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© Courtesy of William Boulding

Acting globally

by Oleg Nikishenkov at 02/07/2012 20:36

In the 1920s, North Carolina’s small Trinity College got an endowment from industrialist James B. Duke, and Duke University was born. For the southern state, this turned out to be a major boost to the local higher education scene, and nowadays, Duke’s reach and reputation are global. Its Fuqua School of Business is in particular a major player in international business education, and the school has a marked presence in Russia.

“The way we are creating [the Fuqua global strategy] is to be embedded and connected to key places in the world, which are going to make a difference in terms of our future,” Fuqua dean William Boulding told The Moscow News on a recent trip to Moscow. Boulding is a distinguished business professor and the recipient of the Bank of America Faculty Award for excellence in teaching, research, leadership and service. He was also honored with the Harold H. Maynard Award, created by the U.S. Journal of Marketing, for making a “significant contribution to marketing theory.”

Boulding believes that Russia, along with Western Europe, China, the Middle East and India, is one of the most important regions for global development. “We’ve been active [in Russia] since 1989, and through the last five years have become even more committed to this part of the world,” he said.

Fuqua is certainly not the only business school trying to expand worldwide. Several top universities have been creating campuses in oil-rich countries, China, and other wealthy or rapidly growing economies. But Fuqua is particularly famous for its excellence in teaching as well as the internationalist, inclusive mindset that is promoted within its community.

“The typical model is that we have partners wherever we go, and in Russia our partner is the Graduate School of Management of St. Petersburg State University,” Boulding said.

Russia was chosen as one of those key places, where Fuqua can “build a capability, which can later connect us with the rest of the world and where we can respond to three very strong trends of the world.”

According to Boulding, those three trends are increasing global interdependence, globalization and disruption, or, as Boulding puts it, “the constantly changing rules of the game” from the financial sector to the technology sector.

Fuqua’s curriculum involves multiple cross-country programs, where students spend part of their time in Russia, as well as other parts of the world. This is especially useful for understanding how interdependence, which is the idea that whatever happens in one part of the world will have a direct effect someplace else, works, and how people can learn to cope with it.

“People are fighting interdependence, trying to protect narrow self-interests, separating and isolating [themselves], which is wrong,” Boulding said.

Flexibility to global realities turns into a major asset for a future business manager, Boulding believes. “If you look at the issues around challenge areas, such as supply of energy, education or eradication of poverty, you will find pros and cons around options, whether it’s carbon solutions or nuclear power,” he said.

Meanwhile, globalization has not had the expected effect, which is another reality that business leaders must contend with. “The world isn’t converged, instead we see that we have a model in the Western world, and models persistently different in another parts of the world,” Boulding said. “It means that business schools must deal with reality – business practices are different to the kind of ideas the business schools promote around the world.”

A global businessman is a global realist who sees beyond what is expected. “The expectation was that we all converge within same economic system, that we all have capitalism,” Boulding said, “and we know that it never happened.”

Meanwhile, MBA programs are quite often criticized, as it is believed that a kind of “overproduction” of business managers is taking place all over the developed world. Boulding’s philosophy on graduates’ prospects is that business schools need to serve communities better, which makes the graduates more appealing to employers.

To that end, the career paths of a business school’s graduates often play a role in its rankings – and the fact that Fuqua is ranked among the top 25 in the world gives it an edge in that sense. It is that international reputation that continues to draw more and more Russian businesspeople to Fuqua.

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