The inaugural class of the College of Charleston's new fast-track master of business administration degree is about to finish the program, but not before a trip to China to learn about the business climate and culture there.

Alan Shao, dean of the college's business school, said the 13-month accelerated MBA program, which was launched last summer, has been a success so far. The program focuses on business in the Charleston area, but also strives to bring students global knowledge, he said. "I didn't think our business school could be a real business school without being global," he said.

Twenty-three students will graduate in August, Shao said, after they take a three-week group trip to China in June. The students will visit many different businesses, especially those that focus on manufacturing, and some universities, he said.

Kathryn Metscher, 23, said the MBA program "challenged us to our limits." Metscher, who is from Duxbury, Mass., and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the College of Charleston in 2010, said the program packs a lot into 13 months. It worked well for her because she wanted "to get in and get out."

Rhonda Mack, an associate dean in the business school, said students must be prepared to put nearly all of their energy into the program. They can do very little outside work.

That's different than a lot of MBA programs, which offer night classes to working professionals, Shao said. The Charleston area had evening programs, but didn't have a daytime, accelerated program until the college launched its program last year, he said.

Students in the current class had a choice of focusing on finance or marketing, he said. But the next class, which will begin in August with about 30 students, also can choose to focus on revenue management in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Tuition and fees for the 13-month program are about $24,000, Mack said. The rate is the same for South Carolina residents and out-of-state students. Out-of-state students are either given scholarships or they work as graduate assistants, she said, both of which qualify them to pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. Students also must cover the cost of their three-week experience abroad and other expenses, she said.

Shao said the program teaches students not only the essential academic courses, but also prepares them to function in the business world. Local business leaders address students every Friday, he said. And all students get coaching from the college's men's golf coach, Mark McEntire.

A great deal of business is conducted on golf courses, Shao said, so it's important for students to have a basic understanding of the game. "You don't have to be good at golf," he said. "You just have to know how to use golf to your advantage."