Bauer Executive MBA Students Bring Potential Energy Solutions to Lithuania

Published on September 2, 2014

International Business Residency Gives EMBAs Opportunity to Bring Business Acumen, Solutions

Executive MBA students at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston brought their business acumen and potential solutions to Lithuanian energy leaders as part of the International Business Residency (IBR) program over the summer.

Executive MBA students at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston brought their business acumen and potential solutions to Lithuanian energy leaders as part of the International Business Residency (IBR) program during the summer.

A class of Executive MBA students at the C. T. Bauer College of Business underwent the ultimate global test recently, applying classroom knowledge to real-world experience, by bringing potential solutions to leaders of an energy-challenged northern European nation.

Through the EMBA program’s International Business Residency (IBR), 28 students journeyed to Lithuania and across the Baltic Sea to Denmark in just ten days. Students not only heard from a panel of high-ranking government and banking officials, but were able to collaborate with these leaders, sharing their ideas for improving international relations within the emerging energy sector.

“Lithuania has old world business customs attributed to the country being over 1,000 years old. It’s really important to understand the region before trying to do business,” EMBA candidate Chat Lenhart said. “This country is still in its initial stages of developing its energy sector. They have a long way to go, but we were able to help them decide on the basics they need to get there.”

In recent years, Lithuania has made strides in establishing independence from Russia, but the country is still structuring strategic plans to move away from its reliance on expensive Russian energy to create a sustainable economy of its own. Lithuanian leaders have done this in one way by reducing usage of Russian energy by 30 percent through their liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project, which helps perpetuate their natural gas supply.

In 2010, UH Assistant Professor of Biology and Biochemistry Jokubas Ziburkus built connections with two universities in his home country as well as the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington. Houston’s position as the energy capital of the world and Ziburkus’ connections soon created a natural partnership with Bauer College, a leader in energy education and research.

“It was amazing how the university got experts of this caliber together,” EMBA candidate Guillermo Ramirez said. “We were able to witness the negotiation of real geopolitical issues that affect how we would normally consider doing business.”

Bauer College Associate Professor of Management and IBR Director Roger Blakeney said the partnership benefits Lithuania — whose leaders learn about the college’s energy education and research — and the Bauer students who attend.

“A program like IBR is truly unique. This trip allowed students to get their mind around Lithuania and learn how they conduct business,” Blakeney said. “The country is an extremely important transportation and communication corridor in the Baltic, which is a critical link in global transportation and communication.”

Students were able to see these industries in action as they toured some of the Lithuanian companies. They were also able to tour the Presidential Palace as well as share ideas on energy education with Lithuanian MBA students at the host institution, Vilinius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU). There was a debate on higher education and how it ultimately contributes back to the economy

“Lithuanian students are just like us. However, the country’s older foreign policies mean they lack the ability for providing dual citizenship. This creates a hard time for keeping people in the country, particularly those who end up getting their degree somewhere like the U.S.,” EMBA candidate Donna Phonevilay said. “If they aren’t able to live and work in the country once they graduate, that knowledge is essentially lost and the economy can’t progress.”

For Phonevilay, the trip’s highlight was helping Lithuanians find pockets of opportunity they want to explore. One such opportunity is to create relationships with neighboring countries in the Baltic region that are familiar with European culture and can exercise more power economically and politically.

“This trip was just a stepping stone for their country,” she said. “For me, it was an eye opening opportunity to learn global leadership.”

By Danielle Ponder