Global Direct Investment Solutions

Corporate Development for a Networked World

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Academic Programs Related to Global Direct Investment and Economic Development

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Bruce Donnelly    (Biography)

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Please don't take offense if your alma mater or favorite university isn't featured here.  This isn't intended to be a guide to all of the business schools.  There are many better sources for such knowledge, but we also welcome suggestions for additions to this list. 

The purpose of this section is to highlight a few top schools related to this community (global direct investment, corporate development, economic development, professional services, corporate real estate, etc.) which may be unfamiliar to executives or students interested in this niche market, and explain why they may be of special interest. 

The famous schools need no such introduction for their capabilities, and their general reputations may not be as meaningful in this specific niche.

The intent of this section will be add relevant feedback from corporate executives, based on direct knowledge of schools such as these, and especially for the smaller or less prominent schools, including valuable resources in other countries and insights into their specialties.

For example, US executives may be unaware of schools such as the Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo, or the university in Campinas, or others which might be relevant to business interests in Brazil.  The same may be true of the growing linkages between leading business schools in the US and Europe with universities in China, India, and other major markets.

As another example, students interested in economic development might be unaware of relevant programs in Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Belgium or elsewhere in Europe related to this specialty.  This section can serve as a shortcut to help identify relevant programs.

University of South Carolina, Columbia SC - Darla Moore School of Business, International MBA program (IMBA, formerly known as MIBS), 

Alumni Opinion (Bruce Donnelly) : Forget what any of the rankings say (newspapers, magazines, surveys, etc.), although for many years this has been a top-rated program.  Look into it.  In fact, I found it because other "top name" schools kept comparing themselves to MIBS, and copying ideas from the program.  It has continued to improve, while the others are still trying to catch up or pretend that their programs are comparable.

To some extent, many other schools still don't "get it".  They may still treat global business as a small subset of traditional functional specialties, such as one or two chapters in a textbook with a few lectures about how it is different.  Not surprisingly, the result is that students from top US universities still emerge with a low reputation among executives for their international skills, and rarely have meaningful experience in that regard unless they already had it before they even arrived at the school.  The universities may be developing branch campuses or special training programs in cooperation with international universities, but that still doesn't mean that their US students or faculty are well prepared for international business.

I am a former diplomat and have specialized in global direct investment projects for more than a decade.  I went through the MIBS program after leaving the Foreign Service.  My "track" through MIBS included an internship at Touche Ross in Brazil after intensive Portuguese language training which was as good as the Foreign Service Institute, where I learned German before working in Frankfurt.  I later set up a "Big Four" consulting practice in Brazil, and led consulting sales for another "Big Four" consulting group in Belgium after five years of work for a British industrial development agency.

This is a fine international MBA program.  To find anything with a comparable international focus, one would probably have to go to universities in Europe or perhaps Canada.  "Thunderbird" is perhaps the closest competitor in the US, but there is still no substitute for living and working in another country after studying the language and culture.

The program offers intensive foreign language training and cross-cultural studies leading into six month internships at businesses in a variety of countries around the world, in addition to the usual full program of study of any MBA program in functional disciplines (finance, marketing, etc.) with a focus on each from the international business perspective.

The languages and internships aren't limited to Europe, either.  The program is global in scope, including "hard" languages like Japanese before internships there, or Arabic before internships in Egypt.  How many other business schools produce a steady flow of MBA's who speak Brazilian Portuguese, and understand from direct experience what it is like to live and work in Brazil?  How many produce graduates with similar direct experience working elsewhere in South and Central America or Asia?  Clearly that is a relevant resource for many global businesses, aside from the usual European connections.

In other words, it isn't just the usual MBA courses with a textbook chapter and a professor talking theoretically in a classroom setting here about how global business is somehow "different" from business in the US.  The students learn to actually live and work effectively in another culture, while doing business in the US is just another leading country to study.

There are also many foreign students in the program from all over the world who learn through a US internship about doing "foreign" business here.  That adds greatly to the perspective of everyone, and also creates an interesting alumni network around the world (i.e., not just foreign alumni who studied at a US university, or US alumni working overseas, but rather people from other cultures who have directly studied and experienced through their internships how to work for US companies and do business with them).  That's a very relevant resource network for global executives who may need to hire local talent, rather than US expatriates.

The faculty has strong, practical international business and research experience, and the entire program is built around a focus on global business needs.  The functional disciplines are taught within the global context, rather than the other way around.  It makes all the difference.  They aren't teaching about US business, and then commenting on how it may be different in other countries, without much real foreign exposure.

Instead, they are teaching about global business, and frequently have direct international experience and relevant research, so that all the US business issues are taught in the context of a wider global perspective, as one might find at a foreign university, with the exception that here they better understand how US business operates in practice, too.

The internship program also reinforces the practical focus through the many links with business operations around the world (not just for job placement support at the end of the program), and the feedback from all these internships adds greatly to the value of the program for everyone.

For nearly 30 years, long before it became fashionable, this program has been focused on global business, instead of treating it as though it were a sideshow.  It doesn't always get the recognition it deserves.

"Thunderbird" - The American Graduate School of International Management, Glendale AZ -

Although well-known among many international executives, especially given the strong network of Thunderbird graduates worldwide, this highly specialized program is another one which is sometimes overlooked by the various general business school rankings, despite long-standing leadership in this niche.  For those unfamiliar with it, look into it. 

As at South Carolina (Moore), top universities still often compare their international MBA programs to Thunderbird, rather than vice versa, even though they still like to insist that they are better.  That says it all.  If not already familiar, it is a program well worth investigating.

Although justifiably proud of their program and alumni network, T-Birds also don't seem to have as much of an "attitude" or ego problem.

There is a specialization program in International Development, as well as opportunities for internships or overseas study in the program.

University of Pennsylvania, "Wharton School"

Like Harvard, Columbia, or Stanford, this school obviously doesn't have a visibility problem among top executives, but the higher level of international enrollment and growing focus on international business may easily be overlooked because of the more familiar reputation as a finance school.

All four schools have developed strong international programs to be responsive to business expectations, but Wharton would seem to have relatively more students from other countries.

The Executive MBA programs, however, may be of more interest for their international components or special seminars and networking value than the recruiting of new graduates from the regular MBA programs.  The executive programs necessarily have a more practical focus because of the involvement of leaders who may already have significant international business knowledge and experience to contribute.

Of course, Harvard professors such as Michael Porter have done some excellent research and books on topics related to this field in the past, such as global competitiveness and the development of industry clusters in regions.  There are many good resources at such universities.

Note Wharton's alliance with INSEAD and other global linkages for executive education.

Their MBA Resource Guide described related programs such as Business and Public Policy

There are also programs related to Real Estate


Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Management

Regardless of what anyone thinks about their religious views, there is a very high level of international awareness and experience (even if just as young missionaries) among the students at BYU and the entire Salt Lake City community for that matter.  That includes experience and contacts in a lot of places where most other Americans might never want to live and work, but where global businesses may be looking to grow sales.

Where else in the US will you find that almost anyone you meet has lived overseas, and has friends and relatives who have lived overseas too?  Think about it.  It's a very well-established global network, and one may even get some humility, discipline, and a good work ethic as a bonus.

Northwestern University, "Kellogg"

Aside from the obvious reputation of the marketing program, the Executive MBA program has a strong international component with topics related to this niche.  Besides, who wouldn't want to have a good excuse to spend some quality time at Bürgenstock (near Lucerne)?

Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service

It may not spring to mind as a recruiting ground for global businesses in competition with the usual MBA programs, but SFS isn't just a school for people who aspire to (or eventually end up in) government service.

Like other programs which are perhaps more familiar to diplomats (SAIS at Johns Hopkins University, the Fletcher School at Tufts University, American University, the Naval War College, etc. etc.), the greater focus on international relations and disciplined professional service work can be valuable background for a business career as well.

University of Chicago
Tufts University, The Fletcher School

Johns Hopkins University, SAIS
Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute

The University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute

The University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School

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