Business school turns to India, Latin America and Middle East to recruit grad students

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduate students, who are predominately from Brazil, take economics courses through an exchange program with GW’s Center for Latin American Issues. Linda Livingstone, the dean of the GW School of Business, said she hopes to increase the number of graduate students from Latin America, India and the Middle East.

The GW School of Business dean is looking to recruit graduate students from what she called untapped regions in higher education: India, Latin America and the Middle East.

Dean Linda Livingstone said the school can build on its success recruiting students from Asian countries, specifically China, after it started a partnership with a Chinese university. Strengthening the school’s reputation abroad could help boost the number of students in its master’s and doctoral programs after graduate enrollment slumped across the University last year.

“It is something we’ll have to continue to put in energy and intention to ensure that we have the right balance of international and domestic students, and then among our international students that we have a diversity of students,” Livingstone said.

This fall, about half of the business school’s master’s students are from foreign countries, with 70 percent of that total coming from Asia.

Livingstone said officials should prioritize Latin America, which made up about 6 percent of graduate students in the business school this fall. She said that region is “underserved” across higher education. In 2013, four graduate students in the business school came from Brazil – compared to more than 50 from China.

As globalization at universities becomes an increasingly popular buzzword, GW has pledged to double its foreign student enrollment over the next decade. Adding more international undergraduate students could also prove a boon to the University: Many international undergraduates can afford to pay full tuition, a key factor for a tuition-reliant school like GW.

Livingstone declined to say whether the business school would look to increase the number of recruiters it sends to the regions or how many currently make visits.

“We will certainly try to look at those areas where we know there’s opportunity and natural channels of students,” Livingstone said. “We certainly have students coming from there but again, it’s an area that there’s certainly more opportunity and that helps diversify your student body as well.”

One way the University has tried to draw master’s students its business school is through a 20-year old economics training program with its Center for Latin American Issues. College graduates in the program spend four months taking economics classes and visiting organizations like the World Bank in D.C. and New York.

James Ferrer, the director of the Center for Latin American Issues, said the training program has helped students “build a strong relationship with GW,” but only about six have signed up for the master’s program after completing the classes.

“If we put more attention into that program, we’d attract more,” said Ferrer, who is a research professor in business and international affairs. “The basic pitch is to give them international experience.”

He said GW will also have to tell students, particularly in Latin America, about the benefits they’ll see with an American graduate degree on top of their undergraduate degree from a Latin American university.

“For example, a master’s on top of a degree in Brazil gives you access to a lot more companies in Brazil – a much stronger chance of getting a significant position,” Ferrer said. “Companies, especially big ones, like that. I’d say I think it’s quite feasible if we put some time into it.”

Ferrer said about 15 students are now enrolled in the program, primarily from Brazil. He said Chile, with its growing economy, would be another potential target for recruiters, and that he’d like to see the business school’s focus on Asia “expanded more broadly.”

But business professors say the school has overlooked a major recruiting strategy: asking faculty who take international trips to meet with potential students in the countries they visit.

Yoon Shik-Park, an international finance professor who has worked at GW for more than three decades, said he used to travel to South Korea 12 times a year when he served on the board of Samsung. During those years, and even now that his travel has slowed, the University never asked him to meet with students.

“There is no systematic approach, as far as I can see,” he said.

Shik-Park said the admissions office could ask faculty for travel schedules by region and by month so they could plan gatherings with potential students.

“That would help. The faculty are going anyway, so there’d be no additional cost, just a dinner or lunch,” Shik-Park said.

Danny Leipziger, a professor of practice in international business who teaches courses like financial crises in emerging markets, said he travels frequently but it is “rare” for officials to ask him to host an event or meet with students.

He said the University has “missed opportunities” like asking alumni and visiting professors to connect with foreign students and help draw them to GW.

“There are a lot of relatively low-cost recruitment efforts that would be effective in some of the markets. To do that, we have to be out there,” Leipziger said. “We’re in a competitive environment and we have to be out there offering something that’s interesting.”

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