Thirty-four students from La Salle University in Barcelona, Spain, came to Saint Mary’s this week and took part in a global negotiation simulation with students from SMC’s School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA).


The goal of the Global Executive Negotiating Program is to enable both American and European Executive MBA students to conduct a real-world negotiation exercise where they can learn to understand and experience the negotiating styles and cross-cultural issues that arise in global business management. It is used as a training exercise in SMC’s Trans-Global Executive MBA program.  

“It was amazing to come here and do this program—after we got over the jet lag,” said La Salle student Miguel Sanchez. “I felt at home here. It was a great place, a great scenario.”

After a brief introduction by SEBA’s associate dean of Graduate Business and Global Programs, students from both schools were split into teams and given one hour to prepare for the negotiations. Spanish students were cast as purchasers and investors of a web fabrication facility in Europe, while SEBA students assumed the role of a U.S. energy development company.


Students then had an hour to work out a deal with their international counterparts, sorting through the many facets that would go into a real-world negotiation.
During the prep sessions the students reviewed data, suggested prices, established roles within teams, addressed potential issues and prepared for any anticipated cultural differences, such as dress, body language and how to handle introductions—Do we shake hands? Kiss on the cheek?

Both parties discussed the basic issues: infrastructure, equipment and land purchasing. Europe-specific issues like Eurozone regulations were also covered, as were concerns about long-term training and workforce development. Of the four negotiating pairs, three were able to reach an agreement in the final minutes of the hour.  Only one team failed to settle on terms, but they were confident a deal could have been struck with an extension on time.

After a flurry of negotiations, all the students reconvened for a reflection and brief lectures by Saint Mary’s Professor Shyam Kamath and La Salle-Barcelona Professor Jordi Garrido about culture and communication.

“You were thinking, you were translating, you were negotiating,” Sanchez said of the simulation. “It was just an exercise, but we were so nervous.”

Trans-Global Executive MBA students Virginia Chapman and Kim McAtee, who as teammates were able to reach a deal with their Spanish partners, agreed with Sanchez’s sentiment. “It’s a great simulation. It breaks down your assumptions of other cultures,” said Chapman, adding that she learned an important lesson: “We had to establish trust before we could further the relationship.”

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