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Japanese Students Wrap up MBAs

Graduates Visit Campus for First Time

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Nine students from Japan who earned MBAs traveled to campus to participate in the pre-commencement ceremonies at the Manning School of Business.

By Jill Gambon

It was the first time Takayuki Takahashi set foot on campus, but he felt right at home.

Takahashi, who is receiving his MBA from the Manning School of Business in May, traveled nearly 7,000 miles from Tokyo to participate in ceremonies capping off his two-year master’s program. After taking classes in Tokyo and online, he wanted to see the University firsthand and meet some of his classmates and professors face-to-face.

“I’m excited to be here,” said Takahashi, who came to campus for induction into Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business school honor society, and the Manning School’s hooding ceremony a week later. “I really feel like I’m part of the University.”

Takahashi was one of nine MBA students from Japan who traveled to Lowell for the hooding ceremony. The students are among the first group to earn their master’s degrees through a unique partnership the University launched in January 2012 with the Tokyo executive education firm Abitus, in which UMass Lowell’s MBA classes are offered to Japanese professionals. In all, 13 students earned their MBAs through the program in May. More than 120 have enrolled in the program since it was introduced.

“It was a really special evening and we are so glad our students from Japan could take part in it. The fact that they traveled so far to be here speaks volumes about the strength of our MBA program,” said Frank Andrews, MSB associate dean.

Takahashi, who is a marketing manager at a software licensing firm in Tokyo, was drawn to the UMass Lowell MBA program for its strong academics and because he did not have to leave his job to attend school. He feels like the insight and perspective gained through his coursework have made an impact in how he approaches his job.

“Looking at myself two years ago, I seem like a totally different person. Before, if I was reading a news article I would just look at it superficially, but now, with what I’ve learned in my courses, I can look at the same article and see it so differently. I can read between the lines and see the marketing point-of-view, the finance point-of-view or the strategy point-of-view.”

The Abitus initiative is part of the significant growth in the Manning School’s graduate programs. Between 2011 and 2013, enrollments in the MBA program jumped 79 percent. Overall graduate school enrollments were up 57 percent during the same time, according to Andrews.

Takahashi liked the flexibility of UMass Lowell’s MBA program. Students attend the first-year foundation classes at a campus in Tokyo on Saturdays with Japanese instructors using UMass Lowell’s curriculum. They can also watch the lectures in English delivered by MSB faculty and recorded on the Blackboard learning management platform. The rest of the classes are conducted online by MSB faculty with graduate students spread out across the globe.
“It’s a great thing when you have a mixed group, with people from all over. You really get a global perspective,” said Ashwin Mehta, an MSB lecturer who had several Abitus students in his online strategic management courses over the past year.

Navigating the challenges of global teams simulates a real-world experience that many professionals encounter at work, Mehta said. The students used Skype, Google Hangouts and other tools to collaborate on group projects.
Takahashi said the courses were challenging but he made great friends through his classes.
“We formed strong bonds,” he said. “I have learned so much.” 

The timing of the Hooding Ceremony coincided with Golden Week, a series of Japanese national holidays, which made it possible for several of the students to travel to Lowell.