In mid-June, a brand new cohort of students traveled from all over the world to settle into the rolling hills of Morgantown.
The College of Business and Economics has made it a priority to cultivate a global perspective in its classrooms, an effort which is particularly noticeable in the rigorous, 14-month Full-Time MBA program. The new class consists of 41 students who hail from 11 different countries across five continents.
"We're really focusing in on a true global experience," said Candi Wilhelm, associate director of Masters Programs at B&E. "You can see the global footprint."
Wilhelm said that international perspectives make a powerful impact for all involved. Not only are foreign students receiving the benefit of immersing themselves in a new culture and learning in a different language, but domestic students receive tremendous benefit as well.
"In a word, 'understanding,'" said student Katie Kelley. Although Kelley was born and raised in West Virginia, she has had the pleasure of living abroad in Australia and appreciates the WVU MBA's emphasis on diversity.
"It's hard to sum it up," she said, referring to the benefits of a highly diverse learning environment. "It's a new perspective. It's more tolerance. It's learning to reach, to help people who are out of their element. It's also taking in what they have to offer. Doing these things takes you out of your element, even if you're a domestic student."
According to Wilhelm, most international students already have work experience, an attribute less typical of domestic MBAs. Since these students have worked in a variety of cultures, they are able to add value to the classroom for one another, domestic students and the MBA faculty alike.
For example, student Norma Bueso, a native of Honduras, worked in corporate law for a year at a bank before entering the MBA program. She came to WVU in hopes of complementing her law background with a firm understanding of business.
"It's a great school, highly ranked. It's a powerful school with a cozy, home-like feel where I am comfortable living," Bueso said, adding that she's enjoying the summer weather and the friendliness of the locals. Because of the opportunity to study in America among a diverse group of classmates, Bueso felt the program was a perfect fit.
"Business in general is a very international path to take. You can't just focus on one culture, but on many. It's important to know how to interact with different cultures – the way they think, the way they act, how they feel about things," she said.
Bueso hopes to work in the U.S. to gain experience and then return to Honduras to implement all she has learned.
Fellow MBA student Vladimir Tavitov says that understanding others isn't the only benefit from a diverse classroom.
"When you are learning in a different language, it's a little difficult but you get a new perspective on the education from your professors. (Through studying abroad) you can actually understand who you are better, and you can understand that not only your point of view or perception is right. You can see things from different perspectives."
Tavitov hails from Moscow, Russia, but has spent a great deal of time in Germany, where he pursued graduate education in international management at Fulda University. He speaks at least four languages – Russian, German, English and French.
"It was my aim to study one year in Germany and one year in the States," he said. "It will be very useful for my prospective job. It is experience I would not have otherwise."
After the MBA program, Tavitov plans to return to Germany to complete his master's thesis and seek employment.
Other countries represented in the cohort include China, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Germany, Honduras and, of course, the United States. Roughly half of the students are pursuing dual degrees.
"They're building global connections," Wilhelm said. "When they have an opportunity to travel for personal or business reasons, they have a connection wherever they go."