SOM Students and Russian Businesses: A real learning experience

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Seven MBA students from the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management (SOM) recently traveled to Russia as part of a study abroad program. The students spent the first four days of the 11-day trip in Togliatti,  Flint's sister city, and the last part of the trip in Moscow, Russia's capital.

"These international programs are designed to provide first-hand exposure to the challenges that tomorrow's business leaders will face in a global economy," said Greg Allar, the SOM program associate who led the trip.

Togliatti is a city of 725,000 inhabitants and is located in rural Russia, approximately 625 miles southeast of Moscow. Igor Bogdanov, president of the Togliatti Academy of Management arranged for faculty lectures on the current economic and market conditions in Russia. While in Togliatti, the students had the opportunity to walk the assembly line at the GM/AvtoVAZ joint venture facility, a state-of-the-art facility which happens to be one of the most profitable GM facilities in Europe. They not only interacted with senior plant managers, but met with financial officials to discuss the growing use of credit cards in Russia, and with senior officials at AvtoVAZ bank. The students then had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Togliatti Anatoly Pushkov, and shared ideas for future collaboration between the cities of Togliatti and Flint.

Moscow is the third most expensive city in the world with a population exceeding ten million residents. While there, the students met with the dean of the School of Management at the Moscow School of Management, Andrei Volkov, to learn more about its unique focus on incorporating real life project work into the academic curriculum.  The Moscow School of Management is located in Skolkovo, a suburb of Moscow, where there is an effort to create a high tech hub for research and development to help diversify the country's flagging economy.

UM-Flint students also met with Heidi McCormack, president of GM Russia to discuss GM's long-range strategy for Russia; with Eric Rasmussen, country director for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to learn how the EBRD facilitates foreign investment in Russia; with Jeffrey Costello, managing director of JP Morgan Russia, and members of the US-Russia Business Council, an organization that works to facilitate economic ties and cooperation on innovative ventures between the US and Russian business communities; and with Dmitry Krol, director of communications for Boeing Russia, to learn about the joint collaboration of Russian and American engineers on the structural design of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Lastly, the UM-Flint students had a private audience with the United States Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle, and several members of his staff including the economic minister and the embassy's deputy cultural attaché.

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