UVA Darden Strengthens Connection to China and Explores Disney Magic, Shanghai-Style

By Julie Daum

As Shanghai eagerly awaits the 16 June opening of Walt Disney’s newest theme park in the Pudong district of the city, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Elliott Weiss examined the challenges of managing the operations of the resort in his case, “The Walt Disney Company: Mickey Mouse Visits Shanghai.”

At a gathering of Darden students and alumni in Shanghai in May, Weiss — who interviewed on the topic with Bloomberg — challenged the audience to examine how Disney will maintain service excellence while customizing the experience to local tastes for the 330 million people who live within a three-hour driving radius. What does Disney magic look like, Shanghai-style?

The event assembled Darden alumni; Global MBA for Executives (GEMBA) Class of 2017 students on their Chinese residency; residential MBA students on a China Global Business Experience (GBE); incoming Darden Class of 2018 students from China; members of Darden’s Global Advisory Council; members of Darden’s faculty and leadership team, including Darden Dean Scott Beardsley; and friends of the University of Virginia.

“Through alumni chapters in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, UVA’s new Shanghai Office, scholarships for Chinese students, and regular programming and visits, the Darden School is dedicated to ensuring it maintains strong connections and relationships throughout China,” said Beardsley, who traveled to both Shanghai and Beijing on the trip and met with deans of leading Chinese schools that are partner schools with Darden.

As part of the series of Shanghai events, Professor Melissa Thomas-Hunt, Darden’s global chief diversity officer, presented a Spotlight Session at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai about the unintended consequences of unconscious bias, called “Everybody’s Biased, So I Can Be Too.” The session was sponsored by Darden Executive Education, which delivers custom programs globally and was recently recognized by Financial Times for its top open programs.

On 13 May, Darden’s Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management and Center for Global Initiatives hosted the third annual Shanghai Investing Summit with the Pudong Institute of Finance to better understand what’s next for China’s volatile investing environment.

Meanwhile, the GEMBA students — led by Weiss and Professors Marc Modica, Dennis Yang and Elizabeth Demers — connected to Chinese companies and cultures. The GEMBA students studied lean management principles and kaizen at a Tektronix Danaher plan in Shanghai, which makes source meters, probes and other electronic devices. The students toured the factory in teams and then presented their recommendations for the continuous improvement of efficiency and quality to the plant’s leadership.

At a chocolate factory, they heard leadership insights from The Hershey Company’s Marc Rinaldi, who is general manager of the Lotte Shanghai Food Company Ltd. and guides the joint venture between Hershey and the Lotte Group of Korea.

Rinaldi has run factories for Hershey in the U.S., Mexico and China. Asked about cultural challenges from place to place, he said, “People everywhere are generally the same, if you look past the obvious differences. People want to make an honest living and feel good about what they are doing every day. Being a leader who people want to follow takes a recognition of that. You need to help people realize their dreams.”

Residential MBA students participating in the China GBE led by Professor Marc Lipson spent their time in Shanghai visiting a variety of companies and cultural sites of significance, such as Shanghai Baosteel, TE Connectivity, the Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, the Shanghai Museum, Zhouzhang, and Suzhou. The students also attended class sessions led by faculty members at the China Europe International Business School and interacted with CEIBS MBA students throughout the week.

The events concluded with a celebration hosted by Darden’s China Alumni Chapter at the UVA China Office in Shanghai, which opened in March 2015.

This week, UVA President Teresa Sullivan is traveling in Asia to expand opportunities for the University of Virginia.

To visit Darden on Chinese social media go to the School’s accounts on Wechat and Weibo. For more on Darden’s activities and thought leadership in China, visit Darden’s Center for Global Initiatives and the Asia Initiative, which provides a leading forum and a hub of global activities to bridge East to West.

East Asia, Fortune 500
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia