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Freshmen Study Global Economy in Shanghai

by Dagmar King

How do you lead 63 college freshmen through the streets of Shanghai and along the pathways of the historic Suzhou Gardens?

Very systematically, said Thomas Gilligan, dean of the USC Marshall School of Business. Gilligan joined five other adults who accompanied the students to China during the university’s spring break.

The trip was designed to expose students to the world’s fastest-growing economy. Meetings with business leaders were interspersed with visits to Shanghai’s Jiao Tong and Fudan universities.

The students are enrolled in a year-long honors course taught during the first semester by Gilligan and James Ellis, the senior executive director for global initiatives at USC, and during the second semester by Richard Drobnick, a former USC vice provost for international affairs and the director of the Center for Global Business Excellence at USC Marshall.

“This was an excellent opportunity to observe global capitalism up close,” Gilligan said.

“Some of these students have traveled to Europe, but many of them had never been out of the country. Only a few had been to China. It was a cultural and business awakening for the students,” said Sean O’Connell, associate director for undergraduate student services at USC Marshall.

In May 2004, the USC Marshall School formed a partnership with the Antai School of Management at Jiao Tong University to offer an executive MBA program for students willing to travel to Shanghai. Commencement ceremonies were held for the Shanghai program’s first graduates in January.

The cost of the trip was partly defrayed by a contribution from William and Lisa Ann Barkett who are, respectively, CEO and vice president of Merjan Financial Corp., a San Diego investment management firm, and by a $100,000 grant from the Lord Foundation of California, a foundation created to support research and education at USC’s Marshall School of Business and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

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