Business students present marketing plans internationally

Indigo Magazine

Abigail McCrory poses in front of golden gates at the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France. Students on the trip were able to tour other iconic locations in Europe such as the Eiffel Tower.

For more than a decade, Washburn business students have collaborated with students worldwide to create international business plans for global companies.

Michael Stoica, a distinguished professor of marketing business at Washburn, is in charge of the BU 406/698 International Business and Entrepreneurial Experience course where students learn essential business skills, presentation skills, how to form cohesive partnerships and how to enhance their professional etiquette overall.

“The idea was to give the opportunity to Washburn students to work in mixed teams with students from China and solve problems for Chinese companies,” Stoica said.

The class began in 2007 as an opportunity for students to work as mixed teams from the United States and China, but it has expanded to include Belgium and Brazil.

Students produce international business plans for companies around the world. The class runs from March to June and ends with the students traveling internationally to experience business practices and cultural components. Typically, the class is split into two projects where students select between an Asian or European experience. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 class was different than usual.

“I enrolled in the European experience and that was supposed to be us and Belgium working on a project,” said Abigail McCrory, a senior business major who took the class in 2021. “Due to COVID-19, the course was collapsed, so we were working on the Brazil project and the China project.”

Students in the 2021 class worked for Evergrande Property Services, a Chinese company, and Hills Pet Nutrition, an American company. They were grouped together to conduct research, collect information and analyze the companies.

Executive-level employees from the companies briefed the students on issues and goals for the project and explained what they were looking for in reference to production, marketing and social media.

“Each company gives you a framework of what they’re wanting, and then you do the research and gather the stuff needed,” McCrory said.

Due to the international nature of the course, students worked together via social media and Zoom calls. Students had to work outside of standard working hours in order to accommodate the vast time difference between the United States and China. Students from Washburn would meet as early as 6 a.m., which was 8 p.m. for the Chinese students.

The groups brainstormed ideas and formed several drafts of their plans. The end goal for the students was to produce plans for their clients and then go visit that company at the end of the semester for two weeks.

In a typical year, students work for their assigned company the first week of the trip and then present their findings to executives and receive critical feedback on their presentation and plan. The second week allows students to experience the cultural aspects of the country.

The spring 2021 class was only able to present their findings to clients over Zoom because of COVID-19. However, three students in the class were still able to visit Europe later along with Stoica and Tina Williams, study abroad program coordinator at Washburn University.

“We all went through culture shock in our own ways,” said Kera Hicks, a senior business major who took the class in 2021.

Hicks explained that when you’re “out and about” and have to use the restroom, you have to pay to use public restrooms. Public restrooms cost about one to two euros to use, which was much different than what Hicks was used to in the United States. In addition, Hicks mentioned that gelato was located everywhere around Paris and was a popular snack for the students.

The group flew into Paris and stayed at Chateau de Pitray, which is located in Gardegan-et-Tourtirac, France, for a few nights before leaving for Belgium.

“Our last day in Paris was my favorite day,” Hicks said, who enjoyed jumping on motor scooters and zooming around the city.

The international business and entrepreneurial experience class offers students the chance to encounter real-world systems within a business career and develop close friendships with students from other countries.

“The students I got the closest with are from Brazil. They were on my team for the project for the Chinese client,” McCrory said.

McCrory and the Brazilian students formed bonds so close that they are planning on a reunion after graduation.

Considering that COVID-19 limited students’ access to meet each other, the 2021 class experience was more difficult than in past years.

“COVID-19 kind of put a damper on it [the class experience] because we built these relationships and then we never got to actually meet,” Hicks said.

Despite the challenges that came with the pandemic, students in the BU 406/698 course had the unique experience of working as an international team to create a real-world business plan to present to a client before even graduating college.