Building Bridges Through Global Business Education

By: Jan Mazotti Issue: Education & Workforce Development Section: Building Bridges

An Interview with Blair Sheppard, Dean, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Building Bridges Through Global On September 15, 2008, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business announced an ambitious and unique global expansion plan. Fuqua is identifying faculty and staff candidates for regions around the world and establishing collaborations with business and government leaders, who have welcomed the new expansion plans.

Fuqua’s Dean Blair Sheppard, the driving force behind the expansion, spoke with ICOSA about Fuqua’s new model for global business education.

Q: Dean Sheppard, can you briefly describe Fuqua’s global expansion plans?

Fuqua’s international presence is a starting point for Duke’s plans to engage with the world on a deeper and more meaningful level. This undertaking isn’t about a single degree program. Our goal is to become an integrated part of some of the world’s most important cultural and economic regions and to help provide solutions to the specific challenges they face.

The depth of our engagement in each region will be unprecedented in higher education. Each of our global locations will include MBA studies, a program from Duke CE (Duke’s corporate education arm), open enrollment executive education, at least two research centers, our own faculty or joint faculty appointments, service-based activities focusing on local needs, and the involvement of other relevant parts of Duke University.

We want to become the world’s first legitimately global business school, which requires reshaping 21st century business education and rethinking the boundaries of business school. To begin the expansion, we’ve chosen to redesign The Duke MBA – Cross Continent program to encompass studies in a number of important business regions: the United States, Western Europe, Russia, India, China, and the Middle East.

Q: How will Fuqua’s international relationships differ from those of other schools?

Previous international partnerships among universities have tended to be casual affiliations. What we have in mind is very different.

We’re establishing deeply embedded partnerships in each of our locations so that we are not simply observing what goes on, we are a part of what goes on, taking an active role in solving problems.

We will also bring to bear the resources of the many disciplines of Duke University, areas that touch upon business studies: law, public policy, environment, engineering, health care. It’s important that we take this comprehensive approach, because the issues business needs to address in the coming years are wide-ranging and complex.

In addition, no other school has a simultaneous presence in the regions most critical to this century in the embedded fashion we’ve designed. But Fuqua pioneered the Global Executive MBA concept that has been adopted by many business schools over the past decade, so we’re not strangers to breaking new ground in course design.

We want to deliver the complete Duke MBA experience in all of our locations, providing students of the Cross Continent program with all of the things that make Fuqua one of the world’s elite business schools: innovative course design, academically rigorous distance learning, one of the most productive research faculties in the world, and a truly global perspective on business and culture.

Q: What do you mean by “embedded partnerships”?

We believe that if you’re going to be a globalist or purport to understand the world’s challenges, then you have to be in these places in a manner that causes you to truly become part of them. As a business school, this means we must collaborate with the leading firms in the world, bringing together corporations, government entities, learners, and others to address urgent global problems.

To produce leaders who are globally aware and capable, we must educate in a globally distributed way.

Our partnerships form a network of influencers who can have a direct impact on addressing the fundamental issues of our time: enabling access to economic opportunity, protecting our environment while growing business, and providing adequate health care.

We’re establishing collaborations with a number of global partners because, by the very nature of the world’s diversity, each region requires different kinds of partnerships. For example, we’re actively engaging with a number of people and organizations in Russia right now, and of course Russia’s cultural and business environment is far different from what we encounter in China or Dubai. The social and business issues Russia is dealing with today require specific solutions and specific relationships to bring about those solutions. All the while, these regions are strongly connected by commerce.

In India, we’ve established a board of advisors to help inform our development there. The board is made up of business and civic leaders who can help us bring about positive change in the region. This board will help us identify the issues where Fuqua’s research can be most immediately and most effectively applied.

We will have similar, deeply rooted connections in all of our international locales.

Q: What is the significance of those particular locations? Why were they chosen?

We chose locations that are critical to driving the agenda for their regions and are key players in the world economy, both now and in the future. If you’re going to be in the places that matter in business, you must be in the U.S., Western Europe, Russia, India, the Middle East, and China. We already have a relationship with Seoul National University in South Korea, and we’re exploring how a Fuqua presence can be beneficial in places like South Africa.

Each of these locations presents compelling educational and research opportunities. For example, China is the world’s biggest polluter and perhaps its most dynamic economy. As a result, there is an urgent need to address environmental and business issues simultaneously, perhaps even as a single issue.

The leaders who solve problems like these will alter the course of history in a tremendously positive way. Fuqua should have a role in those positive changes.

In order to make our expansion plans work, we need partnerships in business and government that will aid us in drawing the best students and identifying research opportunities to address the problems specific to each region. The people and institutions with whom we’ve been working to implement our expansion plans have been overwhelmingly supportive of our goals. We’ve chosen the right places to enter and the right people to work with.

Q: Why is a global presence important?

Put simply, it is what the world demands. We can’t fulfill our mission as a school – to produce leaders of consequence – without a global presence.

By engaging with the dominant world regions through our education and research, we will be able to examine the world’s opportunities and problems, explore the interdependencies between the regions, form hypotheses and ideas about how best to address world issues, and devise strategies to exploit opportunities. Our goal is to prepare practitioners to be the change agents and informed leaders the world needs. Our global presence will enable us to identify problems unique to these areas of the world and find specific solutions tailored to each region.

For our students, our global expansion will mean they gain global competence and business acumen through real-world experiences and exposure to diverse cultures. Students of the program will be better prepared for their professional lives, better leaders. Cross-cultural communication will not only be part of the subject matter, it will be inherent in the situation itself.

We see our global expansion as a two-way education process. We will be learning from our international hosts as we educate. All that we learn from this wide range of cultures and economies will inform what and how we teach our students on our campus in Durham, North Carolina. In this way, all of our students will gain global competence.

Q: What are “leaders of consequence”?

Leaders of consequence are people with a drive to discover or focus their own worldview and purpose. They are leaders as well as team players. They are intellectually bright without being detached or aloof. Being able to appreciate and take advantage of these dualities is an important part of leadership.

On a professional level, a leader of consequence can be a capitalist and an environmentalist; a doctor and a skilled hospital administrator; a sustainable business leader and a non-profit executive.

Leaders of consequence set aside old models and conventions to expand personal and professional growth, both for themselves and the people with whom they work and interact.

Q: Why undertake the global expansion now?

Events in the financial markets over the past several months confirm the time is right to expand Fuqua’s presence internationally. If anyone had doubts before, it is now clear that the world is not a series of economies interacting. There is, in fact, a single world economy made up of different regions. As we’ve seen, financial unrest in one region automatically affects the rest of the world.

These interdependencies demand collaboration across oceans, borders, and cultures. As an education center without a vested interest in political or business fortunes, a university is uniquely equipped to bring together all the players who shape the evolution of business: corporate leaders, government officials, even service organizations.

In addition, the pace of the world economy has accelerated tremendously in recent years. While one side of the world is sleeping, the other side has already moved on into the future. When we wake up in the morning, we rise to a very different world from the day before.

Q: Why is an interdisciplinary approach important to Fuqua’s plans?

A business school touches on and complements many of the other areas of study at a university. This puts Fuqua in the best position to bring Duke to the world. We can pull together business and engineering, environmental studies, medicine, and a wide range of disciplines.

Fuqua has what I believe to be the world’s strongest business school faculty. In fact, Fuqua placed #1 in intellectual capital among full-time American MBA programs in the most recent BusinessWeek rankings. We have gathered outstanding talent in finance, economics, management, accounting, and all areas of business.

This expertise across a range of subject areas will help us provide a more comprehensive learning experience for students, equipping them with a global perspective on the issues that define the 21st century.

Q: What sort of benefit will Fuqua’s students outside the Cross Continent program see from the school’s global presence?

One of the most important parts of our global expansion plan is the idea that we will learn as much from our global locations as we teach them. The research to be undertaken by our faculty internationally – in the areas where the most fascinating phenomena are occurring across vastly different political, regulatory, market, and cultural contexts – will have a direct impact on the learning of all of our students, providing them with an acute awareness of the world’s interconnectedness.

The partnerships and collaborations we establish will provide our students with opportunities for internships, employment, and even community-oriented service projects. Given today’s tight job market worldwide, increasing opportunities for our students is of paramount importance.

Further, building our brand and our presence around the world will help us to increase the number of quality applicants to Fuqua’s programs. The ability to draw the most talented students available enhances the quality and reputation of The Duke MBA, which benefits the entire Fuqua community, including our students and alumni.

Q: What does this expansion mean for Duke University as a whole?

Fuqua’s global expansion is a Duke University expansion. One of Duke’s foremost goals is to increase its level of engagement with the world, and this undertaking is of vital importance to that goal. Fuqua will lay the groundwork for further Duke engagement around the world.

As I’ve mentioned, it makes sense for a business school to be the leading edge of this kind of international expansion, as business encompasses a number of other disciplines. Those disciplines – environmental studies, public policy, health care, engineering, law – will have significant roles in identifying and solving the world’s most pressing problems.

We want Fuqua’s global presence to heighten the world’s awareness of Duke and to build a foundation for further international engagement for the university.

Further information about The Fuqua School of Business is available at