Business Schools Embrace World of Emerging Markets
As the most market-driven educational sector, it’s only natural that business schools should constantly innovate and develop new programs to meet the changing needs of students in the global business environment. Washington-area business schools are no exception. As the weight of the global economy shifts from the developed world to emerging markets, local colleges and universities are crafting new programs to prepare graduates for a career in which they are as likely to do business in Shanghai as in Seattle, in Bangalore as in Boston. Like the students they hope to attract, the new programs offer master’s degrees in business administration that are highly flexible, international and technologically savvy. They tend to have a worldview focused not merely on profits, but on improving the lot of humankind. They are certainly not your grandfather’s MBA. In the global competition for students and funding, business schools in the Washington metropolitan region know they have a key competitive advantage: proximity and access to international financial and development institutions, embassies, NGOs, think tanks and the wealth of federal government agencies in the nation’s capital. “It’s always been my feeling that we need to exploit our location advantage,” said Frank DuBois, chair of the International Business Department at American University’s Kogod School of Business. “You know we’re not in Harrisonburg, or Blacksburg, Virginia, or in the middle of Kansas. We’re in Washington — and we need to get involved with the IMF and the World Bank and the embassy community, and talk about the market opportunities our students are going to have going forward.” In addition to teaching courses on a variety of international business topics, DuBois directs the Kogod Global Management Institute (KGMI), an intensive course geared toward graduate students and working professionals who want to get a Washington perspective on emerging markets. KGMI is tapping the wave of interest — and money — flowing to more than two dozen emerging economies that have withstood, and even prospered from the 2008 global financial crisis. Earlier this year, the Institute of International Finance forecast that net private capital flows to emerging markets are likely to total around 0 billion this year and rise to about 8 billion in 2011. That’s compared to a total of 5 billion in 2009, but down from the record high of more than class=”import-text”>2010November.Broad-Based MBAs.txt trillion in 2007, before the crisis hit. “As world economies begin to regain their footing following the global economic downturn, companies are repositioning themselves for future growth,” explained DuBois. Many companies looking to invest in emerging markets will naturally focus on powerhouses such as the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but other economies in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia are also attracting attention. Moreover, conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan present unique opportunities in funding sources for humanitarian projects, as do troubled nations such as Haiti, where the challenge of rebuilding the infrastructure and economy will require immense international investment. Each situation requires its own particular business savvy, according to KGMI. “The institute was developed to help those interested … in emerging markets navigate [and] anticipate what those different approaches, market entries and development strategies are or will be,” DuBois said. DuBois, who has taught at American University for 22 years, developed the institute last fall and spring. The inaugural session was held over a week in late May, and drew largely students from American’s business school, its School of International Service, as well as some embassies and government contractors. As they competed in teams to complete case studies, students engaged in an intense schedule of visits and discussions with experts and practitioners from institutions including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and U.S. Trade Representative Office. DuBois is now preparing next year’s institute, taking into account lessons learned from the first. The second KGMI will be held over two weeks in July 2011 and will focus on preparing students from emerging markets to do business in the United States. “You don’t want to have a course for [students from] emerging markets and then teach about emerging markets themselves,” DuBois pointed out. Next year’s institute will set a somewhat slower pace, he added, allowing international students to take in Washington and New York, as well as getting to know key institutions and players. KGMI is a concentrated introduction to Washington’s role in international business that’s well suited for busy professionals. But at two weeks, it does not offer the depth of longer-term executive MBA programs. Doug Guthrie, the new dean of the George Washington University School of Business, is currently developing one such program. A China scholar with more than 20 years of experience researching economic development issues there, Guthrie came to GW by way of New York University’s Stern School of Business. Guthrie’s ambition is to take full advantage of GW’s traditional strength in international business (it kept its international business department when many other schools shut theirs in the 1990s) and its location in Foggy Bottom to carve out a niche in an area he feels other schools are neglecting: international development. “I’m very interested in issues of development in emerging economies and the strains on the global economic system,” he said. “We can talk about that in terms of pollution and sustainability. Or we can talk about it in terms of water, food and infrastructure. Those kinds of issues, it seems to me, are immensely interesting and exciting. And so even in a place like China, which is now the number two economy in the world, there are immense strains that are hidden behind the curtain on issues of water and food and infrastructure. “Those sound like economic development questions, but I believe the business of economic development is an interesting place to play in, and I don’t think many business schools are doing that.” Though he doesn’t yet have a launch date for the executive MBA focusing on emerging markets, Guthrie is confident it will happen before too long. The school is currently developing and testing models, he says, taking into consideration recent experience with other executive MBA programs concentrating on federal contracting and international development. “It’s going to happen for sure because the model is the right one,” Guthrie said. His extensive background living and working in China, and leading groups of executives there, taught him a key lesson: To understand the entire Chinese market, one has to leave the cosmopolitan centers, and five-star hotels, of Shanghai and Beijing. “If you really want to understand China, you have to go to places like Chengdu and Xi’an and Dalian, where a lot of the really interesting entrepreneurial action amongst local governments is going on — places that are not tiny cities by any standards, but places that are struggling to find their place in the Chinese national economy and in the global economy, and where the really interesting developmental action is happening,” Guthrie explained. He imagines this approach, getting to know the lesser-known interior of countries and their markets, might also be applied in India, Africa or elsewhere. It would attract students who need to cultivate business skills yet maintain maximum flexibility. “So you can imagine somebody working in China or Africa, who’s carrying out a contract for the World Bank or USAID, and really needs business skills. They come to Washington for an initial two-week module. Then they go back into the field and there’s an online component of project management or different things that would build business skills. And then they come back to Washington for a week. Maybe we also have a module in Africa or in China. And they come back or go somewhere else, and in the final month they come back to Washington. So it’s a very flexible and effective way of really developing an integrated global experience.” The modular approach to business education, which combines international travel, online learning and innovative teaching techniques, appears to be the wave of the future. As a model, Guthrie points to the top-ranked Trium Global Executive MBA, offered by NYU’s Stern School in partnership with the London School of Economics and the HEC School of Management in Paris. That program has two-week modules in New York, London, Paris, Shanghai and Mumbai. It attracts people from around the world, “but it also gives you this sense of ‘you don’t have to be in New York to have a degree from NYU,’” Guthrie said. “You need the best degree you can get, the best experience you can get. There are a lot of schools moving in that direction.” Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has already done so. In cooperation with its own Walsh School of Foreign Service and the ESADE Business School in Spain, McDonough offers a Global Executive MBA Program organized in six 12-day modules spanning 14 months around the world. In addition to studying in New York, Washington and Barcelona, students visit Buenos Aires/São Paulo, Moscow and Bangalore. Georgetown strives, in its EMBA program as well as its other business offerings, to combine the academic with the practical. All MBA students — full time, part time and executive — complete a core course on the Georgetown campus, a weeklong residency in one foreign city, and a consulting project with organizations in that country, explained Stanley Nollen, professor of international business. “In this way, international business education is experiential as well as academic,” he said. Paul Almeida, senior associate dean for executive education and co-academic director of the Georgetown Global Executive MBA Program, said his students focus specifically on four emerging markets: Argentina, Brazil, India and Russia. “More than 40 percent of the courses are taught in these emerging markets; this is something I think no other global executive MBA program does. When we spend time in these countries, we concentrate on maximizing the students’ learning by exposing them to local institutions, businesses, the role of government, markets and the role of customers in these environments,” he explained. “This program was designed specifically for those senior executives who are interested in embracing globalization and the challenges and possibilities it affords,” Almeida added. “The program has a completely different format, pedagogy and approach to education to reflect the fact that to be successful now, or five or 10 years from now, executives will have to learn different things, different sets of tools and techniques … and they have to learn them with their feet on the ground in these locations.” Georgetown’s global executive MBA is now in its third year. As more and more top business schools create programs focusing on emerging markets, the university finds itself in an increasingly crowded market. A new entrant to the field, the global MBA program at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School has already made a splash, landing a spot on Forbes magazine’s list of 10 most innovative b-school courses. The Innovation for Humanity Project will send Johns Hopkins students to an emerging economy — Rwanda, Peru, Kenya or India — to study problems in water, energy or health care systems. They then will work with scientists — including those from Johns Hopkins global network of 130 affiliated research facilities — to develop solutions to the problems. Out of this experience should come sustainable business plans for emerging markets. Yash Gupta, the dynamic dean of the Carey School, wants to help students “understand ambiguity so that they can change as the world changes.” “We need to figure out how to enhance the intellectual flexibility of our students,” he said. “The overarching goal is to create content with context — because you remember things in a context.” Deasy Priadi, a member of the inaugural class from Indonesia, says she chose the program because it “has the same values as I do.” “Growing up in a developing country, doing plenty of volunteer work during college, and working in the World Bank after I graduated has shown me firsthand what poverty can do to a community,” she said. “This has led me to think that I should do more than work in an office to maximize profit. I want to contribute more to society.” She is not alone. While Gupta expected to admit just 40 students to the first global MBA class, the overwhelming demand — 550 applied — led the school to admit 88. This desire to positively impact societies while doing business, too, is part of the emerging global business environment. And it is sure to shape b-schools’ educational offerings in the Washington area and beyond for the foreseeable future.
About the Author
Jacob Comenetz is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.