Since she joined the Wharton faculty a few years ago, Prof. Minyuan Zhao’s Multinational Business Strategy elective has become very popular among EMBA students. We recently asked her to tell us more about the class and her experience teaching MBA for Executives students both in Philadelphia and San Francisco.
What do you want students to take away from your Multinational Business Strategy course?
I want them to take 100 steps back and start from the fundamental question of why companies want to go abroad. It’s become almost a default for companies to say they are global. But we need more serious thinking about why a company should globalize. Not every company will benefit from being in large markets like India and China. Large markets mean more competition. Rather than looking ahead to international expansion, I want students to look back at the company and see what it can bring to the table and what it takes to go global.
How is the course structured?
I combine lectures, discussions, cases, guest lectures (often by people who were part of the cases) and debates. In the beginning, students need to know more about the background of globalization. So we talk about things such as current trade deals, events like Brexit, and exchange rates.
I want them to understand the concepts necessary for case discussions. Then we move on to cases that are closely related to their work. I taught my last two classes in San Francisco so we talked about Uber in China and Amazon in India.
What kind of students take your class?
A lot of the students who take the class are just interested in the topic, but many have some international exposure or are thinking about entering the global market.
What do you like about teaching EMBA students?
Wharton EMBA students are fabulous. They are so engaged and prepared for class. For faculty, it’s very rewarding to see the learning happening in the classroom.
You’ve taught several times on the West Coast. What do you like about teaching at Wharton San Francisco?
In terms of the classroom experience, the two campuses are very similar. The biggest difference comes from students’ backgrounds. The West Coast tends to have more students who work in technology or in startups. The San Francisco campus also fits the West Coast culture with big windows and an open feel.
Another difference for faculty teaching on the West Coast is the time we are able to spend with students. When I’m in San Francisco, I tend to stay on campus the entire weekend and join students for dinners and group activities. I get to know them a lot better over the course of class weekends.
How else do you engage with EMBA students?
In addition to meals and independent study projects, they often stop by my office to talk about class topics or issues they are facing at work. We also have an active forum on the school’s online platform where we discuss things happening around the world in international business. I find it rewarding to see that those conversations are continuing long after the class has ended.
Can you tell us something about yourself that students might not know?
I grew up in China, but I have moved a lot. As a child, we moved to different homes because of the increasing infrastructure development in China. Then I moved because of schools and work. I now live in Philadelphia (the eighth city I call home) with my husband and three children.
Posted: October 3, 2016