Darden’s Dean On the Value of International MBA Students

Against a backdrop of public debate on immigration, and assertions that international students are taking away places on college campuses that should go to American-born students, Dean Robert Bruner of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business explains in a recent blog post why international students are vital to our educational system.

According to the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business, international students comprised 14.2% of all students enrolled in U.S. B-schools in 2012-2013. The number of GMAT test takers abroad, particularly from Asia, continues to rise, and Bruner notes that international applications at Darden increased by 21% this year, with just a 1% increase in domestic applications.

In this excerpt, Dean Bruner specifies exactly what motivates Darden to recruit international students:

  • It is right for the students. I challenge any parent: given what you know about the trends in the global economy, would you be satisfied to have your child educated only with people of your own country? The professional world into which American and international students will graduate requires managers and leaders who are globally confident and competent. One learns so much about navigating across borders from studying with internationally-diverse classmates. Our best American applicants demand an internationally diverse classroom and network. They know that the future will require both understanding of and cooperation with other nations.
  • It is right for the companies who recruit our students. Darden’s corporate partners actively look to hire our international students. No wonder. Our analysis shows that the top 15 corporate non-financial recruiters at Darden report an average of 45% of their revenues originating outside of the U.S. America’s business economy is not an island unto itself; it is hugely dependent on global trade. American firms of all sizes must look beyond our borders. Some 46.6% of the sales of the S&P500 companies originate internationally.
  • It is right for our society. International students contribute much more than the measures of student spending indicate. They promote global awareness among American students. They spur innovation and creativity (diversity does this generally). They found companies and create jobs here. Generally, international students carry values that are quite consistent with the heritage of America. These students are optimists, pioneers, and risk-takers who leave their familiar lands, languages, and cultures to strive for a better life. They are drawn to the American Dream as much as many Americans—and the international students help to sustain that dream. Since Darden is financially self-sufficient, it delivers these benefits to society without funding from taxpayers or the University.
  • It can help the native countries of our international students. America spends 1% of its Federal budget on foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. Educating international students is a high-impact complement to such aid. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.’
  • It is right for Darden. Our vision for Darden is succinct: “World-class impact and stature.” Our Mission calls us to “improve the world by developing and inspiring responsible leaders and by advancing knowledge.” We want to make a positive impact in the world. Educating international students helps us fulfill our Mission and Vision.”

Dean Bruner goes on to sketch out the financial aid and loan programs available to international applicants at Darden, while stressing that he always advises B-school hopefuls to first tap into personal savings, family, a working spouse, and/or part-time employment to help pay for their education—using loans only as a last resort.

With references to Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson, Dean Bruner makes a compelling and relevant argument about the value of expanding our experiences beyond our own backyards. To learn more about how Bruner makes the case for international students, read the complete blog post here.

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