Timing is everything when you are looking to add international educational experience to your MBA capstone class.
Working on a team comes with challenges. But what if part of your team is more than 5,000 miles away — following a different schedule, living in a different culture and ending the workday shortly after yours begins?
Add in a 4.6 magnitude earthquake that strikes in the middle of your final presentation, and things can get pretty hairy.
But Temple University Fox School of Business MBA students Zhi Liao, Jennifer Miescke, Sylvania Tang and Nicole Zeller navigated it all this spring to deliver a presentation in Tel Aviv as part of their capstone experience with Fox Management Consulting (FMC).
“We didn’t even notice the earthquake, we were so focused,” says Liao. “Someone told us later that it happened.”
The students, led by FMC project executive William Kitsch, worked with a team of MBA students and faculty at Tel Aviv University (TAU) as part of an ongoing joint venture between the Fox School and the Israeli university.
“We do this so students get a global experience with a diverse group of students, faculty and businesses,” says David Nash, operating director at Fox Management Consulting.
Forming a team
The American and Israeli groups worked to deliver strategic recommendations to a startup e-commerce company with offices in Tel Aviv and California. The Israeli-owned company, which helps sellers optimize sourcing and selling opportunities across eight countries, was seeking ways to expand its current marketplace.
“It was a very difficult task in the sense of timing,” says Miescke, who served as a project manager. “We were working seven hours behind Tel Aviv all the time and their workweek is Sunday through Thursday.”
The intensity continued as the group arrived in Israel, just days after Temple’s May 9 graduation, and joined the TAU team to prep for the client presentation.
“There was a lot of pressure around the fact that there were two teams,” Kitsch says. “Both had different expectations, schedules, project deadlines. But by learning to work through and manage it all, it gave us opportunities to find leadership in everything we were doing.”
The FMC capstone course is built around a curriculum that helps students apply the competencies and skills they have acquired in the MBA program through the client projects.
In addition to being an exceptional learning opportunity for students, the projects deliver dynamic business solutions to clients facing various challenges.
Since students participating in the global project graduate before the actual client presentation, they first present to faculty for grading purposes.
“Presenting early really helped us see where we could improve, helped our focus and allowed us to see where we needed to get to,” Tang says. “That experience really helped us get things in order and take things to the next level.”
With feedback in hand, the team is ready for the next step.
“They go to Israel, meet with fellow team members and faculty to refine the project,” Nash explains. “They meet with the client later in the week and after all is done, the group does manage some social time.”
Taking it all in
The four Temple students stayed on in Israel for a few additional days to travel to Jerusalem and immerse themselves into the culture and attractions of the region.
“It was great to have that time together after spending so much time working on the project,” Liao says.
Zeller says she knew she wanted to get her MBA from Temple.
“The FMC capstone project, specifically working on a live problem, was the biggest thing that made me come to Fox for my MBA,” she says. “Temple really supports you in the process and that meant a lot.”
Kitsch believes the Tel Aviv experience is an extraordinary opportunity. “Every student should be competing for a spot on that team. It’s that valuable.”
Now that the project is over, the students agree that the experience will move them forward in their careers.
“Without this project, I probably would never consider venturing toward e-commerce or international business and I am fully grateful for that because now it’s something I would consider,” Liao says.
Tang says she is only now realizing how big an impact the project has had on her.
“This experience has definitely fueled a desire in me to look at how far my potential can go,” she explains. “For me, my MBA journey was four years long and in those four years, my MBA capstone class experience — this global journey — was my greatest learning experience at Temple.”
Helping achieve a global experience
Not all Fox Management Consulting projects require traveling abroad to meet with a client, but when they do, Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) can assist.
The center helps pay the team’s travel expenses related to the project, associate director Jeff Conradi says. The center serves to improve U.S. competitiveness in the world marketplace and to produce globally competent students, faculty and staff. It is funded by a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information about the center, click here.