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Business Schools

Se Habla MBA? A U.S. School Caters to Latin American Execs

University of Texas at Brownsville

Photograph by Danita Delimont/Getty Images

University of Texas at Brownsville

The top business schools in Spain have long taught MBA candidates in English—which allows schools like IE Business School and Esade Business School to promise international students they’ll be prepared to work in the international language of business. Now a U.S. school is seeking to attract Latin American executives and others who want to work in the region by offering an online MBA conducted entirely in Spanish.

Beginning this fall, the University of Texas at Brownsville—located so close to the Mexico border the Department of Homeland Security once sought to build an 18-foot-tall fence in the middle of campus—will offer a five-semester degree program in Spanish. That means relying on Spanish-language textbooks and other teaching materials, and a Spanish-language entrance exam, the Prueba de Admision de Estudios de Posgrado, or PAEP. “It’s one thing to learn conversational Spanish, but business has its own terminology,” says Edith Galy, director of MBA programs at the school.

The preponderance of English-language business schools around the world rests on the idea that the language is essential for success in global business. It’s not just Spanish business schools that offer degree programs taught in English. MBA programs in language-proud China and France, as well as dozens of other countries, cater to students who want to be educated in English. While the University of Miami offers an executive MBA in Spanish that caters to Latin American professionals, and Wharton’s Lauder Institute offers a joint MBA-MA program in Spanish language and culture, those programs are unusual. Galy says UT-Brownsville will be the first U.S. school that’s accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business to offer an online MBA in Spanish.

UT-Brownsville, which currently enrolls about 300 MBA students in on-campus and online programs, may be departing from the B-school norm, but the new program is aligned with demographic trends: There are about 3.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. alone, with combined revenue of $468 billion, according to an estimate from consultancy Geoscape. That says nothing of job opportunities at U.S. companies that operate in Latin America.

Whether the program can succeed in attracting students or the university’s brand appeals to top employers remains to be seen. Here’s Galy’s pitch: “This is all in an effort to speak to Latin America, and the best way to reach these markets is to speak in a language people understand.”

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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