MBA Education Enhancement



MBA Peace Building:  Foreign Residential Courses for MBA  Programs  

A greatly underutilized capacity for doing good.

The programs we are currently developing with our partners at the University of Havana (UH) will serve as the prototype for a series of similar programs in a variety of other countries around the world. Attached is a brief description of the 2016 international residential program delivered by UH to UCI graduate students. The first program was delivered in Havana in 2013. Programs similar in length and scope will be offered in each of the next five years 2016-2020 in Havana.

The 2016 program was enhanced by setting aside time for meetings with a variety of Cuban commercial organizations and student teams composed of both Cuban and American students. Based on those interactions, business plans were developed in the quarter following the Cuba trip with online collaboration among the students at both universities and the Cuban enterprises. UH selected the enterprises to participate from among the following sectors: healthcare, biotechnology, tourism, agriculture, and renewable energy.

Once the U.S. government permits it, representatives from Cuba will travel to Irvine for presentations by the student groups and meetings with potential investors. Ultimately this trip will include a residential course in Irvine for the Cuban students. Other follow-up events will include poster session presentations, and business plan competition and judging including monetary awards.

Currently leading our efforts in Cuba is William Hernández Requejo, Executive Director of the Center for Global Leadership, and recently named by the United Nations as a special expert to facilitate foreign direct investment in Cuba.

Vision.  The inspiration for this program comes from multiple organizations, (1) the “Peace through Commerce” initiative sponsored by the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB); (2) the U.S. Peace Corps; (3) the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding (, and (4) the Merage School Strategic Plan. In this last respect, concepts such as experiential learning, innovation, personalization, international and domestic institutional collaboration, business ethics, climate change, and foreign student participation are seen as integral.       

Potential Benefits.  The potential benefits of this five-year educational partnership are numerous.  Ultimately 300 graduate students at the UH and UCI will get direct, supervised experience in the problems, opportunities, processes, and activities of international management and entrepreneurship.  This effort will create 450 new international working relationships between American and Cuban graduate students. Each student will work with three foreign team members in an educational joint venture that is essentially a fellowship program that builds ethical leadership through service in other countries.

If the projects are successful, then enterprises in Cuba will survive, and perhaps even thrive. Jobs will be created and entrepreneurship will be stimulated.  Additionally, the MBA students will learn about international business and social responsibility.  The latter is key to building ethical leadership and enterprises in both countries.  Finally, both Cubans and Americans will learn to understand and hopefully befriend one another.  Social relationships will often evolve into long-lasting commercial relationships that strengthen peace.

Fifty enterprise managers from Cuba will benefit from participation in the business planning process and from the plans themselves.  Hopefully, the presentation of the plans to potential donors/investors in the U.S. will result directly in funds flowing into the Cuba economy.  And perhaps most important, the managers will be exposed to the dynamic entrepreneurial culture of the West Coast of the Unites States.

Our best estimate of the time required to develop the typical business plan for the kinds of organizations and markets to be involved in the program is approximately 400 hours/plan.  A conservative estimate of the value of the second-year MBA students’ time is $25/hour.  Thus, the students will be contributing some $500,000 worth of their time to the projects under the auspices of the program (i.e., 50 projects x 400 hours x $25).       

We also expect that in addition to personal relationships, institutional relationships between the universities will grow in organic ways, perhaps involving other campus departments and schools such as engineering, arts, bio/medical, the social sciences, and so on.

Previous Experience. At the Merage School, we have structured previous MBA residentials with substantial student-to-student interaction features. For example, our EMBA students participated in videotaped negotiations with EMBA students at Chinese University of Hong Kong. The students in both countries then analyzed their own videos and exchanged feedback with their foreign counterparts. That work resulted in not only really happy students on both sides of the Pacific, but also an article in the Journal of International Business Studies.

The MBA Peace Building model we implemented in Cuba in March 2016 was based on the collaboration with the University of Ulster (Northern Ireland) and the Merage School in March of 2004. Thirty MBA students traveled to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to visit a variety of commercial institutions, hear from executives and other officials, and meet with UU students and entrepreneurial organizations in Northern Ireland. During the Spring quarter the bi-national student teams produced business plans via online collaboration, then a representative group of Northern Ireland students and entrepreneurs traveled to Irvine to meet with potential investors.

  Three Merage School MBA students meet with   Professor Jim Bell,

  University of Ulster; Romano Prodi, President of the European

  Commission; and John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, April 2, 2004.

Adding to this experience base, Eric Spangenberg, Dean of the Merage School oversaw the development and operation of an identical program with the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha, Tanzania when he was Dean of the business school at Washington State University.

In the summer of 2011 we offered a small program involving MBA, law, and graduate engineering students on the topic of renewable energy. The week-long program included students from Fudan (in collaboration with the UCI US-China Long Institute), the University of Cantabria (Spain), and UCI. Faculty from across campus (business, law, engineering, biology, and physics) provided seminars for the group on a variety of renewable energy topics. Campus student housing was available for the foreign students. The theme was “building sustainable global enterprise.”

Ramping Up. The UCI/UH program in Cuba will serve as a prototype for several other such courses to be offered annually at the Merage School. Based on the recent numbers of MBA graduates, the student capacity will support a total of ten residential courses per year. In the most recent academic year, over half of our 300 part- and full-time MBA students participated in international residential courses. Countries and partner universities will be selected from among our prominent trading partners (e.g., Japan and Spain) and less developed countries around the world (Vietnam, India, Iran, or Tanzania). A one-week summer “business plan camp” for foreign MBA students would ultimately be conducted at UCI.

Other business schools in the UC system and on the West Coast will be asked to join in an inter-campus MBA Peace Building network. The UCI Center for Global Leadership will be the administrative seat for further development of the funding for and administration of these programs. The UCI Olive Tree Initiative is an excellent model for sharing such educational technologies across universities. Finally, as the program gains national participation, that “greatly underutilized capacity for doing good” will add substantially to world economic development and global peace and prosperity. An MBA Peace Building program might be thought of as a new model for global economic development.


Note: We will be seeking financial support from private firms and foundations only. For example, American Airlines would make ideal donors. A limited number of Merage School students in other Masters programs (aside from MBAs) and graduate students in other schools such as law, bio/medicine, engineering, and international relations might participate as deemed practical.


Summer Internships Abroad


Up to ten summer internships with companies in foreign countries would be made available through the Placement Office.  The firms would be asked to pay for travel and living expenses and a reasonable stipend.  Initially, Orange County firms with substantial international operations would be targeted for participation.