught through textbooks, presentations or any other academic medium,” said Vincent Catalano, Cohort 13 member and Director of Slot Operations for the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino. “The knowledge gained through this experience is only something that can be learned by immersing yourself into the local culture and experiencing it through the most direct perspective.  In doing so, the lessons become life-long, as do the memories.”

Cohort 13’s journey began in Seoul, South Korea. Wasting no time, the group of 25 students immersed themselves in the country’s history and culture with visits to the 7,700-room Gyeongbokgung Palace originally constructed in 1395 as home to the kings of the Joseon dynasty. This was followed by an afternoon experiencing Korean traditional arts and crafts on Insa-dong Street, said to be one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul.

As evening broke, Cohort 13 learned first-hand that while business in the US is sometimes conducted on the golf course, in South Korea, business and karaoke go hand-in-hand. With lots of support and encouragement, cohort members stepped up to the microphone and unabashedly sang out.

McCartin emphasized the importance of cultural immersion as an integral element of the international seminars. “To be successful in today's economy, business leaders need to understand not only the global economic forces that shape the way business is conducted, but the effects of cultural and political forces as well. The immersion in cultural experiences, combined with business learning, are reasons the international seminar is such a vital part of the Executive MBA program.”

The next day it was off to LG Electronics and a VIP tour of the company’s manufacturing facility from which the Korean demilitarized zone is clearly visible.  “When asked about the rather perceived precarious location, a company executive responded ‘being this close to North Korea, at least we know that if they launch a missile, it will fly over us.’ “His comment left us all wondering if he was joking or if the selection of this location was actually strategy,” said McCartin.

While day one highlighted South Korea’s rich history, day three showcased Seoul’s modern-day marvels as testaments to the country’s economic growth and strength. Cohort 13 took in the sights and sounds of The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a major urban development landmark. With a distinctively neo-futuristic design characterized by powerful, curving forms of elongated structures, the plaza features a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces and futuristic retail stores.

Next stop was Taipei, Taiwan, located at the heart of the Asia-Pacific. Taiwan is one of the most competitive places in the region for business, as well as the gateway to emerging Asian markets, in particular, mainland China. Its technology industry is a world leader and an important link in the global supply chain for electronic products, including semiconductors, computers and mobile phones.

In addition to guided cultural tours, Taipei’s packed agenda included question and answer sessions with management teams at advertising giant J. Walter Thompson (JWT) and technology titan Dell.

“Universally, the approach, content and tone of advertising can serve as a window to a region’s economic health and cultural sensibilities,” McCartin said. “On each international seminar, we try to include a visit with a major advertising agency.” Meeting with Taiwan JWT’s managing director, the Cohort members gained insights into the Taiwanese consumer mindset through the agency’s unique, culturally relevant style of advertising that reflects the culture of the market. JWT creatives demonstrated this culturally-sensitive advertising concept to cohort members through previews of numerous emotionally-driven ad campaigns in contrast to the more familiar product-driven marketing found in western cultures.  

Exemplifying Taiwan’s leadership within the technology industry, Cohort 13 met with representatives of the Dell Taiwan Design Center, who reviewed the company’s innovative business-to-business applications, including servers and networks. Those less inclined to appreciate the technicalities, gained a better understanding when told that iPhone’s Siri runs on Dell servers.

“While eager to share accomplishments, from a business-style perspective, it’s interesting to note that without exception, native corporate executives with whom we interacted were less inclined to discuss business strategy than their U.S. counterparts,” said McCartin.

Business behind them, it was time for Cohort 13 to bid farewell to their UNLV EMBA international seminar with a final day of sightseeing from dining at the top of Taipei 101, the tallest and largest green building in the world, to exploring The National Palace Museum, world-renowned for imperial artifacts spanning more than 8,000 years of Chinese history from the Neolithic age to the late Ching Dynasty.

“Because of this trip, I’m seriously considering applying for my company’s three-year international assignment program,” said Nic Jones, Regional Sales Manager - Western Region, Bosch North America.

“I may not apply for a stint in Asia, but this trip has helped me know that personally I can do international travel, and that seeing different places, businesses, cultures and people is awesome and stimulating.  It’s an experience that might even be a fun adventure for my young family!”

As part of the UNLV EMBA curriculum, the EMBA international seminar is included in the program’s tuition. Previous international seminars have included trips to Brazil, China, Poland, Czech Republic, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Vietnam and Thailand.