For 35 third- and fourth-year DAN Management and Organizational Studies students, it was an unforgettable experience.
Last month, they spent two weeks in Hong Kong completing the required Strategy course, and getting an insider’s view of a new business culture with the help of a group of Western alumni.
“The enthusiasm was just extraordinary,” said lecturer Raymond Leduc, who organized and taught on the course along with his colleague, King’s University College professor Ruth Ann Strickland. “Students were excited about seeing a part of the world many of them had not visited before, and they liked the blend of theory and relevant cases.”
The two-week course covered all the content of MOS 4410, the DAN capstone course, but with a difference. Modelled on an executive management training program, the Hong Kong course consisted of four hours of classes a day, plus additional prep and group work. Most students also lived and socialized together in residence.
“It was intense and there was real bonding,” Leduc said.
On the weekend, students were free to explore Hong Kong or even travel to mainland China.
The first week was mostly lecture-based and covered strategy theory. Then, in the second week, students applied their new knowledge by working through one business case a day. Most cases had an Asia-Pacific setting. Leduc started each class with 15-20 minutes of discussion about the daily news and current affairs using local papers as a jumping-off point. It’s something he does when teaching in Canada too, but he says it was different in Hong Kong.
“When we talked about foreign affairs, we were talking about Canada and the U.S. It really gives you a fresh perspective,” he said.
At 1 p.m. on the last Thursday of the course, students were divided into groups and given a business case to analyze. They were tasked with producing a written report and a presentation by 9 a.m. the next morning. Leduc says most students went without sleep altogether, or only power-napped, to ensure their presentations were as good as possible. Next morning, bleary-eyed but excited, students presented to a panel of alumni judges. The teams received cash prizes and each member will receive a notation on their official transcript.
“The case competition really reflected the intent of the course,” Leduc said. “This was not just about answering multiple choice questions – it was about doing.”
The learning also extended far beyond the classroom.
Leduc and Strickland developed a unique mentorship program that matched each student with an alumni mentor who lived and worked in Hong Kong. In all, 15 alumni were involved, including Kant Chong, Ernest Chow, Ryan Law, Alan Lee, Kenyon Tse, Darren Yates, Simon Yu, Manny Yuen, Raymond Ling, Matt Brady, Nathan Ho, Brian But, Daniel Silverman, Jennifer Siu, Renee Wu, Katherine Wong and Yvonne Yung.
There was no formal structure to the program, but students met with their mentors throughout their two-week stay.
“The alumni group in Hong Kong is very passionate and enthusiastic,” Leduc said. “They provided a great range of experience, and were very generous with their time.”
William Annab, one of the students who took the course, agreed.
“It was incredible to hear such a variety of perspectives, ultimately providing clarity with respect to my own goals and ideal future,” he said. “I have been able to take away a great deal of knowledge and perspective on a culture that is radically different from my own, both in everyday life and in the business world. I really believe that being able to live in such a different world has taught me more than I would ever have learned otherwise.”
Annab received support from Western International to attend the course.
For Leduc, too, the experience was broadening.
He paid his first visit to Hong Kong in August 2014, returning “pumped up” about the energy and opportunities. He hopes the experience may encourage some students to consider launching their careers in Hong Kong.
“The job opportunities are tremendous and the interest from employers in students like ours is high,” he said.
Even for students looking for jobs in Canada, he believes the Hong Kong experience will help to set them apart. “Employers are looking for initiative and creativity. An experience like this gives students lots of stories and experiences to draw on,” he continued.
And there was another important learning, Leduc stressed.
“Students got to see that a motivated and well-run alumni group can really be a benefit in your career,” he said. “It helped them to realize the importance of keeping in touch with their Western network when they graduate.”
Plans are under way for next year’s program in Hong Kong.