Short Features

Managers Abroad
Executive MBA program promotes global viewpoint

George Abraham '72G describes the second year of the executive master's in business administration program as the time when "it all comes together."

The first year, according to Abraham, director of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics' graduate and executive programs, is dedicated to traditional learning as students take core classes. By the time the second year rolls around, however, students are spending three days in New York City, where they visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Or they're traveling to Maastricht, in the Netherlands, where they meet an official who helped form the European Union.

It is the kind of experience, students say, that could never be learned in a classroom.

Each year, the Whittemore School admits 35 men and women to its EMBA program. For 22 months, they hole up at the New England Center every other weekend from Friday morning until late Saturday afternoon attending classes. Since 1993, students have had the option of complementing their studies with a nine-day trip to the Netherlands, which includes side jaunts to Brussels and Germany. The New York City residence was added to the curriculum last year.

The typical EMBA student is a 37-year-old manager who has been employed in the field for 10 to 15 years and who probably doesn't hold a passport. That last, seemingly insignificant detail personifies the goal of the overseas residence: to give students a much broader perspective and to get them focusing on the global market.

Yet participants who have experienced both trips say there is as much to learn about finance and business right here in America as there is abroad. Charles Goss, an independent investor who went to New York and Maastricht last year, views the New York City trip as a vital component to the curriculum.

"If you asked students in Brazil or Tokyo where the world is moving, they would say, Wall Street. And they would travel great distances to see it. So why shouldn't we travel five hours to make it part of our learning experience?" Goss asks. "There are people right here, people who are marketing a fitness center or are in high-tech, who have no idea what Wall Street is about."

Networking with Morgan Stanley executive Fred Whittemore, son of Whittemore School namesake Laurence Whittemore, helped make the inaugural New York City residence run smoothly. That connection, Abraham says, was the reason UNH students were allowed on the floor of the NYSE—an exceedingly rare occurrence.

"Being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was an amazing experience," says Mary Ann Gaal, who went to New York in the fall and journeyed to Maastricht last month. "It was frantic, exciting. Bells were going off. People were yelling and running everywhere. It was incredible." It was also textbook material in action. Gaal, who has an engineering background, knew little about finance and almost nothing about stocks and bonds before entering the program. The New York City residence gave her a real-life look at what she had been studying in class.

"We got firsthand advice about when to buy, sell or hold stocks, and how to put an initial public offering together. It really opened our eyes."

If New York opened eyes, the nine days spent abroad opens minds, contends Goss. Its goal is to spawn a whole new point of view: thinking out of the box, out of New Hampshire. And it hits the mark, he says, providing students a glimpse of how one might do business overseas while developing a template of conduct that could be applied in any country.

"We had people who were involved in the Maastricht Treaty (the agreement that established a single European currency) talking to us, giving us insight into how to do business," says Goss. "You couldn't ship these lecturers over here or duplicate their knowledge. We got to see the best 'textbooks' possible in person."

In most cases, students were able to select the "textbooks" they wanted to use. Michael Latour '98G, plant manager at Public Service of New Hampshire's Newington station, was able to visit a Dutch power plant.

"We could pick the businesses we wanted to visit—manufacturing, insurance, banking. It was a great opportunity to meet with people in my industry and find out how they are doing things," he says.

How they do things in the Netherlands is much slower than in this country, says Kathryn Neidbala-Dachsteiner '87, '98G, director of operations for Gilmore Farragutt LLC of Kennebunk, Maine.

"I remember being struck by a Dutch expression that means something almost like slowing down. The culture in America is go, go, go, all day. In the Netherlands they're trying to get a better sense of balance. You realize you can't go in there with an American attitude or it won't work."

Understanding the protocol of other countries can be critical in avoiding a cultural faux pas. The Dutch, for example, would consider it rude to end a productive meeting, even if they had another meeting to attend.

"The opportunity to be there, to see what goes on is enlightening," Abraham says. "It adds the touch, the feel, the smell to knowledge. It adds the reality."

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