Leadership Education of Chinese MBA Students in the United States: A Case Study of Chinese MBA Students' Leadership Education at one American Graduate Business School

Chen, Xin, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Inkelas, Karen, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The purpose of this case study was to explore the leadership education and cultural adaptation of Chinese MBA students in a US institution. The study participants were four Chinese MBA students from an American Graduate Business School (AGBS). This study adopted a framework based on Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity and the Social Learning Theory. The qualitative data from individual interviews and observations gave this study a richly detailed context.
Four overarching patterns emerged during the process of analyzing the data: (a) the motivation for pursuing an MBA program in the United States; (b) cultural and language differences as barriers in communication; (c) intercultural communication and people-management skills as important leadership characteristics; (d) extracurricular activity involvement as a way to practice internalizing the acquired leadership skills; and (e) general reflections on leadership education. Chinese MBA students coming to study in a US institution were driven by similar goals, however, the motivation of finding a job or not in the US after graduation varies and this influenced students’ cultural adaptation. Even though MBA students generally have had more intercultural exposure and language practices compared to students enrolled in other academic subject fields, language and culture differences are still perceived as major challenges in their daily life. Leadership education experiences are closely related with intercultural communication and people management skills for Chinese MBA students. Extracurricular activities are an important way for Chinese MBA students to internalize leadership skills. The study participants agreed that the overall experience of leadership education and cultural adaptation in a US institution is a process of exploring, learning and growing.
The goal of the study is to provide a good understanding of leadership education experiences of the future economic leaders from China, and to reveal their learning characteristics, cultural adjustment experiences along with their leadership development. In addition, recommendations in the final chapter of this qualitative case study may provide useful information for US higher education practitioners to improve education programs for Chinese MBA students and other international student groups at large.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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