While the economic downturn in the United States led many organizations to cut employee development programs, companies and government agencies from China continue to seek high-impact executive education programs for their management teams.
The School of Management's Executive Education team has been able to capitalize on this demand over the past year by focusing on business development efforts in the Chinese market and expanding programs for Chinese organizations from two programs to thirty. The school has served more than 700 executive education participants from China this year alone.
Sisi Jou, Executive Education program manager for the School of Management says George Mason's location, reputation for diversity and innovation, esteemed faculty, responsiveness to short notice requests, and well-made customized programs have attracted Chinese organizations to Mason.
"Our faculty has experience consulting in global corporations and understands the Chinese market and culture, which make our executive education programs attractive," says Jou.
In most instances, the programs are delivered on Mason's campus. Managers are sent to the United States to tour prominent universities (such as Harvard and MIT) and leading corporations and government agencies (including IBM, Micron, FDA, and CDC) before engaging in executive education training.
While each executive education program is designed to the clients' needs, programs focused on higher education have been in great demand. Clients have included Beijing Normal University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China and Fujian Ministry of Education. They send local ministry of education board members and university presidents and deans. Given that Mason is still considered a young university, they are very interested in learning how Mason has become successful in only 50 years in the highly competitive higher education field.
Corporate strategic management and leadership, corporate social responsibility, finance and economics are other programs in high demand from Chinese clients. Participants have included managers and leaders from Southern Industries Corporation, the biggest manufacturing company in China as well as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
"George Mason is an attractive executive education partner because we offer multidisciplinary programs," says Roy Hinton, associate dean of executive education. "We draw faculty from a very wide range within Mason and outside the area.
While most of the programs are delivered to small groups of 12-25 people, the School of Management delivered an American Culture for college students program to 285 students over the course of a few months, from nine different universities from the Jiangsu Province in China. The program included an overview of classes on American culture, arts, science, sports and economics.
Other executive education programs delivered included a Health Administration Management Program and China Agriculture Program which teaches forest management, plants protection, environmental monitoring and animal health supervision. Clients for the Agriculture Program have been from China's District Planting Service Center, Bureau of Agriculture, County Agricultural Service Center, and the Agribusiness Group Co.
In order to deliver strong programs, the School of Management collaborates with many units at Mason including the Volgenau School of Engineering, the President & Provost Offices, the College of Education and Human Development, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the English Language Institute.
According to Hinton, much of the success attracting Chinese clients the past year can be attributed to Jou.
"Sisi is a great asset to our team. She sells these programs [through brokers], works on the design, contacts faculty, translates slides, and coordinates countless other activities," Hinton says. "Her expertise in program management and proficiency in the Chinese language combine to make these programs seamless."
Clients primarily send employees to complete executive education programs at Mason, but talks are currently in the works to establish a stronger presence in China for business development and program delivery.
While the School of Management taps into the Chinese market through brokers, client visits, and a collaboration with Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, an important driver of growth in Chinese clientele has been through executive education "alumni."
One alumnus from Southern Industries Corporation said, "Studying at Mason was such a wonderful learning experience. The School of Management provided a very well designed and professional program; faculty were delightful, witty, active and very good at engaging the group."