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Release: April 4, 2002

Executive MBA students travel to Brazil

The Executive MBA (EMBA) programs at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business are intense. Students complete courses in a compressed format, and the demands on their time from their personal, professional and academic lives present numerous challenges. This spring, another exciting component was added to the EMBA experience. Forty-one second-year students from the Tippie College of Business' two executive MBA classes traveled to Brazil for a one-week international business experience that complements their curriculum.

"This experience provides our students with a new way of looking at the world," said John Fraser, director of the Executive MBA Program. "Not only do they gain insight into a different culture, language, cuisine, and business practices, but they also formulate a model of how one should conduct business in another country. It's extremely valuable."

            The itinerary for the March 10-15 trip began in Sao Paulo, a city with a population of 18 million. A partnership between the UI and the Business School Sao Paulo provided students with lectures taught by Brazilian-based business faculty. These lectures focused on such topics as Brazil's business environment, electric power industry, market for imports, foreign trade agreements, and how Brazil fits within the global economy.

            "This trip re-emphasized the detail and planning that is required if a business is serious about establishing operations in another country," says Karen Willett, a senior electrical engineer at Rockwell Collins. "There are so many cultural differences. It was a wonderful experience."

            In Sao Paulo, students gained a first-hand view of international business practices by visiting several corporations. Businesses included Syngenta, a leading global agribusiness; Computer Associates, which provides software solutions for e-business; and EMBRAER, a manufacturer of regional jets.

            Prior to the trip, the students broke into 10 teams, and each selected one business to visit during the week. Students were responsible for solidifying all details, including making initial contact with the business, scheduling a visit, working through any language difficulties, and gaining an understanding of the company and the business challenges it faces.

            The companies ranged from businesses that manufacture gears and transaxles of automotive and agricultural machinery to those specializing in the design, manufacture and sale of electrical equipment. For many, this experience was a highlight because it gave them a first-hand look at the challenges American business people face when trying to establish business relationships in foreign countries.

            For Greg Cornish, a senior engineering manager at Square D, a visit to Schneider Electric Brazil was an exceptional opportunity, especially since Square D is a subsidiary of French-owned Schneider Electric. "There is an international dimension to this company that I was previously unaware of," he states. "In addition to visiting the Brazilian headquarters, we also toured a manufacturing plant in Guararema, outside Sao Paulo."

            The trip ended in Rio de Janeiro, where students attended a lecture on the business culture and environment of Brazil by Janaina Cardoso, an expert in linguistics and Brazilian cultures. In addition to touring the city of six million, the students were able to enjoy a performance of traditional folk music and dance at Plataforma. The whirlwind trip only allowed for one day for the students to be tourists. In addition to visiting the famous statue of Christ atop Corcovado Mountain, several students took advantage of an opportunity to hang glide from a mountain down to the Rio beaches.

            The trip participants included 11 students from the Executive MBA Program in Iowa City and 30 from the Dual Degree Program  ( These students are earning both an executive MBA from the University of Iowa and a master of engineering degree in systems engineering from Iowa State University. This unique program was created to fill the need of area businesses that wanted to provide talented engineers with educational opportunities that would not only advance their engineering expertise but also would expand their business and leadership skills.

            Nineteen students in the Dual Degree Program are from Rockwell Collins, which was instrumental in developing the program. Plans are being developed to offer the Dual Degree Program again, with a tentative start date of January 2003. Classes for the program are presented in the University of Iowa's Cedar Rapids Area Education and Conference Center.

            Enrollment in the Executive MBA Program ( begins each fall. While the Iowa City program has been going strong for many years, this fall will mark the first year that the Executive MBA Program will be available in Des Moines. Classes will begin this fall in a newly completed executive classroom at the Junior Achievement Krause Center.

            Information on Executive MBA programs is available by calling (319) 335-1039; by emailing; or visiting