Lee Business School | Executive MBA

International Seminar

The students say it all: The program ends with a capstone international seminar that lets you see global business and experience cultural diversity first-hand.

Keong Leong, Ph.D., is the MBA Director, past – president of an international non-profit organization and in all his "spare time" he plans and teaches the international seminar for the Executive MBA program. This is a passion of sorts for Leong, who began facilitating and scheduling international field studies for MBA students at the Ohio State University in the midnineties. "Back in 1994 there was a real push for U.S. colleges to be more internationalized," he says. "I was given a charge to increase the international experience for our students." These international trips are the highlight of the EMBA programs, and Leong enjoys infusing global experiences into the lives of his business students. Dr. Leong came to UNLV in 2001, just as the Executive MBA program at UNLV was getting off the ground. Because of his extensive experience developing the international trips at the Ohio State University, he was tapped by then-EMBA director, Nassar Daneshvary to execute the EMBA international seminar course.

The first EMBA cohort went to Brazil in 2003. Leong spent countless hours arranging company visits for the students, including visits to the U.S.Commercial Service, Embraer (Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica) one of only four aircraft manufacturers in the world, BOVESPA (Brazilian Stock Exchange) and BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank). The students raved about the experience they had, and it quickly became a highlight of the program.

Leong has taught all of the EMBA and two MBA international seminar classes. He has taken the EMBA cohorts to China, Poland, Czech Republic, Chile, South Africa, Hong Kong, Argentina, Uraguay, Vietnam and Macau.

Leong plans everything, from the business visits, to the cultural experiences, to the restaurants they dine in. He's been known to research the restaurants and recommend certain dishes that are relevant to the area's culture. During a trip to South Africa, the MBA students had dinner at the Moyo Restaurant which served traditional African cuisine," says Leong. "We ate on tables that were set on decks built high upon treetops. It was an amazing experience." During this trip, Leong took advantage of several unique opportunities when designing the itinerary. "Through a student's contact, we were able to arrange a dinner meeting with Roelf Meyer, former minister of provincial and constitutional affairs under President Nelson Mandela," Leong recalls. "Roelf also served as a minister under former President Frederik W. de Klerk's government." Another memorable occasion for the group was a visit to the 46664 World AIDS Day Concert in Johannesburg, an event that puts the global spotlight on the issue of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. "Nelson Mandela addressed the crowd at the end of the concert," says Leong. "46664 was Nelson Mandela's prison number, and derived from the fact that he was the 466th person imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964. What an unforgettable experience."

The students agree. "I am sure not a week goes by that I don't tell someone about our class time in South Africa and that it was one of the best experiences I have enjoyed," said John Rhodes, a member of the fifth EMBA cohort. "Just recently I was talking about our tour of SAB Miller and their strategy of making available premium beers during tough economic times; as they have found around the world, premium beer on the weekends is still one way people will splurge on themselves when they have minimal extra money." Organizing these international trips is not without surprises however. In 2003, Leong says the initial plan was to go to China. "Unfortunately the SARS outbreak there forced us to change the destination to Brazil, just one month before the departure date," he recalls. More recently, antigovernment protestors forced the closure of the Bangkok airport, just two days before the cohort was to leave for Thailand. At the last minute, Leong made arrangements for moving the Bangkok portion of the trip to Hong Kong. "Within a two day period, flights had to be rerouted, hotel accommodations confirmed and new company visits arranged," he says. "Nonetheless, the trip went smoothly and the students had a wonderful learning experience."

One of the great benefits of having executive students in the EMBA program, Leong says, is the opportunity to utilize their business contacts on the trips as well. For example, when he took the EMBA group to Hong Kong in 2008, one of the students in the cohort was employed by Microsoft and was able to arrange a tour of Microsoft in Hong Kong. "We always make a point to learn from businesses as well as our cultural visits," says Leong. "It shows the students that businesses, no matter how different in structure, face similar challenges." Because the EMBA is a lockstep program, the international trip is rolled in as part of the curriculum. "These seminars provide great education outside the classroom," says Leong. "Students are given assignments and assessed on their participation during the trip." Leong takes his job planning these trips very seriously. The hours he spends are extensive. The last minute preparations have interrupted many holidays and weekends. But Leong's love for international travel and his dedication to the students keeps him going. Leong is currently working on the next Executive MBA trip to Vietnam and Thailand in November. In addition to organizing the next cohort trip, Leong serves as president-elect for the Decision Sciences Institute, a multidisciplinary international association of more than 2,000 academicians and practitioners dedicated to advancing knowledge and improving instruction in all business and related disciplines.

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