Gregory H. Patton, PhD
Global Executive MBA, USC Marshall and Jiao Tong University
Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Q: Your focus as a professor is on communication and interpersonal skills as well as leadership effectiveness. What has it been like to teach in China?
A: Extremely positive. Chinese businesses and business leaders in the decades to come will continue creating a global presence likely to exceed their domestic activities. To prepare, we need to bring together students from China and other nationalities from throughout the Pacific Rim to ensure various perspectives in the classroom and then to focus on developing these future leaders’ core communication and leadership skills. In this environment, we’ve had a lot of success. We typically have many students who are technical experts – they may be a banker, CIO or engineering expert – but we teach them to refocus on being effective leaders first.
Q: Do you have to be conscious of anything in particular while teaching in China, compared with in a US classroom?
A: I’ve done a lot of teaching and consulting in China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. And wherever you are, you have to customize the content and use local examples. A great deal of the students in our program are from China, but a dozen other countries are also represented. They all share their different points of view, but in terms of teaching core leadership skills, these are really the same around the world. That’s universal.
Q: How has traveling to China to teach had an impact on your work and personal life?
A: I am typically in Shanghai for 7-10 days at a time, teaching five of those days and then meeting and working with alumni, friends and colleagues. The impact of my travel, teaching and consulting throughout Asia over the years is really irreplaceable in the classroom. Personally, being apart from the family is hard, yet the bright side is my two daughters now give me a short list of what they would like me to pick up for them – mainly fans and bracelets – so they now really like one aspect of my travel. I also bring back many traditions, and my girls are now huge fans of Children’s Day.
Professor Paul Shen
Assistant Professor, MBA Center and Global Management Education Institute of Shanghai University
GLMBA-Part Time Class Academic Director Originally from Singapore
Q: What do you teach at Shanghai University?
A: Mainly international business law, but over the past four years, I’ve also taught global career ethics, international career ethics, and corporate social responsibility.
Q: And how have you enjoyed your experience?
A: Frankly, I like being in Shanghai. It’s a great place to be and a great place to teach because of the international and local contacts I’ve made at this MBA center. Also, I like the traveling aspect of teaching at Shanghai University. I went to Lijiang to teach Motorola students about business research methods. I’ve visited Memphis University in Tennessee because we have a joint program with them. So I’ve been able to travel a lot while working at this university, and this is something I love doing very much.
Q: What do you hope your students get from your classes?
A: I hope after my classes, and also from other classes taught by overseas faculty, that they will have an international perspective of business and that they learn many soft skills – communications, the importance of international business ethics, corporate social responsibility. I also want them to understand that businessmen are not just here to make money, but also to make contributions to society. I always try to make them learn beyond themselves, beyond China, and to not be too stubborn in their local thinking.
Q: Previously, you worked as a corporate lawyer for 27 years and taught in many different countries. How does China’s salary for professors compare to other places you’ve worked?
A: The pay here, in comparison to the pay in Singapore, is very low. In Singapore I’d be making about 15 times what I’m getting here in Shanghai. But I didn’t come to Shanghai for the money; it’s more for the satisfaction of my passion for teaching. And being a Chinese descendant, I have a liking for Chinese culture, so I think Shanghai and Beijing are two great cities to be at this age. I’m now 62 years old and I’d personally like to see China develop. So it’s for non-materialistic reasons that I’ve come to Shanghai, like fulfilling a dream to teach at my late age.
Michael Pettis, PhD
Professor of Finance, Guanghua School of Management at Peking University
Owner of D-22, a Beijing bar, and the Maybe Mars record label
Q: Why did you choose to come to China to teach?
A: After 15 years working on Wall Street and specializing in Latin America, it seemed to me that my learning curve was becoming increasingly flat. I decided to spend a one-week holiday in China in March 2001. During that week in Beijing I was so impressed by the sense of history-in-the-making that on the flight back I decided to quit my job and move to China for two years. For the previous nine years while working on Wall Street I had also taught a course every semester at the Columbia Business School, and largely because of that, within three months of my trip to Beijing I was able to get an offer from Tsinghua University, which I immediately accepted. I spent three years there and then went to Peking University where I have spent the past four years.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges during your tenure?
A: If by "challenges" you mean "difficulties," it is hard to think of any great challenges. The students are superb and eager to learn, and there is no doubt that given the enormous prestige of Peking University I am training many of China’s future political, business and cultural leaders, which of course makes the experience doubly exciting. The school has treated me very well and given me a lot of flexibility in research and teaching style. I have access to almost anyone I want to meet. Probably my biggest challenge has been my very limited success in speaking Chinese, which is not so easy for a middle-aged guy to learn. My biggest frustrations are the sporadic inconveniences of life under a sometimes fairly paranoid government.
Q: What have been the biggest rewards?
A: People are very friendly and much more open than many outsiders realize, and I can play an active role not just in the world of finance but also in the arts, where I work with many of the young artists and musicians who are transforming China’s cultural life. I know it sounds a little pompous, but the biggest reward is probably the sense that I may have already made and will continue to make a difference in the development of so many very impressive young Chinese at such a crucial time for China and the world – at least that’s what they tell me, although of course young Chinese are notoriously polite to professors. It feels like I am in a small way participating in history.