These real-world dynamics become quickly apparent in group projects, which combine students from all three countries. For a typical team exercise, Briola says she’ll work with two Indians and two Chinese students. It’s this diversity that makes the program, but it also creates a few challenges. She jokingly tells Indian classmates that a 9:30 a.m. meeting starts at 9:00 a.m., so they’ll arrive on time. “We call it Indian Standard Time,” she quips.
For Veiseh, watching their group evolve has been rewarding. “Chinese people culturally are more quiet in a group setting, so they’re not going to shout out answers; the Indian students, on the other hand, are just shooting stuff out left and right; and the Americans like a lot of structure, so all of that makes us uncomfortable,” he says. “It’s fun to see us grow at a cohort and group–we’ve learned to give opportunities to the Chinese students to speak up; the Indians have toned it down; and the Americans try not to get so flustered over situations they can’t control.” In fact, Veiseh discovered a personal interest in organizational behavior, particularly the psychology of management, through the program. He’s already lined up a summer internship with marketing firm Amway in project management, where he’ll focus on optimizing teams.
Beyond the small groups, students also gain exposure to international companies, education systems, and faculty. Each university is responsible for a third of the program, and faculty from all three schools teach the general management curriculum. Instruction is in English, but the American students had to adjust to heavy accents among Chinese professors and the British English of Indian instructors, according to Briola. Then, there’s the rigor of attending top schools in India and China where competition is stiff. “It’s tough,” Veish says of India’s Xavier School of Management. “Employers come to these top schools in India to hire students because they know how crazy hard they’re worked, and it’s living up to its reputation. It pushes you.” Outside the classroom, students gain hands-on experience through three projects (one in teach country) with leading multinationals, such as the Tata Group in India.
Weatherhead’s Global MBA certainly isn’t for everyone. The program is geared toward students eyeing a career in international business, who “possess a sense of adventure,” Peck says. “It may not be considered the safe option, you’re actually going to live in India and China for a semester, so that presents its own set of challenges,” he adds. The frequent campus switching also makes it difficult for students to assume leadership roles in campus clubs. And the estimated budget, some $61,000 per year not including flights, can be cost prohibitive for others.
As a brand new program, the Weatherhead Global MBA program is also experiencing some growing pains. In 2013, it received less than 100 applications. “When you don’t have a track record, it can be a risky option for students,” Peck explains. As the guinea pigs, the current class have experienced their own hurdles. “It’s the inaugural program, so most of the students are doing a great job of rolling with the punches, but it can be hard with three different countries, teaching styles, cultures, and administrative styles,” Veiseh says. “All of the administrations can’t be constantly talking to each other all the time, so there are some bumps, but it adds to the real-life experience.”
Peck says they’re constantly tweaking the program and identifying areas for improvement, including doing away with the summer internship so students would have the option to finish earlier. He also plans to build out the cohort to 60, ideally with 20 students from each country.
Despite the kinks, both Briola and Veiseh agree that the overall experience is a worthwhile one. “The U.S. is prided on being so diverse, but you don’t really know true diversity until you’re in a different country working with people from different backgrounds. We’re used to different cultures, but not like this,” Briola says. For Veiseh, it’s a key differentiator in the job search. “In interviews, I’m not here just to say, ‘I’m getting my MBA.’ I have a story to tell for myself.”
So far, employers have found the prospect of students with deep global experience an attractive one, Peck says. The administration consulted MBA employers at top international companies while designing the program and curriculum. “They loved the idea of being able to hire MBAs who have spent meaningful time in these fast-growing economies,” he adds. “This is a differentiator for the students, really immersing themselves and living in these countries and the business communities.”