SOM pilots program for int’l exchange

Next fall, the School of Management will give second-year MBA students the chance to spend a semester at a prestigious business or economic school abroad and will host students from those schools as part of a new exchange program, the school announced last week. The exchange — along with a revised curriculum introduced during the last academic year — is one of several programs implemented in the past few years that aim to provide students with more global experience and perspective.

In 2008, the SOM will allow up to three students to travel to one of four institutions: the London School of Economics and Political Science; IESE Business School in Barcelona; the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore; and Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing.

The partner institutions were selected based on their status as leading business- and economic-management schools situated in important global markets, said Sherilyn Scully, the SOM’s director of student and academic services. If successful, the exchange — dubbed the International Exchange Program — may expand to encompass more students and institutions, Scully said.

Scully said the idea has been greeted with enthusiasm by administrators, faculty and students. About 60 of the SOM’s 178 first-year students attended an information session for the exchange Tuesday, she said.

“People realize it is a global-world marketplace out there, and that the more exposure you have to other societies, the deeper your learning experience as student,” Scully said.

Administrators said they hope even students not participating in the exchange will benefit from the program through exposure to foreign students on campus.

SOM student government president Abby Goward SOM ’08 said her organization has been working with the school’s administration to form a mentor program for exchange students. Goward said she thinks the exchange students will fit well into the SOM student body, 21 percent of which is made up of international students.

Students interviewed said one downside of the program is that it requires students to miss one of only four semesters they spend at the SOM. The fall semester of the second year is a difficult one to miss, because students generally hunt for jobs at that time, they said.

“Everyone recognizes this is something new and exciting, but it remains to be seen how many will take the first leap,” said Jonathan Morris SOM ’09, who attended the program’s information session. “There are lots of legitimate concerns, especially in terms of logistics. It’s sort of a headache.”

While the SOM is not alone among business schools in offering exchange programs — the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania currently offers 17 — some schools, including Harvard Business School, have not adopted similar programs.

“Harvard Business School aims to provide its students with a transformational experience — something that we feel can best be accomplished on this campus with our faculty and facilities,” said Jim Aisner, a Harvard Business School spokesman.

Even though it does not offer exchange programs, Harvard has a large international student body, a worldwide research center network and options for short immersion trips around the globe that allow for a global perspective, Aisner said.

The announcement of the International Exchange Program follows a string of recent changes aimed at globalizing the SOM experience. Last year, the SOM instituted a refined curriculum to address more international issues and required first-year students to travel to one of eight international locations with professors over winter break.

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