"China's Tomorrow, Today"

Washington University's joint EMBA program with Fudan University in Shanghai is aimed at middle managers, not CEOs

After five years of teaching business strategy to students on the St. Louis campus of Washington University's Olin School of Business, in June, 2004 Patrick Moreton took over management of Olin's joint Executive MBA program with Fudan University's School of Management. The programs are similar in some respects -- both focus on soft skills, like leadership, for instance -- and quite different in others. For example, two professors -- one from Olin, one from Fudan -- co-teach each course in the Shanghai-based joint program, giving students a Chinese spin on Western case studies where appropriate. And, unlike the students in St. Louis, very few in Shanghai are at the executive level; most are still climbing their way up the corporate ladder. Moreton sat down with BusinessWeek recently in Shanghai to talk about the program.

Most international programs in Shanghai like to stress their autonomy. Olin, on the other hand, chose a symbiotic tie with Fudan University when it opened in 2002. Why?

It's easier to brag about a partner when you can offer the best one in China. Both schools are incredibly committed to the success of this program. Sure, right now Olin is taking more than it gives. We're housed in Fudan's fantastic facility here, and we use their great faculty and administrators. Our students can tap into Fudan's alumni, a lot of the most important business leaders in China. It gives us diversity. But Fudan opened its own [Chinese] EMBA a few months after ours, and they've been able to use Olin's as a model.

Describe your ideal admissions candidate.

I'm a former consultant and have my own MBA from Harvard, so I look at admissions like a job interview. I have a strong preference for smart people, so I tend to surround myself with them. You might be paying us, but you're coming to work for me, so personality is also important. I want to know, what is this person's appetite for learning? What are their development needs? Of course, there are practical things, too. You have to be good enough in English to sit in class and contribute.

Your students tend to be midlevel managers, while many competing EMBA programs boast company CEOs. Is this difference deliberate?

If you're a CEO, you don't need 18 months to learn how to lead a company. You've already figured that out. That's "China's today, tomorrow," whereas I like to say I offer "China's tomorrow, today." My students are paying $42,500 to be here; I've got to show them value added. This requires the ability to transition, to move up. Of course, I don't expect all to be changed. Like anything, what you get depends on how much you put in.

Two professors teach each of your classes: one visiting from your St. Louis campus, the other a Fudan professor. What does this add to students' education?

The Olin professor gives the basics, the theories, the cases. The Chinese professor is there as a local resource. They translate concepts from China into the Western system or add China-specific insight to the subject. They've worked on the ground and can say, "This is real. This is what I'm seeing."

How do you recruit Olin's faculty to Shanghai?

I have to show them what Shanghai has to offer that they can't afford back in St. Louis. I'll take them to visit Chinese companies to develop contacts and see real problems for their research. They can attend conferences and speak about China with authority. All of our professors are already repeat offenders, but I want them back in St. Louis queuing up to get on the list to come here.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.