October 18, 2017 • By UCI Paul Merage School of Business
With the goal of broadening their knowledge of global business leadership, a group of about 30 FEMBA students set out with Professors Connie Pechmann and William Hernandez earlier this year to visit Spain for their International Residential. The group toured the Spanish cities of Madrid, Santander and Bilbao. During their intensive weeklong business, academic and cultural experience, they witnessed authentic Spanish cultural traditions, studied at the University of Cantabria and visited a number of different companies.
At the University of Cantabria, the students gained knowledge around conducting business within Spain as well as the greater European Union. They participated in lectures that included topics surrounding economics, law, sustainability strategies and corporate governance. During their company tours, they visited powerhouses like Banco Santander, Sener, Santander Teleport, IH Cantabria and the Port Authority of Santander.
“Today was our tour of the world headquarters of Banco Santander, the Ciudad Financiera,” said Kevin Ip, FEMBA ’18. “It was a beautiful campus, even having its own forest, golf course, and tennis courts. It was interesting to learn that Banco Santander provides services to its bank employees such as childcare, laundry services, and restaurants, which I noticed seemed to be modeled similarly to the campuses of Google and Facebook.”
“I was extremely impressed with the [Banco Santander] speaker’s knowledge and business prowess,” said Christopher Adams, FEMBA ’18. “After this experience, most of the students are craving a west coast expansion by the bank and some way to work for this organization. What an unbelievable and exclusive experience.”
In Bilbao, the group visited Grupo SENER, a global engineering and construction company.
“Their innovative value proposition of differentiation at higher value was clear,” said Bita Hosseini, FEMBA ’18. “But, what was shocking to me was their ability to facilitate cross-functional collaboration with both public and private experts as they transformed more into a manufacturing strategy rather than a services strategy, similar to GE. Learning about various solar panel plants and the mix of science and business was eye opening.”
In addition to tours and executive commentary, students experienced some of the struggles workers face abroad. “Our company visit to Puerto de Santander allowed us to see one of the principal roles of the city of Santander as a large northern port and gateway for businesses from Spain to the rest of Europe,” said Julienne Amsden, FEMBA ’18. “As our visit occurred during a port workers’ strike, we were able to get a sense of the tensions that exist between the Port management and the workers, and the worker protections under the Spanish government.”
Cultural experiences throughout the residential added tremendous value to the trip. “The revitalization of the city of Bilbao after decades of decline in local industry, waterway pollution, rampant terrorism by the ETA, and neglect has been a model success story of urban renewal,” added Amsden. “The Guggenheim Museum changed the city from a run-down, former industrial town into a cultural and business destination. The city’s transformation from an industrial town into a service sector business hub has allowed the city to thrive.”
The International Residential is a feature of the Merage School FEMBA program. The weeklong, overseas, immersive learning experience gives students a first-hand opportunity to learn about macroeconomic, cultural and political issues faced by critical global business players. Each year, FEMBA students have the option to choose between one of three locations in emerging and established markets. Click here for more information about the FEMBA program.