When Justin Jensen started getting serious about his college search in 2008, he had a nearly impossible list of things he was looking for in a school. He wanted a program that had a "heavy emphasis" on international experience, something more than a typical semester study abroad. He wanted to expand on his foreign language training, specifically in Chinese. He wanted to major in business, with a focus on finance. And he didn't want to pay an exorbitant amount of money in the process. It was a tall order.
Lucky for Jensen, administrators at the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business (Moore Undergraduate Business Profile)—just 100 miles from his home in Greenville—were finalizing plans to introduce what can only be described as an extreme immersion option for undergraduate business majors called International Business and Chinese Enterprise (IBCE). The program could have been designed specifically for Jensen.
First, students would spend two years in China, studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Also, the program would require participants to learn Chinese and double-major in international business and another area within the business school. IBCE was set to launch in the fall of 2009, when Jensen would be heading to college, and as a South Carolina resident he could pay in-state tuition, which is less than $11,000 a year.
Jensen, 20, is now a year and a half into the IBCE program and is spending his entire sophomore year in China. "This year I have traveled the world and made some incredibly close friends," he says. "I feel like I really understand Asia much better now. Career-wise, I am sure IBCE was the right choice."
While Jensen's college wish list may seem extreme, the demand for global exposure and experience is growing quickly among prospective college business majors, especially as a way to differentiate themselves in the eyes of recruiters. In the 2008-2009 academic year, nearly 220,000 undergrads participated in an international business course, up 27 percent from just three years earlier, according to the Centers for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). But students are looking for more than just a semester abroad taking general education courses that do not apply to their business major. They want an experience from which they can build their careers. "Today's students understand that we now live in this global economy, and they want to be a part of it," says Mark Ballam, managing director of the CIBER at San Diego State University, one of 33 such centers at campuses across the U.S. "It's sexy to them."
Business programs are answering the call from students in various ways. Some, like South Carolina, are ramping up efforts to offer more extreme immersion options for biz majors, while others are offering assistance in finding internships overseas, business-focused study-abroad options, and even specific business courses that require students to leave the U.S. In fact, nearly every school in Bloomberg Businessweek's sixth annual ranking of undergraduate business programs has undertaken efforts to enhance its international business options.
Notre Dame No. 1
At the top of the ranking for the second year in a row is the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business (Mendoza Undergraduate Business Profile). At Mendoza, business students have the option of studying abroad in countries like Egypt, Haiti, and South Africa, and are encouraged to take on a business-related research project while they are away from South Bend. Mendoza Dean Carolyn Woo estimates about half of the school's business students go overseas for study abroad, a number that's rising each year. "We see the students broadening themselves in unfamiliar environments," Woo says. "They seek out challenges that come when they are in a different culture."
The methodology that Bloomberg Businessweek uses to rank these programs incorporates nine measures, including surveys of senior business majors and corporate recruiters, median starting salaries for graduates, and the number of alumni each program sends to top MBA programs. We also calculated an academic quality rating for each program by combining average SAT scores, student-faculty ratios, class size in core business courses, the percentage of students with internships, and the number of hours students devote to class work.
Following Mendoza in the ranking is the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce (McIntire Undergraduate Business Profile).At McIntire, 18 percent of junior business students elect to add an international component to the school's integrated core curriculum.After McIntire is Emory's Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Undergraduate Business Profile), which jumped four spots in the ranking. Not only can Goizueta students study abroad at an international institution like Cass Business School in London or Bocconi University in Milan, but they can also gain work experience abroad through a business internship with Voestalpine (VOE:AV), a Linz (Austria)-based steel company.
A bit further down the list, major efforts are being made to get students out into the world—like it or not. Two schools—No. 51 University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management (Carlson Undergraduate Business Profile) and No.15 New York University's Stern School of Business (Stern Undergraduate Business Profile)—have implemented international experience requirements to ensure that students have some global exposure before they graduate. At Carlson, business students must take either a two-week or semester-long school-sanctioned trip abroad while earning classroom credit. At Stern, every junior takes part in a spring break trip abroad as part of the Barr Family International Studies Program, to locations like Budapest, Buenos Aires, and Singapore, where students visit local companies, meet with executives, and experience the country's culture.
And Stern has taken the international focus a step further by launching an entire major within the business school that has global immersion as its centerpiece. The major, a BS in Business & Political Economy (BPE), was launched in 2009. As in South Carolina's program, BPE majors spend much of their undergraduate time—three semesters—away from NYU, with the entire sophomore year spent in London and the fall semester of the junior year in Shanghai, where students are able to experience international business firsthand. Intermixed into the curriculum are study trips to neighboring countries. The program culminates with a yearlong research seminar at NYU where students apply what they've learned to solve a case study that covers a current issue, such as the world financial crisis.
Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, oversaw the development and launch of the BPE major when she was undergraduate dean at Stern. "We wanted to create an undergraduate degree for the 21st century," Blount says. "There's a real hunger within this generation for a broader mindset. They've grown up in the world of the Internet; they've seen many more things. So, of course, they're curious about the world in ways that those of us who weren't exposed to as much by the age of 18 couldn't have imagined."
At the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business (Marshall Undergraduate Business Profile), No. 34 on the list, that kind of exposure can come early in a student's college career. Seventy-five percent of freshman business students at Marshall get an international business experience in one of two ways. The Global Leadership Program includes two leadership seminars and a one-week trip to Shanghai or Beijing, while students in the Learning About International Commerce Program take part in a spring semester course in international business and a 10-day "business" trip to one of eight locations, including Mumbai, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo. In each program, students visit companies and meet with executives abroad. For the current school year, 412 first-year students participated in one of the two programs, a 7 percent increase from a year earlier.
Marshall also offers students a chance to intern outside the U.S. through the Global Summer Internship Program. Last summer, 68 students interned at companies like Walt Disney (DIS), Burberry (BRBY:LN), and Deutsche Bank (DB) in locations that included Paris, Madrid, and Mexico City. And Marshall isn't alone in offering students such an option. Two years ago, the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business (Ross Undergraduate Business Profile), No. 6 on the list, launched Eurasia Now!, a program that matches interested students with internships overseas. For the summer of 2011, internship options include positions in Istanbul at FIBA Holding or Teknosa, a technology retail chain. This year, applications have doubled, as students are beginning to realize the benefit of the program, says Rachael Criso, who heads Eurasia Now! at Michigan. "It gives them something very substantial to talk about in job interviews with prospective employers," Criso says.
Frank Rodriguez is one of those employers. As director of university and recruitment marketing for Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Rodriguez leads a team that each year interviews about 1,000 undergrads from 60 schools and hires around 200. "International experience is definitely something that separates a candidate," Rodriguez says. "It shows us that this is someone who's going to quickly assimilate into our global culture. This could potentially be a candidate who can think much broader than just the domestic market."
Rodriguez concedes that not many undergrads have substantial international experience, so those who do are able to easily differentiate themselves from their peers. "It's a competitive job market," Rodriguez says. "Anything students can do to stand out is beneficial."
Now that business schools have laid the groundwork, they aren't slowing down in creating more worthwhile international opportunities for students. George Washington University's School of Business (GWU Undergraduate Business Profile), No. 59 on the list, is currently developing a program in partnership with Di Tella University in Argentina that will allow international business students at GWU to complete all 15 credits of their major studies abroad in Buenos Aires. "This is not just majoring in [international business]," says Lawrence Singleton, associate dean for undergraduate programs at George Washington. "This is a real, on-the-ground focus on international business and culture."
Meanwhile, back at No. 92 South Carolina, administrators are using the IBCE program as a springboard to the rest of the world. In fact, they plan to use the same format as the China offering to launch programs with partner schools in Egypt, France, and Germany in the next few years, and they've got their sights set on Latin America, Spain, and Russia a little later. "We have a responsibility to not only advance knowledge in international business, but also prepare our future cadre of leaders who will truly be able to embrace the nuances of conducting business across borders," says Moore Dean Hildy Teegen. "To do that job successfully we need to create these kinds of very intense, very complex, and much more realistic university experiences for our students."