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GSAP Students Attend Conference and Network with Business Leaders in China

    (July 1, 2023) Eight University of San Francisco students from the Center for Business Studies and Innovation in Asia-Pacific’s (CBSI) Global Student Ambassador Program (GSAP) had an amazing opportunity in June to travel with CBSI Executive Director Dr. Xiaohua Yang, Associate Director William Ktsanes and Executive-in-Residence Ker Gibbs to attend an academic conference and network with very high-level business leaders in China. For our students, it was hands-on, culturally-immersive learning at its best. All shared that it was a life-changing experience, with some even saying it was their most meaningful and memorable as a student.

    CBSI faculty and students attended the 2023 Academy of International Business “Sustainable Development and International Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in the Post COVID-19 Era” academic conference. Held on the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo  campus, about 130 miles south of Shanghai, the conference was co-hosted by CBSI and co-chaired by Dr. Yang. USF students joined academic and industry leaders in discussions and presentations covering an array of topics related to business sustainability. For most of the USF students, it was their first time attending an academic conference.

    One highlight of the conference was an executive panel moderated by Ker Gibbs in the opening day’s plenary session. Ker, who is the immediate past president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and editor of the newly-published book Selling to China: Stories of Success, Failure, and Constant Change, led a lively discussion focused on current growth opportunities for small and medium-sized firms (generally less than 500 employees). Among the panelists was Jeff Wu, a founding member of CBSI’s Advisory Board and CEO of dZPACE, an entrepreneurial “prop-tech” real estate technology firm.

    Another highlight of the conference was a fascinating presentation by USF Applied Economics graduate student and GSAP president John Chetwynd. John, who graduated in May, shared the findings of rigorous cross-cultural research that he and fellow Applied Economics graduate student and GSAP member Nikita Tkachenko did examining the behavioral impact of rising temperatures and global warming. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that people are generally more aggressive and less productive as temperatures rise. Unexpectedly, though, their research identified significant gender and geographic differences; for example, thermal stress suppresses competitiveness much more among women than among men in India. (Unfortunately, Nikita, who is an international student from Russia, was unable to travel to China with CBSI due to his US student visa status and geopolitical concerns.)

    After the conference, Xiaohua, William and the students headed by bullet train to Shanghai, where Ker had arranged numerous company tours and meetings with top-level international business leaders. Among the company facilities they visited were a joint-venture General Motors-SAIC Cadillac assembly plant, the FedEx shipping facility at Pudong Airport, the Shanghai office of “big four” accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and the bustling open-floor offices of Orbit Startups, a venture capital firm focused on innovative, entrepreneurial high tech.

    A highlight in Shanghai was an evening at the Roosevelt Club, an exclusive members-only business club on the top floor of the historic House of Roosevelt building along the Bund. With breathtaking views of Pudong and the Huangpu River as the backdrop, students met an array of business leaders, asked pointed questions, and heard fascinating first-hand accounts of China’s rapidly evolving business climate.

    Another highlight was a tour of the Shanghai offices of Gensler and a VIP tour to the top of Shanghai Tower. Founded by architect Art Gensler in San Francisco in 1965, Gensler is now the world’s largest design and architectural firm. Among their most famous projects is Shanghai Tower, a 128-story, 2,078-foot, skyscraper in Pudong that is the tallest building in China and third-tallest in the world.

    Perhaps the most inspiring visit – and certainly the most heartfelt – was an afternoon with Wei Lu at the offices of international human capital management services firm CDP. Co-founded by CBSI advisory board member Wayne Wang (1963-2023), CDP is now led by his wife Wei Lu, who shared personal reflections about the importance of doing meaningful work. She also described how her firm’s focus on data-driven decision making helps companies make informed choices that drive sustainable growth, transparency and accountability. Wei Lu challenged our students to make a positive impact on the world and keep their lives in balance as they pursue their passions and careers.

    The eight students – four young women and four young men – brought with them different backgrounds and experiences. About half spoke Chinese, either as a native-speaker or having studied Chinese at the University. Half were undergraduate students; half were graduate students. One was in a doctoral program. Among their academic majors and programs were international business, business administration, finance, economics, Asia-Pacific studies, computer science and education.

    To learn more about the trip and its impact, we encourage you to read the “Special Thanks and Reflections from GSAP Students” that follow.