Linking Students to Opportunities in Asia
By Andrew Hayenga
In any business venture, it helps to have friends in the right places. For UAB students eager to explore the booming economic possibilities in China, one name opens many doors: K.C. Pang.
A veteran of the international business scene, Pang has held executive positions with the World Development Federation, FedEx, and Holiday Inn. He has been a faculty member in the UAB School of Business since 2003, teaching courses in international business and international marketing, and serving as Director of China Initiatives for the school and advisor for the university’s International Business Association.
Any discussion of global commerce must focus heavily on China, Pang says. The country’s international business impact grows each year and now “accounts for more than $1 billion in annual trade with the state of Alabama alone,” he notes. “If business graduates are going to get ahead in Alabama or anywhere, they need to be exposed to the Chinese economy.”
School of Business faculty member K.C. Pang leads a career-shaping trip to China, where students learn about language, culture, and commerce.
Learning in Action
UAB students have the opportunity to get firsthand exposure to Chinese business and culture each summer, when Pang takes on a new role: tour guide. In 2006, he began leading a series of annual monthlong trips to the city of Anshan in northeast China. The program, known as UAB in China, takes students inside the classrooms at Anshan Normal University for language, culture, and business courses—and the opportunity to work with Chinese students to develop business plans for U.S.-China joint ventures. Participants also tour Beijing and other regions of the country.
For several UAB students, the experience has had a career-shaping effect. “Mr. Pang’s international business class my senior year at UAB channeled my curiosity, and I realized that Asia, specifically China, was going to drive the international business market in the decades to come,” says Blake Margison, who graduated from the School of Business in 2006. Margison traveled to Anshan with Pang’s group that summer and was so impressed that he decided to stay in China indefinitely.
Students participating in the 2010 UAB in China trip will document their adventures through blogs, photos, and videos posted on the School of Business Web site. Follow along beginning May 31.
Pang’s connections with Anshan Normal University helped Margison secure a job as an English instructor at the institution. As his understanding of the Chinese language and culture grew, Margison saw new opportunities develop. He is currently based in Beijing, where he works as a public affairs representative for the International Energy Conservation Environmental Protection Association. “Mr. Pang has been integral to everything I have done in China,” Margison says.
Scott Martz, who graduated from the School of Business last December, is following the trail Margison blazed: He began work at Anshan as an English instructor in February. Martz says that Pang’s encouragement cemented his decision to live overseas. “I’ve always been interested in foreign cultures and the trend toward an almost completely interconnected global economy,” Martz says. “I wanted to get in on the ground floor of Chinese capitalism with hopes that I’ll be rewarded with a successful career in international business.” When Pang told him about the teaching position available at Anshan, Martz says he jumped at the chance “to get my foot in the door.”
UAB graduate Blake Margison visited China with Pang's group in 2006. Today he works for an environmental protection group in Beijing.
Even for those students who have no intention of moving abroad, an understanding of China is vital to a successful career, Margison says. “No matter what field students are studying at the UAB School of Business, the companies they will work for more than likely will be impacted in some way by Chinese businesses or policies. This is why Mr. Pang is so valuable—because of his expansive knowledge of both systems.”
Pang continues to use his network of contacts to expand the presence of the School of Business throughout Asia. He is fluent in Mandarin and several other Chinese dialects and also speaks Bahasa, the national language of Singapore and Malaysia. “I’ve been doing business in Asia for nearly 20 years, and I have visited more than 20 cities in China alone,” Pang notes.
He is eager to immerse a new group in the country’s culture. On May 28, Pang will lead 12 students to Anshan Normal University and Beijing; the program also is scheduled to include a visit to the city of Cangzhou, home to a factory owned by Birmingham-based McWane Corporation.
That local connection is a further reminder of the importance of Asia to Alabama’s future, Pang says. “China already knows much about us and our business practices, but Americans need to learn more about China if they are to succeed in business.”
Watch a slideshow of images from the 2008 UAB in China trip.