How Two Universities in China Got into Business
September 09, 2021

September 9, 2021

Rick Foristel, Director of Webster University China

China MBA with Business Engagement

Webster University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE) launched its joint MBA partnership in 1996, making this year its 25th anniversary.   


The IMBA has the good fortune to have more than 2,500 alumni.  The IMBA is part of SUFE’s College of Business (COB), which operates several other kinds of MBA programs alongside the IMBA.  With more than thirty years of MBA experience, and thousands of graduates, SUFE MBA alumni are a resource that allows the programs to interact with a wide range of businesses from finance to manufacturing, services.  

Every Week IMBA Study

The sixteen academic courses in the IMBA are pathways that expand into superhighways.  Each course is filled with skill sets, how-to instructions, results of company experiences, cases, and student participation.  Two finance courses, six credits in all, are the most in-depth subjects in the program.  Alumni have reported that IMBA finance learning changed their careers and moved them more deeply into financial positions.   That’s where the pathway to a finance course turns into a busy road and then a large highway of information.   The IMBA graduate is self-motivated to seek out other opportunities in the same topic area – lecture and discussion events, and e-files of current readings about a focused area.  The IMBAs contribute more at their company or institution and get satisfying returns – financial and psychological.   

Students who grasp the tools of management accounting can become more involved in making decisions within their own company:  take a market opportunity, purchase equipment, adjust personnel.  Operations management learning can help the student analyze then clear bottlenecks to improve efficiency.     

Each of the three-credit courses are doors to facts and ideas in statistics, marketing, behavior, and economics.  Many students start a course with trepidation, learn along the way and find out they were anxious because it was new material, new tools they could comprehend and master along the way.    Other students approach a course with a positive outlook because it is an area in which they wanted to grow and excel.

International Business Engagement

In 2008 the IMBA started annual international study tours that took smaller groups of students outside of China to focus on business association and individual companies or institutions.   Usually, twenty-five, including staff, make their way to places like Starbucks and Amazon headquarters in Seattle, the Tesla factory floor in Freemont and PWC’s Netherland’s Headquarters at Amsterdam.  

Washington, D.C has been a regular stop because of international economics, and hundreds of business associations. Associations with millions of working members have discussed with the Study Group topics including health insurance and HMOs, U.S. real estate, recycling companies, and solar panel installation.  These are all topics that are highly relevant – even to this date.    

The IMBA’s have been hosted by the Federal Reserve Board, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.  University in Washington in Seattle, and George Washington University in D.C. have provided dormitory space and classrooms and equipment. Webster University has campuses in Washington, D.C., and the Netherlands at Leiden, which contributed to the success of the trips.  

We visited the University of Alaska at Anchorage during February 2019 to work on a summer IMBA Study Tour for 2020. Topics included a warming arctic including fast sea passage from Asia to Europe, Alaska seafood industry, and direct flights from Anchorage to China’s East Coast. There would be no 2020 Study Trip. Planes were grounded worldwide.   

But there has been a Study Tour for 2021, and it was one of the most successful in terms of attendance and business participation.  At Qingdao, global businesses like Haier, Hisense provided time to discuss product development. Haier demonstrated its success in the Industrial Internet of Things. Goertek that focuses on audio and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) equipment showed the students a truly high-tech China. Thirty percent of their production capacity is for making Apple AirPods.  


The Alumni Association & Forums, Clubs and Associations & Mentorship

The COB, including its IMBA, has developed a strong alumni association. The alumni operations are proactive, planned, and communicates to all:  recent graduates, those of ten years ago, down to those who completed their MBAs nearly three decades ago. Many of the alumni who were in class through the 1990s up to the present time, live and work in Shanghai.  Others are spread out across China and the rest of the world. It’s the SUFE diaspora. These are the people who help make IMBA business engagement possible.  

Business outreach is not limited to companies who have SUFE alumni, but it’s much easier to find industry experts and practitioners because of SUFE alumni help and assistance.  


The Joint IMBA invites alumni and students to take part in activities, talks, lectures, and visits that focus on key interest areas.   

IMBA Forums, Clubs and Associations

· Just call this group the “Finance at Lujiazui Center,” at the hub of financial businesses in the New Pudong Area, close to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.    

· Human Resources including Human Resources Development.  Groups leadership are management at domestic and international companies.   

· Health Services Industry Group.    

· Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

· Data and Analysis.  

Alumni and students are introduced to managers, analysts, C-suit leaders, and consultants on a near weekly basis. SUFE’s excels in accounting, finance, and economics.  As you would expect, experts talk about digital transformation at banks and other finance issues. As the PRC government made law to expand insurance products to individuals and companies, insurance executives were on hand to personally brief the graduates and current students.

As China turned to more innovation and entrepreneurship, general managers and board members turned out to better explain how to find and evaluate science and innovation enterprises.   

IMentor Program:  Senior Businesspeople

In the fourth year of operation, the IMBA Mentor Program pairs seven to eight IMBA students with seasoned business managers, many times at the vice-president level or above.    Since the start of IMentor, thirty-two business leaders have given their time to meet with designated teams to discuss trends within industries represented in China.  Teams and mentors work together for the entire IMBA program from welcome to graduation.  


Vicky Yang at head of the table.  She is one of the 32 iMentors who have served in the four-year-old after-class program.  She is helping the students pick positions in an online/offline retail operation.   Ms. Yang invests in and operates retail operations in Shanghai.   This is one of eleven iMentor teams operating currently. 

Realtime Online Classes/Successful Operation During COVID-19

February 2020, we switched our classroom teaching to online courses and operated that way until September of 2020.  China had locked down for the pandemic, worked from home, and masked up whenever they were outside their homes.   Students had an up-front seat, right at their computer screen, even if they used to sit in the back of the classroom.  Online courses stated on the same time and date for the students, just like in the classroom.  Individual students discussed with the professor, while teams using graphics and PowerPoints presented in the same way they did when in class.  Professors led class online from the U.S., United Kingdom, Pakistan, and other parts of China.  


MBA students in Shanghai took online classes for three terms, late January 2020 until they went back to in September 2020. Webster and SUFE put on a half-day of live lectures for this graduated class.  They wanted to be with the instructors who worked with them on Zoom for seven months. The instructors are seated. From left to right Dr. John Wilson, Dr. Tim Klatte, Prof. Paul Bon, Dr. Lee Henderson, Dr. Yang Nan, and Dr. Zhong Hongjun.  


When IMBA students were finally able to come back to the classroom, they showed happiness and delight to be with the other students in the program.  Even though they all were connected during the pandemic with various WeChat groups within their teams or to their full class, social media and chat groups were not the same as being together.  

And that’s the way to celebrate a 25th  year anniversary.  

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86 (21) 6536 3559
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86 (21) 6536 3559
369 North Zhong Shan 1 Road,
Hongkou district, Shanghai 200083