Juniors, seniors dive into Asian business world during Winter Term course

Students in the Business in the Pacific Rim course examined the rise of Asian businesses and learned the importance of understanding culture in deal-making.

By Erin Manchuso '19

It was once said, “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” With the rise of globalization and strengthening of foreign economies, this saying no longer necessarily holds true. It is this recent rise in Asian industry that led 29 Elon students to spend the month of January participating in the Winter Term course Business in the Pacific Rim.  

Led by Raj Gupta, associate professor of finance, and Sharon Hodge, associate professor of marketing, the course examined the impact of emerging markets using the perspective of influential works of contemporary business, finance and economics.

Students visit the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the former home of the Thai monarchs. 
The cohort spent time in Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong examining the influences of economic development and of emerging trends in global business. Students dove into the history of the Pacific Rim countries as well as their uptick in business throughout several predeparture classes, before leaving for their first destination on Jan. 3.

After a 16-hour flight, students arrived in Siemp Reap, Cambodia. There the class visited Cambodia’s best-known temples (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Angkor Ta Prohm), a traditional floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake, and the beautiful Cambodian countryside scattered with rice fields, which provided a preemptory contrast to their next destination, the bustling metropolis of Bangkok.

Once arriving in Thailand students continued to explore local cultural sites and went on their first company visit to La-Z-Boy. Located two hours outside the city limits, the class was greeted by the general manager of La-Z-Boy’s Thailand unit before being given a short presentation about the facility and a tour of the plant.

Getting the opportunity to see Lay Z Boy’s manufacturing process firsthand laid to rest generalized misconceptions about international manufacturing practices and provided insight into the Thai labor market. “The manufacturing facility was different than what I expected,” said senior Grace Ring. “Most facilities I have seen are mainly automated with very little manpower, but the La-Z-Boy factory was the total opposite. Most of the work being done was by hand.”


While in the country students also visited The American Chamber of Commerce of Thailand, an American organization dedicated to promoting shared economic prosperity between Thailand and America. Founded in 1956 with eight American companies, the organization has since grown to more than 600 members and the Thai branch itself boasts investments of over $50 billion USD.

With a better understanding of American investment in Pacific Rim economies, the class departed for Singapore. Shortly after arriving the class visited SAS, an industry leader in advanced analytics and management software, to learn about their international operations. Students also visited RHI Magnesita, a global leading supplier of refractory products, systems and services.

After a short stint in Singapore, the class traveled to their final destination – Hong Kong. Overlooking the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, students met former North Carolina resident Bruce VonCannon, who retired as CEO of Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild. The class was given an overview of his career in the financial industry and the rapid modernization of Hong Kong before opening the floor for questions.

“Every business we visited had different products and services that they offered,” remarked senior international business and finance double major Erin Moirano. “When asked to give advice to our class, however, each one said the same thing. Persistence is key when moving into the workforce. They told us that you need to figure out what you want to do and where you want to be and go after it with everything you have. Don't take no for an answer and eventually a door will open at the right place.”

Wrapping up the month-long course, students spent their final days visiting the Hong Kong branches of VF Corp. and Goldman Sachs and making the most of their last moments abroad.

The class completed its exploration of Pacific Rim business and culture Jan. 24.