The Beijing International MBA (BiMBA) is a joint programme between Peking University’s National School of Development (NSD) and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School. Bruce Stening, the Vlerick International Dean of the BiMBA programme, is based in China: “Vlerick has had academic responsibility for BiMBA since 2009. We’ve set high standards for the programme and it’s our task to ensure that we have staff who are true professionals teaching outstanding classes. Andy Tsay is one of the visiting professors who adds a degree of continuity and quality that motivates and inspires.” Vlerick reflect was interested in meeting the award-winning teacher and finding out about his successful approach to teaching his subject: operations management.
“The curriculum of virtually every respectable MBA programme contains a core course in operations management(OM),” says Professor Andy Tsay. “However, relatively few students are familiar with the subject at the start of their MBA; they may even think it’s not relevant to their careers. I’ve seen first-hand that OM knowledge is relevant for every manager in every business, and can happily report that many of my students who displayed scepticism on intake have left us as true believers. They realise that when they encounter a business, their understanding of OM helps them see the company more clearly and quickly identify ways for it to improve. When I’ve made people attentive to those kinds of details, then I’ve done my job.”
No secret formula
Just what is it that makes his teaching approach so successful? “If we view the teaching of a course as a business venture, then being an effective teacher is not much different from being a good business manager,” he explains. “This means planning carefully and never losing sight of your objectives; setting clear and fair expectations; communicating frequently, especially in explaining the rationale for the way the course is being run; and following through on your commitments. There’s no secret formula here. These principles are all emphasised as best practices in OM and other business courses. My investment in organising and structuring the ideas and course materials is appreciated by all kinds of students, but especially those trying to learn in a nonnative language.“Knowledge-wise, I bring to the BiMBA classroom more than 20 years’ experience with Silicon Valley, home of iconic businesses like Apple, HewlettPackard and Google, which are also household names in China and might even be my students’ employer, supplier, or other kind of business partner. Whenever these kinds of companies crop up in our conversations we’re able to skip directly to high-level discussion of the business issues. My students back in Silicon Valley also benefit immensely from my relationship with BiMBA. I take back to them a wealth of real-time insights about business in modern China that I gain from working with BiMBA students and visiting their companies.”
“Being an effective teacher is not much different from being a good business manager.”
[Andy Tsay, Visiting Professor in Operations Management (BiMBA)