Engaging global commerce in Southeast Asia

Elon Law and MBA students traveled to Vietnam and Singapore in January to explore the dynamics of modern global trade.

Elon Law and MBA students and faculty toured manufacturing facilities and met with legal and corporate executives in Vietnam as part of the 2013 International Business course.

Part of an International Business course offered jointly by Elon’s School of Law and Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, the trip allowed seventeen MBA students and six law students to engage lawyers and executives from a variety of law firms and corporations in discussions about the challenges of conducting business internationally.

MBA student Alexander Worth said the course was valuable in combining key aspects of doing business overseas with analysis of laws regulating labor and trade in other countries.

“As an MBA student, the ability to interact with law students during business meetings with multinational organizations offered a different and valuable perspective regarding the challenges one faces when operating in a foreign country,” Worth said. “The eye-opening firsthand knowledge gained by witnessing the difficulties and potential rewards one faces by relocating to an emerging market like Vietnam or an extremely advanced market like Singapore was unparalleled.”

The skyline of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

“The opportunity to visit and speak with business and legal leaders in Vietnam and Singapore enhanced my knowledge of how international commerce is conducted,” said law student Daniel Jessup. “Having law and MBA students work together provided for more comprehensive discussions and analysis of the businesses we visited in Singapore and Vietnam.”

In Vietnam, Elon Law and MBA students met with executives at Theodore Alexander, a furniture and accessories design and manufacturing company, Sprinta Co., Ltd., an apparel manufacturing company, Baker & McKenzie, the global law firm, and GE. In Singapore, the group held meetings with senior leaders at Maxwell Chambers, the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex, the American Chamber of Commerce, Singapore Management University, CSE Global, a global technologies company, and UPS.

“The business visits, speakers, and group tours allowed me to identify similarities and differences between Singapore’s and Vietnam’s businesses and cultures along with providing insights on points to consider when doing business outside the United States,” said MBA student Tisha Jefferson. “Meetings and discussions with expatriates, in particular, gave a valuable perspective of living and working abroad.”

The port of Singapore is one of the world's five busiest.

Corporate visits often included tours of manufacturing and logistics facilities. Topics of discussion included mergers and acquisitions, counterfeiting and trademark violations, employment and labor law, global transportation issues and incentive programs for global entrepreneurs.

“The International Business course offers a unique opportunity to analyze certain governmental, labor, and cultural perspectives that exist within Vietnam and Singapore,” said Eddie M. Holder, a member of the Class of 2013 at Elon Law who participated in the course. “As a law student with interests in intellectual property and corporate legal matters, having an understanding of how these perspectives may influence business dealings saves valuable time and resources for potential clients that have business interests within these countries and the greater Asian Pacific region.”

Mary Gowan, professor of management at Elon University who co-taught the course, said the joint MBA/JD class provides a unique opportunity for students to learn about both business and legal issues that impact international business activities.

“This year in particular the faculty spent a lot of time designing the course to ensure that students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for how lawyers and business executives need to develop close, collaborative working relationships to succeed doing business in Asia,” Gowan said. “Speakers from the companies we visited reinforced this message.”

The itinerary for Elon's 2013 International Business course included visits to historic and cultural sites in Vietnam and Singapore.

In addition to Gowan, who teaches management, human resources, organizational behavior, and leadership courses, the faculty team for the course included:

Don Dancer, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Elon Law. Mr. Dancer is former General Counsel for three international corporations.

Catherine Dunham, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law. Professor Dunham teaches primarily in the areas of civil procedure and trial practice.

Jack Hicks, Adjunct Professor of Law and partner at the law firm of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, LLP. Mr. Hicks practices and teaches in the area of national and international intellectual property.

In addition to business meetings, the class also enjoyed several cultural experiences. In Vietnam, the group participated in a Tai Chi Class, visited Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Hall, and the War Remnants Museum. They also took a boat cruise on Mekong Delta waterways, visiting various local workplaces including a brickworks, a salt refinery, a coconut processing facility and a mat weaving house. In Singapore, the group’s experiences included a visit to Clarke Quay, an entertainment, dining and nightlife focal point in Singapore, Lau Pa Sat (Festival Market), and a traditional Singapore Bumboat River tour.

This was the fourth consecutive year that Elon’s law and MBA programs offered a joint winter-term international business course that included study abroad. It is one of the only collaborative courses of its kind in the country. Participants wrote about the experience on the MBA program blog: http://elonuniversitymba.wordpress.com/.