Dr. Yuping Zeng Thrives on Enhancing Business Acumen of Online MBA Students

Two years after Dr. Yuping Zeng arrived in the United States from China in 2006, she started a faculty position at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) that is still going strong.

Dr. Zeng worked as a post-doctoral researcher in international business and strategic management and as an instructor at the Ohio State University before she returned home to graduate from Peking University in Beijing. After that, she came back to America and stayed.

“In the North American Ph.D. model, teaching is part of your future career,” she said. “Not all Ph.D. programs teach students how to teach, so watching how your professors approach their classes was a major source of learning.”

“I did a lot of professional development when I came to SIUE on the teaching side. It was a learning process in the beginning. The more I do it, the more I like it. I enjoy what I do.”

Dr. Zeng teaches Strategic Management and Competing in Emerging Markets in the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs at SIUE.

“Both of my courses require analytical skills,” she said. “For the Strategic Management course, each student works on a simulation where they serve as the CEO of a company”.

“Then, they make decisions related to research and development, production, marketing, and finance. It requires a lot of thinking, data analysis, and reasoning to support their decisions. The students say that it’s hard but a good learning experience.”

In Competing in Emerging Markets, Dr. Zeng’s students acquire country-level data from institutions such as the World Bank and the Heritage Foundation.

“They have to pull data and analyze a country’s institutional and market environments,” she said. “Then, they present and interpret the data to draw insights on the market prospects for a company that wants to expand into emerging markets.

“The other analytics skills come from case analyses, which are common in the MBA programs.”

Scenario Analysis

Dr. Zeng planned to major in future and options when she enrolled in college. However, since she did not get a spot in that program, she opted for urban economics and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from University of Finance and Economics in 1999.

“I did my master’s degree in macroeconomics and my Ph.D. in management,” she said.

“It was a natural transition from urban economics in my undergrad, which is a medium level of economics, to a macro level in my master’s degree program. I eventually went to the third level: management.”

Dr. Zeng was an assistant professor at SIUE until 2016 when she received tenure and became an associate professor.

“The MBA program has evolved during my time here,” she said. “When I came to SIUE, we didn’t have an online program — we offered a 10-week night class format and a three-weekend format.

“We went to hybrid five or six years ago. We changed it from 10 weeks to eight weeks and shortened the length of each class period from four hours to three hours by moving certain content to online. ”

In 2019, SIUE went to fully online MBA programs, creating opportunities for more potential students to return to higher education and earn an advanced degree.

“Teaching online has been a learning process,” she said. “I still do office hours each week, but it’s not mandatory for students to attend. My students are located all over the place because students are often in different time zones.”

“The online option broadens the students’ scope. Going fully online was good timing with COVID-19, as both my students and I were already familiar with the virtual environment. It didn’t impact me in terms of work.”

Windfall Gains

Dr. Zeng especially enjoys teaching and interacting with business students because they are typically ready and willing to learn.

“People who decide to enroll in an MBA program are already self-motivated,” she said. “They bring their experiences to the class, which helps themselves and others learn. They’re mature and pleasant to interact with.”

According to Dr. Zeng, the biggest key to success for those students in the online MBA programs at SIUE is the ability to apply the knowledge they learn to real-world problems.

“My course projects are naturally applied, but students sometime struggle with applying what they learn in the textbook into simulations or case studies to make a decision or support their arguments,” she said. It’s a useful skill that students can get better at since multiple courses require applications.”

Dr. Zeng enjoys reading and enhancing her own knowledge by watching interviews and seminars on various YouTube channels. Her favorite part of teaching is seeing her students walk across the stage at commencement.

“Strategic Management is the capstone course,” she said. “Most students take it toward the end of the program, so seeing them graduate, I feel like I made an impact on their lives.”

“Most of my students move up in the same organization or get new opportunities; it’s a joy to see them get there. Students have often told me about getting an interview before their degree is done. That also makes me feel like I am impacting their lives.”

Learn more about SIUE’s online MBA programs.

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