May 8, 2017, by Adrian Mateo

Reflections on US Study Tour

If like me you’ve ever wondered what makes an MBA so special, as Business Schools are continually telling us, then my recent visit to the east coast of the United States may provide part of the answer.

Having been invited to attend the annual US Study Tour, I jumped at the opportunity, curious to learn more about business in the States, visit the Business School’s US partners (Lehigh University) and spend some quality time with our current cohort of MBA students. I was not disappointed. Indeed the trip exceeded all my expectations and simultaneously put into perspective just what it is about an MBA that makes it stand out. Let me explain…

The first and most significant point of differentiation with a traditional business management degree is the very fact that international study tours are an integral part of any good MBA. Sure there may be occasional company visits or external industry speakers on an undergraduate business degree or specialist postgraduate course, but these tend to be ad-hoc provided at random intervals. By contrast, industry involvement is built in to the very fabric of the MBA programme.

Nottingham University Business School (NUBS) has been organising international study tours as part of its MBA for over ten years. Past tours have included Argentina, Chile, China, Malaysia, and the US. This year NUBS will be visiting the US and China. The tours provide MBA students with an opportunity to learn about how business is done in other countries and gain new cultural experiences. In Nottingham’s case it has taken full advantage of its global footprint through its international campuses in Asia (Malaysia and Ningbo China), allowing MBA students to witness emerging and rapidly developing economies at first hand.

The US Study Tour was an intensive week long trip to three contrasting east coast locations i.e. New York, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), and Washington DC. The tour incorporated visits to commercial businesses, not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises, in addition to high quality lectures and talks from a variety of speakers.

In New York we went to the United Nations to learn about the principles of responsible management education, visited Barclays Bank and explored the financial district. Bethlehem was a complete contrast to the busy hustle of NYC. The town has successfully reinvented itself over the past two decades following the collapse of the steel industry it was formerly dependent on for over 140 years. Today, it is a thriving cultural and arts centre with music, arts and literature festivals. It is also the home to Lehigh University, one of the top universities in the US and considered one of the twenty-four Hidden Ivies in the Northeastern United States. From there, the group moved to the nations political capital Washington DC, visiting the headquarters of National Geographic and heavyweight economic think-tank the Cato Institute.

International Study Tours are only part of a series of opportunities for MBA students to interact more closely with business. Throughout the demanding one year programme at Nottingham, students will also be taught by industry specialists at various points, get the chance to visit major organisations, listen to top business people through the ‘Business Leaders’ and ‘Financial Minds’ speaker series for example, and network with alumni at specially organised events. A highlight of the MBA programme is ‘Business Practice Week’ which takes students off-curriculum for a week of visits and tours of local companies but also in London and other UK cities. Several Lehigh MBA students also join the week and this year the group visited the financial area of the City of London, arts and cultural centres in Glasgow, and the airline EasyJet among many others.

For me, the second element that marks out the MBA at Nottingham is the sheer diversity of the student cohort. People of eight different nationalities attended the US Study Tour including British, Malaysian, Kazakhstani, Chinese, Singaporean, Indian, Taiwanese and Spanish. This is similarly reflected in the 2017 student cohort as a whole which boasts individuals from 17 different countries around the globe creating a unique and distinctive group dynamic. Moreover, the students also bring with them a huge variety of work and life experiences producing a richness and cultural diversity that is truly special.

I myself successfully completed an MBA way back in 2000 (not at NUBS), however, at that time there was nothing like the international dimension that exists on a high quality programme such as that offered by Nottingham, both in terms of the diversity of the cohort or opportunities to gain international business exposure as provided by the US Study Tour.

An MBA is a huge financial and personal investment so for each individual to seek an answer to the question what makes it so special is perfectly understandable. I am convinced that its global outlook and international diversity set it apart from other business management degrees.


Adrian Mateo is Alumni Manager at Nottingham University Business School

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