Iris Hui sitting in a chair
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Lesanne B. Fliehler

Although the vast majority of students start and finish in the same location, for the intrepid few, the opportunity does exist to take MBA coursework in more than one location.

What’s it take to enroll in an MBA program in Hong Kong and finish it on campus in Iowa City? A strong desire in the student and supportive staff in the Tippie College of Business.

Iris Hui began her MBA coursework in the college’s Hong Kong MBA Program, specifically choosing the program because it was one of the very few taught on weekends and taught by American faculty.

Before enrolling in the Tippie MBA program, Iris was the assistant to the general manager with the Monty Group in Mainland China where she helped set up a 3,500-worker garment factory, the Monty Group’s core business.

She would eventually move up through the company to become a financial business analyst, business analyst, and project director, helping the general manager with the daily management of the facility’s operations. Five years ago she transferred to the company’s agriculture division, participating in new business development. After analyzing the company’s agriculture business in Central America where there was a 7,400-acre farm, she suggested that the company begin growing agricultural markets in China, too. She spent 1½ years conducting market research, and the company eventually set up a small, 123-acre farm in China.

Iris studied at Zhanjiang Ocean University in China, but because it wasn’t a business degree, she felt something was holding her back. After moving to Hong Kong, she studied management accounting part-time with the encouragement of the owner of the Monty Group.

“The executives I worked with were talking about strategy all the time,” she says, “and because I didn’t know the language of business, I knew I needed that in order to pursue a management career.”

“At the encouragement of the Monty Group owner, I considered getting a degree in microeconomics,” she says, “but a successful entrepreneur friend thought I was ‘going too deep’ and suggested I get an MBA.

“I started to search online and narrowed down my choices to schools that offered an American education in Hong Kong,” Iris says. “Many programs offer courses at night during the weekdays after work, but Tippie’s program was very attractive to me because it was taught on weekends and courses were taught by professors from the United States,” she says. “I also knew I wanted to study abroad, and when I learned I could study abroad for two months as part of the course work, I chose this program.”

Hui flew the 7,700 miles from Hong Kong to Iowa City last August and enrolled in the few courses she needed to graduate. But once here, she found she loved being a full-time student.

“We study more deeply and have more interaction with classmates as a full-time student,” she says. “Plus, I appreciate the support I get from faculty here. I feel this is just the right place for study.”

Iris is the first student to transfer to the program and continue taking courses as a Full-time MBA Program student in the Finance Career Academy.

“At first, I thought my chances of staying here were really low, but after talking with David Frasier, who was teaching the Strategic Cost Analysis course I was taking, I knew I was in good hands.”

In order to enroll, the Hong Kong MBA team, including Brandelle Unkrich and Stephanie Schnicker helped her find local Iowa City housing and complete the visa and I-20 paperwork, which is a certificate that gave her nonimmigrant student status.

Although Iris took more courses than she needed to graduate, she says they will be very useful to her. Iris would love to work in the United States if she can find a job that she is passionate about.

“I had been involved in the corporate management strategy role, but I would like to transfer to the financial services area. I knew I’d need more finance courses in order to find a position in that field in Hong Kong,” she says.

The MBA Career Services staff were very helpful, she says.

“The staff give me a lot of insight into my career options,” she says, “and the alumni who return to campus to hire strong MBA graduates have been helpful, too.”

Iris says she feels more confident, knows herself better, and realizes what she values in a career.

“Before I enrolled in the MBA program, I would do whatever the Monty Group assigned me to do. But I was limited,” she says. “Now I know what my value is in the market, and I can better choose the kind of career I want.”

Now that Iris has forged the way, another student from Taiwan has come to the college to study. Iris and Maggie lived with a young American couple and their one-year-old daughter, which provided them the opportunity to experience real American culture, she says.

“She’s following in my shoes doing the same thing,” Iris says. “I hope in the future, more students in the Hong Kong program will consider this. It’s a really great opportunity.


In addition to offering its MBA programming in the United States (in Iowa City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities), the college also brings its MBA coursework and its faculty to Hong Kong and Italy. In the Italy program, students travel to the University of Iowa for the final month in the program, competing in a real-world business simulation course, getting an inside look at U.S. companies, and receiving their degree at a formal graduation ceremony. So far, students have transferred from Hong Kong to the Full-time MBA Program, to Italy, and have participated in a Global Learning Opportunity trip to Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Others have moved from the full-time on-campus program to Italy and to Hong Kong for coursework.

Hong Kong MBA Program: Students in Hong Kong learn from the same internationally recognized faculty who teach in the college’s on-campus MBA programs. The program is ideal for working professionals who continue working while enrolling in courses held on Saturdays and Sundays. Most students have at least four years of full-time work experience before enrolling. New courses begin almost monthly, so students can choose to begin at a time that works for them. Many students complete the program in as little as 15-20 months. More than 250 students have graduated from this program since 2002.

CIMBA Italy MBA Program: Students in this MBA program study in the picturesque town of Paderno del Grappa, Italy. Attendance may be full-time or part-time; full-time students graduate in 11 months while part-time students graduate in two years. Frequent speakers include leaders from northern Italy’s small entrepreneurial businesses and multinational companies as well as CIMBA alumni. Courses are taught by top U.S. and European professors, including Tippie faculty members. Over the years, CIMBA has attracted students from more than 50 countries. Students range between 25 and 30 years old and have a minimum of two years of work experience.