First class of WMU MBA Taiwan students graduate

In July 2020, WMU began offering its Global Innovation MBA in Taiwan. Recently, the first class of students graduated from the program. With two other cohorts right behind them, there are 75 candidates who will have earned an MBA degree through WMU in partnership with CSKM in Taiwan by 2024.

International partnerships are a growing source of enrollment for the Haworth College of Business, as potential students seek a respected degree in business from a U.S. institution that is accredited by AACSB International. Degrees offered in their country provide convenience to students so that they can continue their careers while in the program.

Since the majority of WMU Haworth faculty have industry experience that they bring into the classroom through hands-on projects, the program is particularly attractive for regions where education is typically delivered in a lecture format. Students cite practicing their skills in business as one of the draws of the Haworth College of Business Global Innovation MBA.

“The strategic direction for the college will be to increasingly seek out international partnerships with other universities throughout the world,” says Dr. Steve Newell, associate dean for graduate programs and operations. “These partnerships provide the opportunity to better understand business and culture from a global perspective through sustained contact with students and faculty from different backgrounds. Ultimately, these interactions will impact our research, the courses we offer, how we teach our students, and the way we view the world. Overall, we have and will continue to become a much stronger and wiser institution because of our international relationships.” 

Newell notes that the MBA program in Taiwan has been successful in large part due to the tireless work Dr. Mike Tarn and other team members have put into developing the college’s global relationships in the region. “Our educational partners help us recruit ambitious working professionals who have a strong desire to learn specific business knowledge and skills that they can apply to their careers,” he says. “Our program is developed around basic principles of applied business that seem to be universal in their appeal.”

Many faculty members initially planned to travel to Taiwan to teach courses, but with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, instruction shifted online where both students and faculty navigated an extraordinary exchange of cross-cultural learning and connection.

“This has been one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I have ever had,” says Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, chair and professor of marketing, who taught a global negotiation course in the program. “We went on quite a journey together. I enjoyed teaching these smart, special students who all had a variety of ways they planned to use the skills they were mastering in the MBA program.”

Dr. Laurel Ofstein, associate professor of management, who taught an entrepreneurship course, says she had some trepidation about teaching the class remotely overnight to students she would never meet in person. “My nerves calmed down quickly once I got into the course content with the students. This was a very fulfilling experience both personally and professionally. The enthusiasm and passion our students in Taiwan have for business is inspiring.”

Dr. Tim Palmer, professor of management, who taught a strategy course notes, “Clearly, teaching virtually throughout the night was a challenge, but my class is all about resilience. What do you do when your industry, the competitive environment, or even your colleagues throw you a curveball? You adjust. And that’s what we did. We worked hard to break through the technology barriers to get to know each other. While students were working in teams, I was walking laps in the college of business at 3 a.m., thousands of miles away but we were WhatsApping each other to have instant communication. During one session, an MBA student who I knew shared a mutual love of swimming appeared in a swim cap for no other reason than to make me laugh! It was indeed a privilege to work with these very resilient students.”

O’Reilly, Ofstein and Palmer, as well as other faculty members, plan to stay connected to their Taiwanese students through social media and email to mentor and support them in their business endeavors.

Three MBA graduates from Taiwan stand with Dr. Tarn at Fountain Plaza holding their degrees after the fall 2021 commencement ceremony.

Three of the newly minted Global Innovation MBA graduates traveled to WMU for the fall 2021 commencement ceremony: Ruan, Jing-Syuan (Dory), Sun, Pei-Chun (Jack) and Wang, Teresa Tzu-Ting.

What Taiwan MBA students have gained

The WMU Haworth approach to an MBA includes immersive learning experiences that help students navigate the complex realities of business. The application of skills in realistic business scenarios is a departure from traditional lecture courses around the world, and one of the reasons that a Haworth College of Business MBA is sought after both domestically and internationally.

O’Reilly emphasized best practices in her negotiation course where she says, “Students actively developed skills in preparing for a negotiation session by using a test approach and structure, then proceeded to role-play and practice bargaining skills to improve their outcomes. In this way, we didn’t just teach about negotiating, we taught them how to negotiate. This experiential activity was new to the students. While nervous at first, they excelled and valued the ways they could apply the negotiation techniques they learned in their careers and throughout the MBA program.”

In Ofstein’s entrepreneurship course, students discussed their business ideas, or ways that they worked within their family businesses. “Entrepreneurship is not celebrated culturally in Taiwan to the extent it is in the U.S., which we examined. In one of my classes, I brought in a female Taiwanese entrepreneur, Ariel Chang who had been featured on the website “GenT.” She designed a new board game, and then joined her family’s board game distribution business in Taiwan to sell it. She talked about how difficult it was to be taken seriously in the beginning. The students in the program really appreciated being able to hear firsthand what it takes to be an entrepreneur in Taiwan.”

Palmer made use of real-time discussion boards in his course. After each class session, students were given time to apply what was just discussed to their professional or personal lives. He then hosted a “roundup” of posts, putting them into similar categories where the class talked about the application of theory, often with students adding more detail. One of the other key highlights of the course was an online simulation where teams of three to four students ran competing firms in the information systems industry. “It’s very competitive,” says Palmer. “Teams made decisions representing about four years of the life of a firm. It allowed students to derive strategies for finance, operations, HR, marketing and exporting, among others. Its a lot of fun, and students always get into it as it enlivens concepts with real-life examples.”