Travel the world or settle down and get an MBA?
Those two paths might seem to diverge sharply. But Loyola University Chicago's School of Business Administration is launching a program that combines world exploration with MBA studies and in so doing embraces a major business trend: Seeking opportunities in emerging markets.
Loyola's Intercontinental MBA, to launch in the fall of 2013, will allow students to rotate through residencies in Asia, Latin America and Eastern or Central Europe. Each class will vote on exactly where within those regions they will spend each quarter together.
Getz acknowledges that "it would be fun to be a student in a program like this." Beyond the fun factor, she said, the rotation will give students hands-on opportunities to study how emerging markets can move beyond agriculture and mining into value-added businesses such as manufacturing and, eventually, the knowledge economy.
At the same time, Loyola and other business schools are setting up and expanding permanent programs in developing economies. For example, Loyola is collaborating with Harvard University to expand its presence in Vietnam.
The focus on emerging markets is just one of the ways Chicago business schools are evolving with an eye on the trends shaping the economic future. Other trends the schools are embracing:
Social enterprise — using business practices to solve social problems in a for-profit or nonprofit context.
Business intelligence — the new field of making good use of the mountains of data produced by modern business software applications.
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business launched its Social Enterprise Initiative this spring. Booth is one of many business schools to acknowledge that students of the Millennial Generation plan to wrap their social consciousness into their professional careers, said Robert Gertner, a deputy dean at Booth.
"Young people today have been exposed to doing volunteer work throughout their lives, often in high school, through church groups and in college," said Gertner, who is co-director of the Social Enterprise Initiative. "Being engaged in some kind of social activity is a part of their lives, and they ... are eager to find opportunities to use their learning in a way that's productive."
Social enterprise as a trend in the business world started about 10 years ago, Gertner said, and is now being embraced by business schools.
"Microfinance taking off was a big part of it," he said. "That's the kind of thing that resonated with MBA students: Here's a way that you can use the tools you're learning in finance classes ... to solve the deepest issues of poverty."
The Social Enterprise Initiative supports classes and extracurricular activities at Booth that focus on using business practices to change the world for the better. One such activity is the Social New Venture Challenge, in which students compete for cash prizes to fund sustainable business or nonprofit ideas.
This year's competition includes LuminAID Lab, which developed an inflatable LED solar light for use in disaster relief, and First Principals, which would provide public school principals with management coaches from the private sector.
Besides Generation Y's background of volunteer work, Gertner has another theory on why interest in social enterprise has taken hold among MBA students and undergraduates across the country: "Young people have always been idealistic," he said. "A lot of that traditionally has been focused toward politics and the political process. There's a deep sense of disappointment and therefore disengagement toward politics."
Instead of the political realm, students are looking for ways to integrate doing good into their work lives, he said.
Loyola has also identified social enterprise as an area of focus. Getz agrees that people in their 20s are drawn to social enterprise due to a sense of disillusionment with the present world. She said the interest also springs from the generation's strong desire for work-life balance.
"The person can combine the technical knowledge as a business person with whatever social passions they happen to have," Getz said.
Nationwide, students are showing their passion for social enterprise by setting up local chapters of Net Impact (netimpact.org), a global network that calls its members "a new generation of leaders who use our careers to tackle the world's toughest problems."
It doesn't take a clairvoyant to make this prediction about future businesses: They will have a lot of data. Modern business databases provide a constant stream of information about sales and expenses from different software programs, and the data mine keeps growing.
"Now what do we do with it?" is the question businesses are asking, said Bob Ludwig, director of public affairs at the Graduate Management Admission Council, the owner and administrator of the GMAT exam taken by prospective business graduate students. "We need people with the skills to look at this data."
This year for the first time, the GMAT will include a section called Integrated Reasoning, in which students must draw conclusions based on multiple sources of data.
And MBA programs are adding business intelligence, or business analytics, programs to their curricula. In the Chicago area, the business intelligence focus can be seen in the Illinois Institute of Technology's Stuart School of Business' certificate program in business analytics, Booth's Concentration in Analytic Management and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chicago Executive MBA program's course Statistics, Data Analysis and Decision Making.
A world of opportunity
MBA programs look to make social problems their projects and emerging markets their classroom
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