Campus: CSU Long Beach -- February 9, 2005

Cal State Long Beach Students Travel to Vietnam, Thailand to Get Closer Look at 'Doing Business in Southeast Asia'

A group of students, faculty and staff from California State University, Long Beach traveled to Vietnam and Thailand during the winter session (Jan. 9-21) to participate in a new, short-term study-abroad course through the campus' College of Business Administration -- CBA 495: "Doing Business in Southeast Asia."

Organized by Professors S.V. Le (finance) and Terry Witkowski (marketing), with assistance from Professor Clyde Stoltenberg (CSULB's director of international business programs, the class was designed to familiarize students with the economic, social and cultural environments that influence the conduct of business in these Southeast Asian nations.

"It is courses such as these that add another dimension to the international business curriculum at Cal State Long Beach," said Luis Calingo, dean of the College of Business Administration. "These rapidly growing Southeast Asian nations can provide a tremendous learning opportunity for our upper division students who are considering careers in the area of international business."

Before embarking on their program, students underwent 15 hours of classroom preparatory instruction in Long Beach the first week of January. During this time, they also completed research projects for presentation at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The "Doing Business in Southeast Asia" course commenced the student exchange component of the CSULB and Thammasat University's sister-university affiliation.

The overseas portion of the class began in Ho Chi Minh City with presentations by the management of REE, a newly privatized enterprise specializing in engineering, investments and banking. Later that same day, the class met with the manager of Vina Capital, a multi-million-dollar fund traded on the London Stock Exchange, to learn about Vietnam's investment climate and Vina Capital's portfolio.

While in Vietnam, the class also heard a detailed presentation by Trinh Tien Dung, an assistant resident representative of the U.N. Development Programme, on Vietnam's transformation to a market economy. And, the group traveled to the Ministry of Finance and listened to a briefing on economic policy, privatization and Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization.

In Thailand, Mr. Sangvorn Rutnarak, deputy executive director of the Thailand Productivity Institute, talked to the class about Thailand's competitiveness agenda, its dreams for the future, and the development of the Thailand Quality Award. Later that day, the class visited the headquarters of Charoen Pokphand (CP), the conglomerate that owns 7-Eleven in Thailand, and heard presentations by CEO Korsak Chairasmisak and by the vice president of marketing research. Everybody then walked to a nearby 7-Eleven to learn about the typical product mix, pricing and store operations.

The group's final activity was an all-day seminar at Bangkok's prestigious Thammasat Business School, where professors and students from both universities exchanged presentations. Professor Le lectured on comparative risk and returns in emerging and U.S. stock markets, and Professor Witkowski talked about obesity and food marketing in developing countries.

Then, the CSULB students made presentations on food retailing in the United States with an emphasis on the history, pricing and brand identity of 7-Eleven convenience stores. The Thammasat University students analyzed 7-Eleven supply chains in their country and showed how to conduct a location study for a new 7-Eleven store. Ruth Banomyong, chair of the Department of International Business, Logistics and Transportation, concluded with a brief history of Thai distribution channels and the impact of large stores on small retailers.

"It is absolutely crucial to understand local cultures when doing business overseas. Thus, in addition to hearing business presentations, we also visited the Mekong Delta and Ha Long Bay in Viet Nam and the ancient capital of Ayutthaya in Thailand," Witkowski pointed out. "As a professor, this study abroad trip gave me an opportunity to interact closely with a great group of students. Moreover, what I learned is used in teaching my international and businesses classes."

Given the success of this year's short-term study-abroad course, discussions have already begun on organizing a second trip for January 2006, possibly to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

"Not only does Southeast Asia present great opportunities for business and economic development," Calingo pointed out, "but many Cal State Long Beach students, their families, and people in the local community have roots in this important region. One out of eight students at CSULB is of Southeast Asian origin, and students from Southeast Asian countries comprise about 10 percent of CSULB's international students."

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