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International MBA students give top marks to Deakin-hosted study program.

Students from South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) have described a recent study program hosted by the Faculty of Business and Law as one that was ‘amazing’ and ‘exceeded expectations’.

The 19 MBA students were part of the study program ‘Doing Business in Asia Pacific’ that was organised by Deakin Business School (DBS) academics Dr Jane Menzies and Dr Andrea North-Samardzic and the Faculty of Business and Law’s Senior International Officer, Matthew Cameron.

Accompanied by Dr Morne Mostert, Director of the Institute for Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch, the students were able to explore Australia’s global business practices and learn more about the nation’s diverse culture during their week-long visit.

This included lectures, industry, cultural and social excursions and networking events with Deakin MBA students and alumni along with the unique opportunity to work on an authentic organisation-based case study challenge.

Dr Andrea North-Samardzic says that international study programs provide highly-valuable experiences for both the visiting and local students.

‘Students and alums from our MBA and MBA (International) programs were able to attend some of the sessions and the social activities … this provided greater opportunities for our students located in Melbourne to network with their peers from South Africa. By hosting this program, we are able to showcase some of Australia’s innovative businesses and organisations and demonstrate that Australia is more than just sport and meat pies!’

Building relationships between global universities is important, says Dr Jane Menzies, as it helps students develop a global mindset and enhances their perspective and understanding.

‘It’s something that can’t be attained by just sitting in the classroom. It also opens up opportunities for ongoing programs, visits and staff exchanges.’ 

While in Melbourne, the USB students visited six companies including Dimension Data, Manufurtures, the Institute for Frontier Materials, Epworth Hospital Geelong, Leica Biosystems, and the Victoria International Container Terminal.

Dr North-Samardzic says that while the Deakin academics had a broad mandate to create a program for the Doing Business in Asia Pacific program, they had to deliver classroom conceptual teaching, guest speakers and industry visits. 

‘Dr Menzies is an expert in international business so she was well placed to lecture on the relevant topics. We also worked with the faculty’s Industry Engagement staff to capitalise on our industry connections,’ she explains.

Deakin’s strong industry links Dimension Data meant that the USB students were able to work on an original industry-based case study and come up with strategic solutions to solve a real-world challenge. 

Providing the USB students with an itinerary that was built around an authentic, hands-on experience was made possible by DBS’s robust industry connections says Dr Menzies.

‘Apart from using our industry engagement team, we were able engage our professional contacts to host us at their companies or deliver guest lectures.  It meant we were able to draw on the experience of industry leaders and relate it to the academic content we teach,’ she says.

Dr North-Samardzic says they were also able to reach out to business councils and invite them to speak specifically on the logistics of doing business in Asia Pacific.

‘We sought diversity in this approach to give a broad range of country representation …  but we also wanted the program to be fun, interesting and relevant,’ she says. 

Needing to ensure 20-25 hours of classroom activity, the program included lectures on international leadership (Dr Menzies), cross-cultural negotiation (Dr Ruby Ma) while industry experts covered topics that explored more deeply the day-to-day realities of conducting business in the Asia Pacific.

Matthew Cameron, Senior International Officer with the Faculty of Business and Law, says it was crucial that the program addressed the criteria of USB’s international study module. 

‘This was a compulsory, assessed unit for Stellenbosch so there were minimum academic, industry and cultural requirements which all needed to be tightly packed into one week. Dr Menzies and Dr North-Samardzic did an amazing job putting this program together to accommodate this in a meaningful and engaging way’. 

Social and cultural highlights included tours of Melbourne’s CBD, visits to the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queen Victoria Market, an AFL game and the opportunity to sample cuisines from Melbourne’s many cafes and restaurants. 

Feedback from USB students was outstanding and ranked the program 9/10 with comments that included:

‘I applaud you for a very well organised program packed with new experiences and content to be remembered for a long time. Thank you for your effort to make us feel welcome and exposing the South African group to internationally acclaimed businesses which we might have not had the opportunity in South Africa.’

 ‘[It was] one of the most amazing experiences in my life.’

‘Thank you for an absolutely amazing trip. From the fantastic organising to the great program content, could have asked for anything better. I hope you continue with the program as it was and
will continue to be a great success. Sincerely thank you’

Matthew Cameron says considerable thanks is owed the many “behind-the-scenes” Faculty of Business and Law staff who provided support in the preparation and day-to-day running of the program.

‘There were a lot of moving parts to the delivery of this program and it wouldn’t have been possible without such combined effort.’