A nanosecond away and twelve time zones apart, at eight o'clock on September 11, MIT Sloan Deputy Dean Don Lessard welcomed the sixth and largest class of International MBA students (IMBA) at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management — by videoconference, an increasingly powerful tool in today's increasingly ubiquitous Information Age.
It was 8 a.m. in Cambridge, but already 8 p.m. in Beijing, so Lessard began his remarks to the 137 new students with “Good evening.” When he went on with a broad smile and “Welcome to the greater Sloan community,” they grinned back at his face writ large on the video screen and gave whole arm waves. In China there's an old saying, “Good friends who live on opposite sides of the earth live as neighbors.”
More than 2,200 men and women from across China — and from Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Korea, and Cuba — had competed to win a place in this class, one of three IMBA programs established in 1996 by MIT Sloan (the others are at Fudan University in Shanghai and Lingnan (University) College of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou) to prepare Chinese graduate management students for careers in the global arena. Large Chinese companies, foreign enterprises, and joint ventures have been quick to recruit IMBA graduates at premium salaries.
“This is a collaborative program between Sloan and Tsinghua,” Lessard told the students. “International is your special strength, but not your specialty. The mission of this program is to develop future business leaders in China with global vision.”
The IMBA students listening to Lessard were beginning their intensive, two-year program with Orientation Week, one of many popular innovations that MIT Sloan has introduced into Chinese graduate management education. Others include courses in information technology and data, models, and decisions; qualitative courses, such as managerial communications and ethics; career development activities; and summer internships.
Not all of the 137 students could speak to Lessard at the videoconference, so they had chosen two representatives to speak for them. “Come teach at Tsinghua,” they said to Lessard's image on the screen. “We cannot wait.” “I will,” Lessard replied with a grin, “at least once. But the most important way for you to learn is from your classmates. They have so much management experience. Congratulations on earning the opportunity to study in one of the best MBA programs in the world.” In America, there's an old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
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