A Guest Post by Brendan Cruickshank
A shift of business school curricula nationwide by the Ivy League makes me wonder about the future of the U.S. job landscape – will we lose our MBAs to other countries? A Feb. 3 Wall Street Journal reports that University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School dramatically boosted its business program’s focus on global business, marking a growing trend at prestigious MBA programs beefing up their international education more than ever. Having seen several of my friends and colleagues take their careers abroad – including to South Africa and England – the trend looks real.
I was even more intrigued as I heard the “good” news about the unemployment rate dropping to 9% in January, down by 0.4% and the lowest level since April 2009. It makes me wonder if these people dropping out of the job force may end up looking elsewhere. Some may not wish to make such a huge leap abroad, but others are more than willing. Besides meeting a most basic need – a job – the experience could open future doors and make job candidates worldlier, thus more enticing.
The Wharton School is in effect changing the “architecture” of its MBA program to cater to this trend. The new program includes classes, “modules,” in eight countries – including China, Israel and South America – and the appointment of a Vice Deans in Global Initiatives, Social Impact, and Innovation. Among the pathways students can take are Finance and the Global Economy and Managing the Global Enterprise. “The architecture of the curriculum addresses the needs of a new global generation through flexibility, rigor and innovation,” Thomas S. Robertson, Dean of the Wharton School said in the Wall Street Journal article. “Our research shows that this generation of business leaders wants greater control over educational choices, continued exposure to peers with deep, global experience and more opportunity in their academic experience to self-analyze and self-reflect.”
Mr. Robertson added that the school made the changes after interviewing 4,000 executives, alumni, faculty and students. So what can MBA candidates expect to gain from these program changes? Says Robertson, “They’re in the U.K., Israel, India, China, South Africa and Brazil. The courses would be relevant to that environment. So as we’re teaching in Brazil it’s about sustainability, and when we’re teaching in Israel it’s about technology and one of the courses in India is about health care in India and what we can learn from that experience.”
These changes aren’t just adding classes, they are fundamentally restructuring the leading business schools in the nation. Most of the changes that all of these schools have in common is the cultivation of even more leadership skills, enforcing mandatory study abroad trips, and responding to the increasing diversity of student populations. So who’s doing it? To name a few, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale.
Last month, the Harvard Business School voted to change the slant of its curriculum toward global business, which BusinessWeek earlier reported. Among the changes, students will take a first-year course entitled Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development, in part developed for graduates to “make a difference in the world,” according to Harvard Business School officials. Harvard and Wharton are not alone. Fortune links the changes, in part, to the U.S. economic downturn. “The changes to Harvard’s MBA program are part of a larger series of changes at business schools since the economic meltdown of 2008. Some critics pointed a finger at business schools and their MBAs for the collapse of Wall Street and the banking system. Since then, numerous business schools – including Wharton, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale – have unveiled both major and minor changes to their MBA programs.”
The U.S. News & World Report echoes these findings and agree the economy shares the blame. At the Yale School of Management, the magazine reports, students will take an “International Experience trip.” The program also offers increased study abroad opportunities. “Additional study abroad opportunities exist through the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing,” the magazine reports, adding that students also have access to participation in the International Center for Finance (ICF). The Yale center “provides active support for research in financial economics by its fellows and disseminates their work to the world’s academic and professional communities,” according to the ICF website.
It is the job of these business schools to look out for their students’ best interests, and that means responding to the highest level of globalization ever in world economic history. Could it have mass implications for our workforce? Maybe. Will it give MBA candidates the best chance possible at success? Absolutely.
About the Author
Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) – Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. He is quoted regularly as an expert in employment and jobs trends in major media outlets like the Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Forbes and has spoken at recruiting industry events such as Onrec and Kennedy Informationís Corporate Recruiting Conference.