September 27, 2013

Study Abroad: Life in Shanghai as a Global MBA Student

When I found out I was going to be part of the first batch of Global MBA students at Weatherhead School of Management, I was over the moon. What an exciting opportunity to experience three vastly different cultures, study at three well-established, top-notch universities and live in three amazing countries (China, India and US).

So how does one prepare for this kind of challenge?

First of all, how does one pack? The international office at Weatherhead told us it would be difficult to find certain items such as deodorant, shampoo and other hygienic products. While it is true that you can’t find these things in the smaller supermarket, there is a surprising number of international supermarkets in Shanghai where you can find all of these products. So while it does take a little more effort, you can find all your favorite products here. The challenge is to know exactly what you are buying, since everything is written in Chinese. In my first week here, I wanted to buy body lotion but ended up with shower gel. All you can do is laugh about it.

Before I left, I thought doing research on the three countries and getting as much information as possible would best prepare me. I was wrong.  Being informed helps a lot, but it doesn’t avoid certain challenges such as culture shock. Most of the information that you find online is about the big culture differences. One could even say that they promote stereotypes, for example that Chinese restaurants are not as hygienic as western ones. While this is true in some cases, it’s definitely not true as a general statement.  We have found some amazing restaurants here!

What I was not prepared for are the different culture shocks that I would be experiencing. Not only do you have to adapt to living in Shanghai; a new environment where you can’t understand or speak the language, you also have to adapt to the different cultures within the Global MBA group.

The Global MBA class consists of Chinese and Indian students, and the American cohort of which one student is from Iran and one student is from Belgium. This makes the classroom experience very interesting since we all have a different perspective on business. It also makes it challenging at times. We all have different styles of learning and communicating in class and frustrations can arise. The Indian students are very outspoken. They tend to raise their hands a lot in class, and they ask a lot of questions. I can tell that our Chinese professors are not used to that. They like to get on with the class and finish the slides in a timely manner. The Chinese students are much less outspoken. They tend to ask questions after class directly to the professor. What I have heard about the American students is that we are very polite in asking our questions. So you can see how even a simple thing such as asking questions in class can cause frustration. I have found that humor helps in a lot of these situations. We laugh when yet another Indian raises their hand for the umpteenth time. 

Luckily, we had Prof. Tony Lingham’s leadership class during our first week in Shanghai. We got to know each other pretty quickly, and he helped us with finding common traits among all of us, regardless of our culture. That helped us overcome the many cultural differences. We were divided into groups according to our learning styles. Learning styles are indicative of how we interpret tasks, how we learn and how we achieve our goals. For example, just knowing that your Indian classmate needs a lot of details and information before he will even begin the assignment helps a lot with your tolerance level towards him. It also clarifies that some frustrations aren’t culture related. In the beginning, I assumed that all of the Indian students had the same learning style since their behavior in class is so similar to each other's, but the opposite was true. Professor Lingham taught us to work together with all learning styles regardless of identity and culture.

I started thinking about how one can prepare for culture shock. After all, I will be facing this all over again when we go to XLRI in Jamshedpur, India. Will I face the same challenges as here? Will I have to re-adapt to being in such a multicultural group after spending one month away from them?

What I have learned is that you can’t avoid culture shock. That doesn’t mean you that can’t learn how to deal with it.  I found that writing down my frustrations and the different ways of how I dealt with them helps. I plan on re-reading my notes when I go to India, that way I will remember what went through my head during my first few weeks in Shanghai, and how I adapted. Another coping mechanism is talking to my classmates. Dealing with culture shock is easier when you can talk about it with people that share the same situation.

A big factor that contributes to culture shock and being homesick is food. Chinese food is so different from American food. I found that that was the first thing that I started to miss. Luckily there are many solutions to this problem. There are websites where you can order Western food, and there is even a Western restaurant very close to campus that serves delicious spaghetti!

Our experience in Shanghai has been amazing so far. It hasn’t been without challenges, but I also see myself growing as I strive to overcome them. I can also see my classmates grow with me. I am excited to see where this journey will take us!

Catherine Van Ryckeghem, Global MBA '15, Global MBA Contributor

Catherine Van Ryckeghem is a first year Global MBA student at Weatherhead School of Management. She is currently studying in Shanghai China as part of her two-year program.

September 20, 2013

David Cooperrider's Tefen Industrial Park visit shows business in action as an agent of world benefit

Business can turn any global issue into a bona fide business opportunity to do good and do well.
David Cooperrider at TEDxUNPlaza on Sept. 16, 2013
David Cooperrider at TEDxUNPlaza on Sept. 16, 2013 

Business as one of the most positive forces for a better world? It's true!

Imagine what would happen to you if you had the ability to consistently see and connect with every strength, every one of the capacities, inherent in the world around you—if you had the ability to see every positive potential in your son or daughter, or, like Michelangelo, the intellectual ability to "sense" the towering, historic figure of David "already existing" in a huge slab of marble, even before the reality took shape.

Indeed, the appreciable world—the universe of strength, value and life-generating potential all around us—is so much larger than our normal appreciative capacity. Yet there are some (we all know them) who seem to have a special knack for seeing, noticing and connecting with ever-expanding domains of positive potential. There are great coaches who see extraordinary things in their players, hidden strengths no one has ever seen. There are grandparents who "know" the specialties of their grandchild intuitively, it seems, long before those potentials are nurtured or even recognized by others. Could such appreciative capacity explain, for example, the success of leaders who have ranked relatively low on traditional measures of IQ but have gone on to change human history or reshape entire industries?

This is exactly what we are finding in our worldwide study of leaders showing what it means to create what we at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western Reserve University call Business as an Agent of World Benefit.

At the time of this writing the situation in the Middle East appears more unstable, some say hopeless, than ever. Syria is a case in point. It appears that nobody can find a solution to the bloody bombings, the conflicts and bitterness, the suffering and distress, and the spread of terror around the world. It's precarious. It's dangerous. And nobody sees an easy solution.


A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak about Business as an Agent of World Benefit as an invited guest at the dedication for the new Arison School of Business in Israel. During the talk I raised questions about where the peace is going to come from. From the lawyers? Not likely. From the military? Not likely. From governments? From religious leaders—Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and so forth? My proposition, tentatively offered, was that it would be from none of these. The best place to look, I argued, would be the world of business—that business could be the most important ground and force for peace. The 21st century is going to be a time when we learn to unite the dynamism and entrepreneurial capacities of good business with the global issues of our day.

I did not have many examples of business as a force for peace, but I made the argument anyway. Did you know war and the containment of violence costs us over nine trillion dollars U.S. per year—almost 10 percent of the gross world product?

After the talk a stranger came up to me. He said, "I'd like to invite you to meet me at my helicopter tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. I want you to see this thesis in action: business as a force for peace." He went on, "It’s a story of human imagination and the capacity to make something from nothing except hard work." The next morning we flew to the Galilee region, across the desert to an area without any natural resources. It is called Tefen, and later I discovered that this unassuming man was perhaps the wealthiest person in Israel; his worth was estimated to be over four billion dollars, and what he has created now accounts for over 10 percent of Israel's export gross national product. His name is Stef Wertheimer. And for what he has accomplished, he honestly deserves to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

When I got out of the helicopter, I could not believe my eyes. Up until the mid-1980s Tefen was a barren hilltop grazed by local herds of goats. Today the scope of industrial exports manufactured at Tefen equals that of the entire Jerusalem area. Beautiful homes and neighborhoods surround what Wertheimer calls a "capitalist kibbutz"—with four Tefen Model Industrial Parks that have given birth to more than 160 new businesses, as well as schools for all the children that now populate the area. Most surprising, the whole thing is based on the principle of coexistence, with Arab and Jewish residents living together, going into business together, building schools and art museums together, and dramatically transforming entrenched conflicts into collaborative energies for economic empowerment, development and peace.

Stef Wertheimer is igniting a revolution in hope by harnessing the best in business to melt frozen animosities easily and rapidly and in the process create islands of peace and shared prosperity. His plan: create one hundred more of these islands—distinct and special entrepreneurial industrial parks modeled after the "Tefen Miracle"—and strategically locate them throughout the eastern Mediterranean. It's this region's version of a Marshall Plan, and it's one that growing numbers of supporters from Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine believe could lift the region out of poverty and take the biggest step toward ending terrorism. It's something all of us should take notice of. In his book War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, the prolific author Alvin Toffler cites Wertheimer’s example as one of the most important quiet revolutions in the world today.

Many are now calling the 84-year-old Wertheimer a genius, but most do not know that this genius dropped out of grade school. He couldn't cut it. He failed in most classes. For survival, he created his first business, and the first two people he hired were an Arab and a Jew. The seed of a vision was born and was motivated, as he puts it, by "the metaphysical concept of survival" and by his growing conviction that creativity and entrepreneurship together were the only things that could create conditions for lasting peace, dignified lives and the eradication of strife. "A booming industrial base will provide more security than any military outpost," Wertheimer told me. Today he is working tirelessly to establish many more of these industrial parks throughout the non-oil-producing parts of the Middle East; he just helped open a version of Tefen in Nazareth in 2013.

The most exciting part of my visit with Wertheimer? I sat in on a class of Jewish and Arab 10-year-old children laughing, playing, singing and learning together in a region of the world most define as hopelessly entrenched in hatred. It's a story that with the click of a button should be shared with everyone in the world.

Traditional IQ tests cannot explain—and never would have predicted—what I saw from the helicopter that day in Galilee. Appreciative intelligence is indeed on the cutting edge. It illuminates.

Stef Wertheimer could see what colleague Tojo Thatchenkery calls "the mighty oak in the acorn." Where there was desert, he could see vast neighborhoods. Where there was poverty, he could see the unlimited human resource of collective imagination. One part of his brilliance is that he re-framed everything. For example, Stef was ecstatic that there were no natural resources, such as oil, in the area: "Think about the places, alas, that have been cursed with oil," he said to me. Along with such reframing, this genius noticed everything worth valuing, appreciating positive possibility in every person and situation he was engaged with. He is proof that we can live with a positive love of life amid onslaughts of torment. Another part of his genius is his capacity to see the future-ideal interwoven in the texture of the actual; he knows peace will prevail and watches a Marshall Plan for a whole region emerge from a simple demonstration of going beyond "what works" in Tefen.

With the help of IDEO, Case Western Reserve University's Fowler Center for Sustainable Value is creating a cutting-edge digital platform to create something more powerful and impactful than a Nobel Prize: It will be a worldwide experiment in exponential learning to elevate, magnify and scale up stories of brave leadership—just like the story here.

Also, mark your calendar: don't miss the Third Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in October 2014. More than a thousand people and amazing business leaders such as CEO and entrepreneur Naveen Jain will join us on the campus of Case Western Reserve.

If you wish to connect with this worldwide effort, engage with leaders like Wertheimer and gather their stories, or help build our digital platform for mass collaboration allowing stories of Business as An Agent of World Benefit to surface and spread, please contact or email me at
David Cooperrider, PhD - Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and professor of organizational behavior
With colleague Ronald Fry, PhD, professor of organizational behavior, he invented the large-scale change management technique of appreciative inquiry while still a doctoral student at Weatherhead.

Learn more about appreciative inquiry and Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Watch David Cooperrider's 2013 TEDxUNPlaza talk. For more on Tefen Industrial Park, check out this New York Times article on "Giving Galilee a Foothold in Industry."

Blossom Music Center, Severance Hall: Tune-worthy things a grad student should do

Blossom Music Center (with a double rainbow!)
The Cleveland Orchestra's summer home is Blossom Music Center, an outdoor venue about 30 miles south of Cleveland that hosts musicians of all genres. Set on more than 800 acres of park-like property, Blossom is quite a different atmosphere from Severance Hall.

A recent, lively performance included hits by Cole Porter and friends - perfect for a summer of excitement over The Great Gatsby. In addition to fun, upbeat music and lyrics, conductor Bramwell Tovey had the audience laughing at his commentary on everything from the selection of songs to the front row guests arriving late. Some of the summer performances are of a more classical variety – Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven – and sitting in the pavilion gives a more traditional concert hall feel. But sitting on the lawn is what makes the Blossom experience unique, and it’s also a fantastic way to enjoy a picnic.

Guests arrive up to a couple of hours before the concert starts, toting blankets, snacks and drinks. You’ll see many groups with a picnic basket of wine, cheese and crackers, and fruit. Some opt for an easy menu of take-out food, like pizza, subs or Chipotle. Whatever suits your taste. Everyone sits back, chats with friends and watches as the lawn fills with other parties, blankets, folding chairs and picnics. Before you know it, the stage inside the pavilion is being set for the concert to begin and instruments are being tuned. You can pack up the picnic and just listen to the concert, or you can munch on your snacks for the whole evening (quietly please).

Blossom has a natural charm with a blue sky and puffy clouds in place of Severance Hall’s ceiling of gleaming gold-leaf and lotus blossoms. With an attentive audience, there is still a reverent hush across the venue. And as the evening gets late, you’ll see there’s nothing quite like a live orchestra performance under the stars. On Labor Day weekend, adults and kids alike are treated to a season finale of popular music– this year, it was Pixar in Concert – and the night sky lights up with fireworks.

Since the summer concerts at Blossom are now past us, take a look at this season's performances scheduled at Severance Hall (which is located only a short walk from Weatherhead!).

Katherine Gullett, MBA '13 - Cultural Contributor

I’m a Cleveland native who loves my city, and I am thrilled to be sharing it with you. It seems I always have recommendations of things to do and places to see. This summer, I’ve started experiencing the city from a fresh perspective—by getting here and there on my bicycle.

September 16, 2013

The Summer Fellowship: The Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps Program

At the beginning of August I finished up a ten-week engagement with the City of Cleveland through the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program. The Climate Corp program is an initiative of EDF to make businesses, local government, and other organizations more energy efficient. After a week of intensive training in energy efficiency, EDF places business students at host organizations around the United States. The 2013 Climate Corps cohort had over 100 students from many different schools including Stanford, University of Michigan and Columbia University. This year, four MBA students from Case Western Reserve University participated, including myself.

My host organization was the City of Cleveland’s Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. As a native East coaster, it was a great opportunity to learn more about how local government in Northeast Ohio works. My main project for the summer was working on a survey of the different alternative financing options that the City of Cleveland has for it’s own investments in energy efficiency. The City of Cleveland has over 150 facilities in its building portfolio and many of them are ripe candidates for energy efficiency improvements. Working with a private lender to finance those improvements can be defined as a public-private partnership, which was one of the alternative financing options I reviewed for the City.

As a business student I was able to use my understanding of finance, accounting and the energy industry to produce a realistic perspective for the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, of what the City’s municipal energy efficiency options are. I also worked on other projects including a list of actionable steps that the City could pursue to become more energy efficient. Even though public finance and accounting are different from their corporate counterparts, my coursework from my first year at Weatherhead School of Management was relevant as it helped me define the criteria of what was possible for a city like Cleveland. It also gave me a basic fluency in the subjects to communicate well with the Law and Finance departments of the City of Cleveland.

Read an excerpt from the EDF Climate Corps Blog to learn more about my actual fellowship experience ...

Greening Cities with EDF Climate Corps

Name: Abraham Weiner
Hometown: Davidsonville, MD
School: Case Western Reserve University
Host Organization: City of Cleveland

Q: What is an interesting fact about you? 
A: I’m conversationally fluent in American Sign Language.

Q: Why did you join EDF Climate Corps? 
A: I’d known about the program before I even considered business school, and it was actually one of the reasons I applied. In the business world, I felt like I could have a bigger impact on the health of the planet over other sectors.

Q: What are you working on this summer? 
A: The main task that I’ve been working on is helping the City understand what the best alternative financing options are for their municipal energy efficiency projects. I have been talking with wide variety of stakeholders such as state, county and municipal staff, bankers and lenders, financial advisors, ESCOs, lawyers and a variety other people to gain a complete view of the plethora of options.

Q: In tackling that project, what has been the most difficult part? 
A: It’s been working with stakeholders in and outside the City to communicate that saving energy is saving money and that it should be prioritized. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, of which I’ve been a part of, is one of the departments that is pushing citywide energy efficiency improvements.

Q: What is one thing you’ve learned this summer?
A: Public-private partnerships take a significant amount of work and understanding. There is a lot that has to be done to make them work.

Q: What has been the best part for you about working with the City of Cleveland?
A: The people here are very passionate and mission driven. To come here and meet people who seek a positive change in Cleveland has been inspiring. I will also walk away from the fellowship with new friends.

Q: What is the mark you want to leave on the world?
A: For the city, I want to make the business case for energy efficiency. For the world, I want a sustained and thriving planet, and I believe the path to that is showing people that one can do well by doing good.

To read more interviews with tomorrow’s leaders in energy management, check out the EDF Climate Corps Blog.

About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps ( taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has found an average of $1 million in energy savings for each participant. For more information, visit Read our blog at Follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Abe Weiner - Sustainability Contributor
As a second year MBA student here at Weatherhead School of Management, I write about how I’ve been able to use my time at the school to dive into the sustainable business world. I'll describe my experience with different projects, fellowships and other programs in and outside the school. In my studies I focus on sustainability and finance.

September 6, 2013

How to embrace the 'new' while staying true to yourself

Cleveland Browns Football Game
"Do you want to watch a football game?"

"Um…I could try…"

I know this is an invitation I could not resist.

During my first year in the US, I watched one football game. It was at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The sport stadium is fabulous, accommodating around 100,000 people. On that day, everyone wore red T-shirts, set up tents around the area and had BBQs with family, waiting for the exciting moment of kick-off that evening.

From that point, I start to understand that football is American's life.

So when people again invited me to a football game, I could not say "no". Otherwise, it would make me feel like I turned down a warm invitation from someone who really likes it. Also, it would make me sound isolated. Who won't like football in this country?

I went to the Browns game. It was wonderful, from people's energy around me I could tell. But to tell the truth, I could only understand a some of the rules of the game. Sometimes when people around me suddenly stood up and I did not know what happened. I looked like a fool in such an enthusiastic stadium.

As a traditional Chinese girl, I like sports like badminton and table tennis, which are popular in China. I never watched football before I came to the US. Almost no one talks about this game. It is a totally new thing for me. Having watched it twice, I could say maybe … it was just not my game.

What I have experienced might also be the experience for most international students. In a new country, there are lots of things we have never tried before. Some we like, some we don't. I kind of feel a little pressure that I should like something like football here, because I want to be part of the culture.

But when I realized I actually do not like that popular game so much, I was frustrated.

As an international student, we leave what we are used to for twenty years, come to a new continent, speak another language and experience a totally different culture. We are brave. But it is also common to be caught up with a culture shock. The instinct to be accepted pushes us to try new things and gradually change some of our habits. However, it is not an easy process. We are surprised, we try, we laugh, we enjoy. But we also hesitate, doubt, struggle and reflect. Sometimes it is not that we don’t like it, it is just we are not used to it. Suddenly these new things emerge in our life, our first reaction is resistance.

Fortunately, America is such a diversified and embracing country. You could speak out whatever you feel and people will respect that. Even for most situations, people cherish different ideas. I gradually realize even though I am trying to be part of this foreign country, I am still independent, no need to be assimilated.

So, I leave you with this, keep trying new things here, step out of our comfort zone. But stay with your heart.

Next time when people ask me to try a football game, I would say "yes" with my whole heart.

Yi (Frances) Shi - International Contributor
I am from China and have been in Cleveland for one year. I love it here, although there have been a lot of surprises. I will write about my life, including the joy and frustration that comes with getting my Masters of Science in Management - Finance degree at Weatherhead School of Management and with living in America.

Hope you can get a little inspiration from my story and make your life even more wonderful here!

September 3, 2013

GBSA Events: International Field Day

The Graduate Business Student Association (GBSA) kicked off the new school year with an International Field Day last Friday afternoon. Here are shots from the day. 

Visit Weatherhead GBSA  |  See more GBSA Events