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Getting Down to Business-Recruiting International MBA Students

By Fernandez, Kim | International Educator, May/June 2010 | Go to article overview

Getting Down to Business-Recruiting International MBA Students


Fernandez, Kim, International Educator


LIKE MANY STUDENTS, Reem Nassar's first job after college graduation taught her about working with others and dealing with projects in the real world...and that her chosen major just wasn't a great match for the career she wanted.

Nassar worked in electrical engineering for just seven months after earning her bachelors in the field in her native Jordan, realizing along the way that what she really wanted to do was help fledgling Asian and Middle Eastern companies establish themselves as international businesses. That's pretty hard to do as a young engineer, and she started looking to get her MBA.

She knew off the bat that earning her graduate degree from an international institution would give her hands-on experience that would help her land her dream job after graduation, and going to a program put on by Thunderbird School of Global Management, Phoenix, Arizona, helped her decide where to study.

"They talked about their scholarship program," says the 26-year-old, now in her second term at the school. "1 liked what they said and applied, and they picked me."

So far, she says, the school is "amazing. What's really great about Thunderbird for me is that you experience what they're teaching." A recent project paired her with five fellow students, she says, all of whom were from different countries.

"We're all from different places and we're working on a project together," she says. "That helps us use what we're learning in an actual experience." She hopes to work in the United States for a time after her graduate in May 2011, and then head back across the ocean to work in Asia or the Middle East.

Nassar isn't that unusual- around the world, representatives of MBA and other postgraduate business schools say that earning one's degree entirely or in part from a university in another country is a hot trend that started about a decade ago and gives no signs of letting up. That, they say, can be traced to an increasingly global economy, where even small companies are doing at least some business overseas, either in their own foreign facilities or in those of international companies they partner with.

Another trend those schools are seeing is students who are younger, many fresh out of undergrad colleges and universities, and less experienced in the business world. On the flip side of that are students who have years of experience in professional jobs but are looking to change careers or have been laid off, forcing them to hone their skills. Unlike previous generations, these more established students are also often attending MBA programs on their own dimes and not with the assistance of employers. And that means they want to finish up as quickly and efficiently as possible so they can get back to their job searches with a little more heft added to their resumes.

All of these trends among students mean that international MBA programs have had to keep one step ahead to compete. The really desirable programs offer some kind of education abroad, either entirely or in part, along with real-world experience and business visits for students who want to study intently so they can earn their degrees in an expethent manner. And even that's not enough- those who offer all of that have to work and work to get the word out about their programs and head out into the world to recruit students, many of whom are extraordinarily choosy about where their education dollars will go.

Schools are adapting. Some say it's all a natural progression of what they've been doing for years anyway, and that they set their own example for good business practices. Others say it hasn't been quite that simple, but that they're making changes to keep their international programs competitive. Those changes, they say, will be long term, and the industry hasn't stopped changing yet.

Recruiting Students

Thunderbird School of Global Management has been offering graduate degrees since 1966; there are no undergrad programs at the school.

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