Independence Day: US Business Schools Share Stories Of Diversity And Social Impact

Business schools in the United States have plenty of reasons to be positive, despite the political gloom

From an outside perspective, the reputation of the US seems to be in perpetual freefall, spoken into submission by President Trump’s anti-immigration, protectionist rhetoric.

When the Declaration of Independence was finalized on July 4th, 1776, few would have guessed that, 242 years later, the man at the helm of the United States of America would be Donald Trump.

This Independence Day, we picked out some stories which highlight how diversity, collaboration, and integration are still as ripe as ever across business schools in the US; call it our Declaration of Interdependence if you will.


An international Merrill-go-round

Leke Sodipe hails from Nigeria, holds an undergraduate degree from the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, and has just finished his MBA at Yale School of Management; a seasoned traveler, then.

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After returning from China, he built up a passion for investment banking, working first for the Nigerian Stock Exchange before becoming an associate with United Capital Plc. Those jobs tickled his yearnings for a more international investment banking experience.

“There’s pretty much only one capital market that is extremely robust,” he says, “and that’s the US. So, I pursued an MBA to make that transition.”

In the middle of his MBA at Yale, he landed a summer associate position with Bank of America Merrill Lynch—he’s set to start a full-time position in New York with the bank next week.

Was he ever concerned about his career post-graduation? “There’s always a concern, especially with the way things have gone politically,” he explains. “But, the truth is there are plenty of opportunities. Big companies are always looking for qualified candidates.”

International graduates need not fret. A lot of the larger corporations—the multinationals—Leke says, have international offices that offer the opportunity to transfer should there be visa troubles, or issues around immigration.

“The industry I’m recruiting for is open and willing to hire international students right from the get go,” Leke asserts.

Opportunity extended to his MBA peer network too—Leke says a number of fellow international graduates from the Yale MBA class of 2018 landed roles in the investment banking sector, consulting, and tech. They have started working on the West Coast, in the mid-west, and around 30 have joined him in New York.

Through exposure to multiple countries, Leke has come to understand the importance of cross-cultural immersion.

“My parents were diplomats and so growing up I lived all over the place,” Leke continues. “Learning about different cultures is important for growing your outlook. You come up with your own opinions and I when I went to Yale my ideas were always challenged by people from different backgrounds […] and you learn something from everybody.”


InterNATIONAL

Across the US, many business schools boast a strong international student presence. It’s something that Jason Garner, director of admissions at American University’s Kogod School of Business, says schools pride themselves on.

“International students bring a unique cultural and business perspective to our curriculum that we not only welcome, but also celebrate,” he says. “As we continue to see a solid number of strong international applications, we will also be actively recruiting international students into our programs this coming recruitment cycle.”

Looking at the Financial Times’ Global MBA ranking 2018, Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business sits top of the pile in the US when it comes to international student percentage—79% of the MBA cohort originate from outside of the US.

50% of the MBA cohort at Columbia are international students, followed by MIT Sloan, where 45% of MBAs are international—Chicago Booth and Yale also boast the same figure—and Yale (43%), as well as USC Marshall (38%).

A host of other schools have MBA cohorts where international students make up over one-third of the class—Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, for example, where 33% of MBAs are international.

Ming Xu is one of those students, an MBA graduate from the class of 2018 at Tepper, who is a senior associate for PwC.

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“US firms want to hire international students because they bring value to the firms,” he says. “If companies find some international students who own some valuable skillsets or experience, they still want to do sponsorship case by case.”

Ming says that most of his international classmates landed jobs in the US after graduation, primarily in the consulting and technology sectors. He wants to stay in the US long-term and, he says, Tepper plays a big role in consulting and coaching international students to alleviate any fears they had when moving to the US.

“The career advisors,” Ming says, “provided one-to-one coaching to each student regarding the company research, networks, and interview preparation through the whole recruiting process.”

The school’s International Communication Center (ICC) also provides international students with courses to improve their English-speaking skills, and to gain a deeper understanding of American culture.

Sumiran Dutta is one of Ming’s fellow international peers on the MBA at Tepper—he will begin work with Amazon in July, as a senior category merchant manager.

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He too would like to remain in the US long term. “If fate deems it,” he says.

“The US has been and continues to be the center of innovation and management thought. This is reflected in the stream of new businesses and ideas continuously being developed.

“The most fertile ground for freshly minted MBAs who want to apply their learning from school and continue the sense of forward momentum [is the US].”

He echoes Ming in saying that business schools have a responsibility to equip students with the tools they need to become successful managers and global leaders—that will inevitably lead to employment, he adds.

For Sumiran, the US job market is a meritocracy. “The systems […] are fair enough for skilled and hard workers to be adequately rewarded,” he says.

“What I think will distinguish those business schools that successfully attract international students is that these schools will effectively and clearly communicate their available resources to students and how these resources have helped their candidates further themselves and their careers.”


READ: STEM-Designated Masters Bring New Hope For US Business Schools

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Global network

Going to a business school in the US is not the be-all and end-all for students wishing to gain an understanding of the American marketplace. Indeed, by working with business schools outside of the US, American-based students are immersed in multiple marketplaces, learning to work multilaterally.

The Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) is a group of 30 business schools from 28 countries, spread across Europe, The Americas, and the Asia Pacific.

Professor Sudhir from Yale School of Management says it ties into Yale’s understanding of the benefits of international collaboration. “Globalization is a big part of what we’re trying to promote, and the network gives that opportunity,” he says.

Students studying at any of the member schools can participate in week-long intensive study at any of the other institutions—HEC Paris or IE Business School in Europe, for instance, or the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in Asia.

Yale also offers a one-year Master of Advanced Management program for exceptional graduates from any of the GNAM member schools.

In today’s digitized world, business leaders also need to be able to communicate and build relationships with each other online. Small Network Online Courses (SNOCs) enable GNAM partner institutions to collaborate to offer for-credit courses virtually, delivered by a single institution.

Sudhir says that he offered an online course on mobile banking which had students from Yale working together with peers from schools all around the globe. By jointly working together on international projects and problem-solving tasks, students gained an understanding of how mobile banking works or doesn’t work in various countries.

“It doesn’t just encourage [students] to work across countries, but they also experience working in cross country teams.”

Access to US business schools is no longer restricted to America’s shores. Online MBAs are on the rise—in the most recent Online MBA ranking by the Financial Times, 14-out-of-20 programs were offered by schools based in the US—and are a great way for international students to use the education on offer at US business schools to impact their careers in their home nations.

The Online MBA  at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business—ranked among the top 10 programs of its kind by US News and World Report—is a program developed for the digital age.

Working with peers all around the world, students on the program learn the skills imperative to business leaders today: entrepreneurship; cross-cultural communication; data analytics; and social media.

They also work in virtual teams, learning to build relationships and negotiate digitally with fellow future business leaders around the globe.


Just the three of us

Business has a responsibility to work to reduce social inequality and provide opportunity for members of society stuck between an economic rock and a hard place.

Three teams of students from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business this summer completed the Ross Open Road challenge—a social-impact based road trip now in its third year, where teams of students travel across the US helping small business owners tackle real time business problems, while gaining real-life experience of what it is to run a successful business venture.

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TeamACAI—made up of Ian Stackhouse-Kaelble, Apoorva Kanneganti, Alexis Morath, and Courtney Poopat—had experience in healthcare, technology, financial services, and education.

They began by working with the Michigan Good Food Fund—a $30 million public-private loan fund providing financing to good food enterprises who in turn increase access to affordable, healthy food in low-income and underserved communities in Michigan.

That work set the tone for the entire Open Road initiative. They also worked with Mindshift—a venture that develops highly skilled people on the autism spectrum, readying them for work—and community housing development organization, Homes First, in Washington.

What the Ross Open Road initiative does is drive home the message that business can and should be a force for good. By travelling across the country and collaborating with small businesses and non-profit organizations who look out for the underserved, communities are reminded that they do matter, and that there are a group of people working to ensure they are not left behind.

The other two teams—MACK and THIS—had a similar experience to their peers in TeamACAI.

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TeamMACK—made up of Mark Green, Allison Bernstein, Kashay Sanders, and Christopher Own—worked with organizations like Green Opportunities in Asheville, who develop people from marginalized communities into potential candidates for careers in sustainable business.

TeamTHIS—the combined effort of Tsering Sherpa, Stephanie Dollan, Jinny Han, and Thai Ha-Ngoc—travelled from Michigan to Montana and Washington. On the road, they worked with Western Sustainability Exchange, who work to increase the economic viability of sustainably produced food in Montana.

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They finished their trip in Seattle, collaborating with Catalyst Kitchens—a network of more than 50 impact-oriented organizations who inspire people through job training, social enterprise revenue generation, and quality food.

So, there you have it, a roundup of some of the best stories of diversity and social impact coming out of US business schools today. In contrast to the rhetoric coming out of the Oval Office, when it comes to cross-border collaboration and integration in America, US business schools seem to be trumping the President.

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