Americas MBA offers innovative approach to globalization

As businesses focus on the Americas market--and business schools look to strengthen their globalization efforts--Vanderbilt partners with institutions in Brazil, Canada, and Mexico to create a one-of-a-kind immersion program

By Tami Fassinger
Associate Dean of Executive Programs

Many new international MBA programs have appeared in recent years. Yet, a report issued in February by AASCB, the main accrediting organization for management education, finds that most business schools have not gone far enough to prepare graduates to compete in an increasingly global world.

Calling the report a “wake-up call,” Robert Bruner, who led AACSB’s global education task force and serves as Dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told Bloomberg Businessweek, “Schools have a long way to go when it comes to globalizing their curricula.”

But as new globalization initiatives get introduced--and existing ones get refined--it’s not enough simply to provide an overview of international business.

That’s why Vanderbilt took an innovative approach when developing our new Americas MBA for Executives program, which launched in February. Partnering with schools in Brazil, Canada, and Mexico, we wanted to give cross-border, multilingual teams opportunities to work collaboratively and in-depth across the four largest economies of the Americas.

By concentrating on the Americas we hope to give participants a far more thorough understanding of an increasingly important market than they would otherwise receive in a generalized “global” program.

Not only does that objective reflect the needs of companies we often work with, such as Nissan North America, Bridgestone Americas, and LP Corp., it also aligns with data presented in a forthcoming book, World 3.0, by Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor of global strategy at Spain’s IESE business school and a member of the AACSB’s global education task force.

Ghemawat writes, “Trade has become increasingly regionalized in recent decades, to the point that international trade within regions exceeds trade across regions.” Even so, vast complexities remain when doing business in an area like the Americas. For example, Ghemawat points to the thousands of customs transactions required on a shipment of cars produced and sold within North America, despite NAFTA. It’s that deeper level of detail--on top of differences such as language, culture, and currency--that we hope to help participants understand and master as part of the Americas MBA program.

Partnering with FIA Business School in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business in Vancouver, Canada; and ITAM in Mexico City, Mexico, we have worked to achieve a unique cross-border, North-South management education experience.

The inaugural Americas MBA program, which starts this fall, begins with a group of no more than 15 students at each school spending the first year in the executive MBA program at their home school. In the second year, all 60 Americas MBA program participants (15 from each school) will be placed on a global study team. With their international groups in place, they’ll rotate to each school in the program for an immersive, weeklong experience that includes both classroom instruction as well as cultural and networking opportunities. In addition, they will work across borders, language, culture, and time zones throughout the year on various coursework assignments and a year-end capstone project.

In the end, participants will graduate with an Americas certificate conferred by all four schools, as well as an MBA from a leading university in the region. More importantly they will have taken a deep dive into topics that span everything from how to do business with family-owned companies in Mexico, to launching new ventures and nurturing innovation in the U.S.

We believe this program not only enriches the traditional MBA experience, it also helps launch--or in some cases, accelerate--successful international careers.

Tami Fassinger is Associate Dean of Executive Programs at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

Published Apr 1, 2011 in Vanderbilt Business Intelligence
Copyright 2011 Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management