U.S. business schools are revamping
curriculum so students understand what makes the world go
When Al Niemi opened The Wall Street Journal that morning,
he knew the news wouldn't be all bad. "I was confident we'd be in
the top 25," says Niemi, dean of the Cox School of Business at
Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "So I suppose you can say
I was mildly surprised - and quite pleased to be there."
"There" was this year's ranking of U.S. business schools, which
rated SMU - regarded as little more than a regional program as late
as the mid-1990s - as the ninth best in the country. And the muscle
that allowed it to elbow into the MBA elite with schools like
Harvard University and The Wharton School was its American Airlines
Global Leadership Program, in which every MBA student spends a year
studying a continent, and then two weeks overseas observing how
business works in those countries.
Cox is not alone in its international focus. These kinds of global
programs are changing the face of business schools, as more of them
- twice as many as 10 years ago, by one count - add to or replace
the traditional MBA curriculum, even opening foreign campuses and
partnering with schools overseas.
"The most salient question our students were asking us was, 'What
can you give me that will give me a competitive edge?'" says Dan
Nagy, the associate dean for MBA programs at Duke University's
Fuqua School of Business, which offers two cutting-edge
international degree plans. "They know their companies are doing
business globally. They want to learn what that means. So we
designed programs for them to do that."
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