Most MBA programs tout some form of international experience, ranging from a quick dip abroad to wrap up a consulting assignment to a few weeks at a foreign firm. This limited exposure rarely gives students a true sense of doing business abroad–much less the opportunity to establish meaningful connections or to absorb cultural norms. These trips, critics contend, equip MBA candidates with just enough surface-level knowledge to do more harm than good.
Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management is hoping to change that. The B-school is rewriting the book on international MBA opportunities with its new Weatherhead Global MBA program, arguably the most immersive intercontinental MBA experience on the market. Program candidates complete full semesters at B-schools in the U.S., India, and China with a lockstep cohort of classmates from each country. The first class of 48 kicked off their world MBA tour in the fall of 2013 with a student orientation in Cleveland, OH, before shipping out to Tongji University’s School of Economics and Management in Shanghai, China, for their first semester. They’re now cramming for exams at the Xavier School of Management in Jamshedpur, India. Next on the itinerary is a summer internship, followed by a semester at Weatherhead in Cleveland, and a final semester at each student’s home institution.
Simon Peck, Weatherhead’s associate dean for MBA programs, says the Weatherhead Global MBA program is unique in the depth of international experience it provides. “In an MBA program, you may spend some time in a country. You may visit Mumbai or Shanghai as part of an international business class. But I think it’s a different experience when you’re staying in the Mumbai Marriott for a week rather than actually living there and having to deal with those sorts of complexities,” he says. “The idea that we need to have a deeper understanding of global business is not new, but I think it is unusual to go to this extent with a program or curriculum.”
Peck is confident that there’s a real market need for this type of immersive international experience. He points out that the economies in China and India are projected to grow much faster than America’s, meaning many businesses are eyeing the two BRIC economies for expansion. “We want to provide students with a much deeper appreciation for doing business in this part of the world,” he explains. Beyond the practicalities, there’s the diversity of the class and the connections. “We’re designing a high-powered global network,” he says.
For Catalina Briola, 22, the program was a way to combine an MBA with her love of travel. The undergraduate marketing major also minored in international business and had already ticked off some 15 countries before starting the Weatherhead Global MBA program. She was originally focused on B-schools outside her home state of Ohio, but the allure of international experience with the Weatherhead program proved strong. “I didn’t want to stay in Cleveland,” she says. “The program was what really drew me, so I decided to stay in Ohio–well, not really.”
Omeed Veiseh, 25, didn’t apply to the Weatherhead Global MBA program in his original application to Weatherhead’s more traditional U.S.-based MBA. But his essays and admissions interview flagged him as a prime candidate for the program (he’s also an avid traveler and has visited 21 countries). The former financial consultant jumped at the opportunity for hands-on business experience abroad. “A lot of MBA programs teach very similar curriculums, and what I like about this program is it can’t just survive off the prestige of the MBA like a lot of top 10 schools,” he explains. “It’s pushing to be innovative in the MBA scene, and it’s teaching us practical knowledge and how to deal with real-world problems.”