Oct. 26, 1995
Vol. 15, No. 4

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    Going global: GSB in Barcelona

    Professionals from 22 nations attend M.B.A. program Since July 1994, professional managers from 22 nations have been commuting across borders to attend the Graduate School of Business at the University's newest off-campus location -- Barcelona, Spain.

    Members of the first class in the GSB's International Executive M.B.A. Program will receive their degrees in December. The second class, 54 students known collectively as IXP 2, began the 18-month program in July 1995.

    The benefits of launching the program have been far-reaching, according to Robert Hamada, the Edward Eagle Brown Distinguished Service Professor and Dean of the GSB.

    "Students are eager to have this opportunity to earn an American M.B.A., while we are delighted to extend our global connections. The IXP has proved to be a valuable way to internationalize our Executive M.B.A. Program here through an exchange with the Barcelona group, and by teaching overseas, faculty in the program have broader opportunities for international research," Hamada said.

    Like the GSB's highly ranked domestic Executive M.B.A. Program, the Barcelona course offers advanced career development to the accomplished midcareer manager with at least 10 years' experience in the workplace. Courses are taught by regular GSB faculty; only the schedule and the intensity of the international focus are different.

    One strength of the program is a part-time schedule structured to attract a diverse group of professionals from around the world who will learn from one another.

    The IXP consists of 14 intense weeks of classes spread over 18 months so that executives can fit the program into their work schedules. The class gathers for one- and two-week modules on such topics as financial accounting, the role of the general manager, marketing, strategic management and international economics.

    "What we have here is pretty unique in Europe," said Bernard Angenieux, Resident Director of the program and a 1960 GSB graduate. "Our part-time schedule that meets in modules instead of every week or weekend allows us to have a very international class. We have a total of 22 nationalities represented so far, with students from as far away as Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Angola and the United States."

    About 40 percent of the participants are living and working in a nation other than their country of citizenship, further diversifying the experiences represented in the classroom.

    The schedule and the strong curriculum "have attracted excellent applicants, and the faculty are very pleased with the quality of the students enrolled," said Robin Hogarth, the Wallace W. Booth Professor and Deputy Dean of the GSB.

    After teaching an IXP module on international economics this summer, Douglas Irwin, Associate Professor in the GSB, said that the mix of nationalities makes classes fascinating. "Because everyone brings so much experience to the classroom, nothing ever stays abstract. There's always someone who will drive a particular lesson home."

    A lecture on taxes under German reunification might easily be interrupted by a German executive who has had a direct and unpleasant experience with the system -- or by an executive from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a nation without a tax system, who asks in all innocence, "What are taxes?"

    To further internationalize the experience, IXP students spend one two-week module in Chicago, studying with faculty members and American students in the Executive M.B.A. Program. The American XP students also travel to Barcelona for two weeks of study. Last year, the Barcelona/Chicago exchange was optional for XP students; this year, all XP students will participate. The experience of learning from and with students from all over the world proved so valuable that the trip has become a regular part of the program.

    The first group of Barcelona students arrived in Chicago in late July for a busy two weeks in the classroom and beyond. One of the students' more stimulating lessons was a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade, where, from the observation deck, they watched frantic trading.

    "In class we learned about options, bonds and portfolio management, but you just can't imagine the frenzy down there," said Marie-Ghislaine Croquet, a human-resources manager for the Belgian glass manufacturer Saint-Roch. Added Luc Denhaerynck, a Belgian with the Barcelona firm of Venilia, S.A., "You only read the figures in the paper, but to actually see how much things change second by second, that's incredible." After trading closed for the day, the students descended to the commodities pit to try their hand at trading in a mock session with the real dealers.

    The traveling students spent most of their days in class absorbing lessons in international finance from Irwin or in corporate finance from Mark Mitchell, Associate Professor in the GSB. In Barcelona, they studied with many other faculty members, including Canice Prendergast, Associate Professor in the GSB, who taught a human-resources module, and Linda Ginzel, Senior Lecturer in the GSB, who taught the role of the general manager to the IXP 1 class. IXP 2 students studied statistics with George Tiao, the W. Allen Wallis Professor in the GSB, and marketing with Pradeep Chintagunta, Professor in the GSB.

    A visit to the Hyde Park campus helped the IXP students identify more strongly with the University. "The students were really overwhelmed when they saw the size of the school," said Hogarth. "They didn't realize how large the resources really are."

    One important tenet of international business is to learn the local culture, so despite a demanding schedule, the class took time for such classic Chicago experiences as attending a Cubs game and sailing on Lake Michigan. A few students even tried in-line skating.

    The executives in the IXP use their own holiday and personal time off from their jobs to attend sessions, but for the most part, it's no vacation. These high-mileage commuters leave their families behind for a week or two at a time, spend 14-hour days in class and study sessions, then return home to step right back into the jobs they left. It's a demanding schedule, yet a recent survey of participants shows they are very pleased with the content and format of the program, reported Angenieux. And, participants say, the sacrifices they make pay off in the prestige of an American M.B.A. and a network of business associates circling the globe.

    -- Toni Shears and Charles Wasserburg