Cross-Border Learning Opportunity

MEM students in Engineering Management will collaborate with students in Mexico to run a simulated auto manufacturer and try to turn the struggling company around.

Students in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program have teamed up with counterparts in Mexico to take over operation of a struggling multibillion dollar automaker with the hopes of turning it around.

Well, kind of.
Max Hernandez
The MEM students are part of the Engineering Management course offered this fall and have been split into teams to compete in a global business simulation. The class is led by adjunct professor Max Hernandez, who also serves as vice president of PriSim Business War Games Inc.

The course has been offered for many years, but this is the first time MEM students are working with counterparts from Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of the top Latin American universities..

“This is an opportunity to interact with people from one of the United States’ largest trading partners, which could help students in their future business dealings,” Hernandez said. “It can spark creativity and improve their cultural sensitivity, something needed throughout their career.”

The goal of each team is as simple as it is challenging: Over several simulated years in a competitive marketplace, build market share, improve profits, and beat the competition.

“Students are tasked to develop a business plan and execute it,” Hernandez said. “In the process, students learn about leadership, teamwork, finance, accounting, and strategic thinking.”

Teams make decisions in production, distribution, financing, marketing, technology, and research and development. In doing so, they must focus on profitability, customer satisfaction, inventory levels, and other key performance indicators.

“I like to think about the class as a business laboratory in which students learn by doing,” Hernandez said. “There is a lot of discussion and debate as they run their companies.”

Students also will learn from Tec de Monterrey Professor Enrique Díaz de León.

"By creating this new high-value international alliance with Northwestern,'' Diaz de León said, "we hope that students will learn how to overcome challenges, connect people through the integration of different platforms, and become leaders who solve humanity’s greatest challenges."

Students will also learn from several other Northwestern professors, including:

● Robin Soffer, who will provide students with the accounting fundamentals needed to understand the financial statements
● Gail Berger, who will help students learn how to operate most effectively as a managerial unit
● MEM Director Mark Werwath, who will share best practices for compelling and effective business presentations.

While only one team will walk away with bragging rights for executing the most impressive turnaround, all students will come away with a valuable learning experience.

On the final day of the class, students will present their work and be asked what was most valuable in the class.

“Success, for me, is measured in the quality of the students’ key takeaways,” Hernandez said. “If the students learned something that will help them in their career, better understand business, become better employees or entrepreneurs, then I consider the class to be successful.”

MEM program leaders said they hope this initial collaboration with the students from Tec de Monterrey is the beginning of a long-term relationship. If all goes well, the hope is to offer an in-person exchange program between the two universities.

Hernandez said he’s excited to be involved in the early stages of what he expects to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

"This opportunity will broaden the students’ professional network,” he said.

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