Q&A: Global Master’s Program Crucial for Future Business Leaders, Zeithaml Says

Students in the McIntire School of Commerce’s newest program will spend 15 weeks at UVA before moving on to China and Spain.

This fall, the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce will welcome the first students into an innovative new M.S. in Global Commerce Program.

Offered by the McIntire School in partnership with two renowned business schools – ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, and Lingnan (University) College at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China – the program will allow students to earn an M.S. in Global Commerce from McIntire, an M.S. in Global Strategic Management from ESADE and a certificate in International Management from Lingnan over the course of a year, as well as develop the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly globalized business environment.

McIntire Dean Carl Zeithaml recently answered a few questions about what this program means for students and for the Commerce School.

Q. Can you tell me about this new program and how it will work?

A. McIntire’s new M.S. in Global Commerce Program is a one-year professional master’s degree offered in partnership with two renowned business schools: ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, and Lingnan (University) College, Sun Yat-sen University, in Guangzhou, China. Graduates of the program earn master’s degrees in Global Commerce and Global Strategic Management from McIntire and ESADE, respectively, and a certificate in International Management from Lingnan.

The program will admit 60 students – 20 each from the Americas, Europe and Asia, all recent college graduates with business degrees – who will live, study and work together, as a cohort, for the duration of the program. Students will spend the first 15 weeks of the program at UVA, where coursework will focus on developing skills in global strategic management. They then will spend nine weeks at Lingnan College in Guangzhou, China, studying global project financing and operations. The program concludes with 15 weeks at ESADE in Barcelona, Spain, where the emphasis of study will be on global innovation and alliances.

By working in diverse multicultural teams – throughout the program’s curriculum, as well as on a yearlong thesis project – students will explore the complexities of doing business from the North American, European and Asian perspectives, all while immersed in a perspective-shifting international environment. Our aim is to provide students with a high-impact educational experience that will help them develop the critical global competencies they need to get work done in today’s complex, dynamic global economy.

Q. Are there any other programs like this?

A. I believe that our program is unique. Although some interesting collaborative programs exist for international study and travel, at both the undergraduate and M.B.A. level, our new M.S. in Global Commerce Program is really groundbreaking in the degree to which the curriculum is contiguous, progressive and integrated across the three schools, and the way that the global element is very consciously woven into the entire curriculum and experience. Compared with other global programs, the MSGC is far broader in scope; it’s a far more ambitious effort to provide students with the particular set of skills they need to be effective and successful in the highly diverse and international workplace that is rapidly becoming the norm.

Q. What kinds of skills will students gain from the program?

A. First, this program is far from simply an extended travel opportunity. The MSGC Program promises to be intense and challenging, and it is very much oriented toward the acquisition of critically important real-world business skills and competencies. So-called “soft skills” are fully integrated into a curriculum that simultaneously builds students’ analytical and technical business skills as the program unfolds. To be really effective in a global business context, outstanding cross-cultural communication and teamwork skills are every bit as critical as expertise in international finance, marketing and supply chain management.

Once again, students in this program will learn to effectively address business challenges within a multicountry, multicultural, high-technology business environment – because that’s the world in which they will work.

Q. Let’s say I’m a graduate of a top business school. I’ve gotten a great foundational business education and have spent a semester studying overseas. What additional value would this program offer me?

A. When we talk to recruiters, global competencies are absolutely at the top of their list of critical skills for new hires. Increasingly, they send young people to work in international settings and assign them roles on virtual international teams, both of which involve a specific skill set that many young people don’t have when they enter the working world.

A 2015 research report conducted by the American Management Association and the Institute for Corporate Productivity noted that if workers don’t get “global mindedness” at a young age, they probably will never get it; by the time someone is 10 or even five years into their career, they’ve already developed habitual ways of approaching problems and situations. Developing global skills early builds an incredibly strong foundation both for a successful business career and for global business leadership.

In addition, when students graduate from this program, they will have two fantastic degrees and a certificate from three top-ranked business schools, and they will have amazing international networks – of classmates, business leaders, professors and alumni – from the three regions. They’ll be able to go to Europe and say, “Not only do I have a degree from the McIntire School, but I also have a degree from ESADE.” They’ll be able to go to China and say, “I have a certificate from Sun Yat-sen, one of the best universities in China, and I also studied in the United States and Europe.” These certifications and networks will be very powerful in the future.  They give you access, fluency and a connection – and so much of business is about building relationships and connections.

Q. Let’s say I’m finishing up my senior year at a top business school, and I’m trying to decide between accepting a promising job offer and enrolling in the MSGC Program. Why should I enroll in the program?

A. A student in this position can always ask their new employer if it’s possible to defer acceptance of the job for a year. The student is not taking a year off just to go hiking – she’s choosing to undertake an intensive year of study to enhance her business skills and build critical and highly valuable global business competencies. To the student who’s weighing taking a job or enrolling in this program, an experience like this one can help put you on a leadership track; people aren’t getting to the executive suite without the skills that the MSGC Program offers.

Q. Why did McIntire choose to partner with ESADE and Lingnan? Specifically, what are the strengths or merits of each institution?

A. McIntire has a decades-long record of tremendous success with cohort- and team-based education; our top-ranked undergraduate program and three highly regarded graduate programs are exemplars of both approaches. We’re also known for our unique ability to create flexible, modular curriculum platforms that allow for integration between the disciplines, ongoing innovation and a high-relevance, real-world educational experience.

With the new MSGC Program, we build on all of that expertise – and take it to the next level by incorporating the global, multicultural components.

Our partner schools for this program are like-minded in many ways. They are distinguished leaders in global business education, and they have the experience, interest and capability to build an integrative, truly global curriculum. Currently, ESADE recruits in more than 50 countries and has alumni living and working in more than 114 countries; Lingnan draws outstanding students from throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim. Both schools are known for their commitment to excellence and innovation in education.

Creating the new program was a fascinating and exciting process. Although the three schools take somewhat different approaches, we all have the same goals. In a way, we speak the same language, and it’s been incredibly interesting to see our different ideas and perspectives come together to create really interesting, positive and productive outcomes.

Q. Launching a new graduate program is a major undertaking and an enormous commitment on the part of the McIntire School. Why is this new program important?

A. McIntire has long recognized the importance of a global education; no significant business operates on a strictly domestic basis. Our curriculum is thoroughly “globalized,” and students have a number of opportunities to study abroad and engage in deep global studies. We also have a highly international student body – more than 20 percent of our students hold a foreign passport – and the presence of those students, with their diverse perspectives and fresh approaches to business and life, is tremendously positive and enriching. We have 43 partner schools around the world, with whom we enjoy extremely productive relationships. Our corporate partners – which include AB InBev, Alcoa, Hilton Worldwide and Rolls-Royce – could hardly be more international.

In addition, we have a fantastic network of global alumni, friends, and parents who are amazing contributors to the school. So “global” is something with which we have a lot of experience.

Still, the MSGC is a very important step for the McIntire School. It’s a bold testament to our ongoing ability to generate innovative and important curricula. It’s also a clear statement that this institution is committed to producing both outstanding businesspeople and a new generation of global business leaders.

As educators, we have a responsibility – particularly in today’s world – to help students understand and work with people throughout the world; my hope is that the new MSGC Program will serve as a model for the University of Virginia, as well as for other business schools. The business sector is often criticized, but the fact is that business can be a tremendous catalyst for bringing people together in positive, productive ways. I truly believe that through real, thoughtful, meaningful engagement with other people, we can build not only better businesses, but a better world.

Media Contact

Jim Travisano

McIntire School of Commerce Director of Communications