Olin’s new global MBA explores shores undreamed

“To unpathed waters, undreamed shores.” Shakespeare’s phrase, from The Winter’s Tale, sums up the challenge that faces tomorrow’s business leaders. To compete in a global marketplace, one must cultivate a global perspective. Tourism won’t cut it. Deeper global experience is required.

Last week, the 2021 cohort of full-time MBA students arrived at WashU Olin. Today, they’re more than halfway through their orientation, four days from embarking on a journey of “disorientation” across three continents, immersed in a rigorous, hands-on curriculum as global business leaders additionally address real-world business problems.

It is a bold step for the students and—as a number of other schools are choosing to end their full-time MBA programmes—a bold step for Olin. But as a key character notes in Henry IV, Part I, “the blood more stirs to rouse a lion than to start a hare.”

The programme has come a long way since I first introduced it in this space back in September. A long list of Olin team members have contributed to bringing this vision to life, starting with Ohad Kadan, Patrick Moreton, Ashley Macrander, Hayley Huffman and Rachel Tolliver, have spent untold hours planning down the smallest detail.

We’ve learned from a spring break pilot to Barcelona and Shanghai with nearly 100 students. And now it’s underway for the newest class of first-year students.

Around the world in 38 days

On Sunday, the entire cohort arrives at WashU Olin’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Their agenda includes courses with business and government policy experts at the world-renowned Brookings Institution, with whom we enjoy a unique partnership. They’ll begin courses with Andrew Knight focused on impactful teamwork and with Cathy Dunkin on effective communications—courses that carry through the entire trip.

A week later, the cohort moves to Barcelona for a two-week dive into European business and an immersion into Iberian culture. They’ll take courses with Sam Chun and Peter Boumgarden in general management, working with regional vineyards on an analysis of go-to-market strategies.

The students finish with 17 days in China. After a couple of days for sightseeing in Beijing, the cohort spends the next two weeks on two courses. Daniel Elfenbein and Anne Marie Knott work with students on a market-entry problem with St. Louis’s Strange Donuts, which has considered opening in the Chinese market. Then, Fuqiang Zhang and Lingxiu Dong teach an international business operations course as students examine the distribution and manufacturing practices of local and global brands.

Through it all, WashU students will gain a foundational understanding of effective teamwork and values-based, data-driven decision-making. Combining ethical decision making with highly analytic empirical analysis—key hallmarks of business education at WashU Olin.

With more than a month abroad from the outset, these students have embarked on arguably the most global full-time MBA programme in the world. But that’s not the only enhancement we made as we overhauled the full-time MBA.

Flexibility—with rigor

For career-switchers, the traditional two-year MBA may continue to be the right choice. They are turning their careers in a new direction and they value the foundational education, the time to engage with our career services professionals and the chance to test themselves in a summer internship.

But career enhancers—looking for a leap forward in a career they already love—want the content in less time and for as little opportunity cost as possible. They need an accelerated programme that skips the internship. They don’t want “MBA lite.” They want “MBA intensive,” in an abbreviated timeframe, and that’s what WashU Olin has created with the new accelerated full-time MBA.

The new 14-month programme skips the internship and provides the same rigor, the same credit-hours, the same classroom and peer-to-peer experiences as the full-time, two-year programme. Yet students will emerge eight months earlier, prepared to take a giant leap forward in their careers.

Or, if they wish, they can build additional expertise by pairing a specialized master’s degree in business analytics —”big data” — with their full-time MBA. They’ll work on both programmes concurrently and earn two complementary business school degrees in 26 months.

At a time of change and introspection across the business-education spectrum, we are not done innovating in our full-time MBA programme. The Olin Business School team is working to add alternative destinations to the global immersion that will benefit more students, for example.

For our newest class of WashU Olin global MBA students, you might say the programme makes their “blood more stir.”

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