WMU News

First class of Singapore MBA program graduates

July 24, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- After 15 months of intensive study, students in Western Michigan University's first overseas MBA program received their degrees on Sunday, July 22.

Twenty Southeast Asian professionals have been part of the inaugural class of WMU's Haworth College of Business Singapore master of business administration program. Employed by international companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Citibank, Westinghouse Electric and the Royal Bank of Canada, the students have been attending intensive 10-day courses with WMU faculty since May 2000. A dozen business faculty members traveled to Singapore to teach this first group, with pre-course work and follow-up conducted via the Internet.

The students received their degrees Sunday at a ceremony in Singapore. Two of the graduates traveled to Kalamazoo last month to attend commencement exercises held on the main campus as well.

"We're really delighted with the initial success of this program," says Dr. James W. Schmotter, dean of the Haworth College of Business. "The caliber of the students has been impressive, and the members of this first class will make excellent alumni. We've learned some things, certainly, but overall we're quite pleased."

According to Schmotter, faculty development was a driving factor behind the decision to open a Singapore MBA program last year. He wanted more WMU faculty members to experience life in Southeast Asia, interacting daily with students and business people and then bringing that knowledge back to their Kalamazoo classrooms. That aspect of the program, he says, has also proven a rousing success.

Dr. Jack M. Ruhl, chairperson of WMU's Department of Accountancy, taught an MBA course in Singapore last fall. He made a number of professional contacts while overseas, and he is already planning a joint research project with one of his Singapore MBA students to investigate healthcare insurance reimbursements in the region.

"The students were extremely bright, and they all have significant work experience," says Ruhl, who is planning a sightseeing trip with several former students when he returns to the country in November. "At this level, there was no language barrier--except on my part. After experiencing the difficulty of communicating day-to-day in another culture, even just to order a meal, I have a much deeper understanding of the difficulties our international students face in Kalamazoo. It was an eye-opening experience."

In the Singapore MBA market, WMU faces tough competition from U.S. competitors such as the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and the University of Chicago, as well as Australian and British universities. The Haworth College of Business program is set apart by competitive pricing, top-notch faculty members on site and a long-term commitment to Singapore, according to Schmotter.

"A lot of these programs come and go very quickly," he notes. "We have made it clear that we intend to stay in Singapore for the long haul. It is, after all, the business hub of Southeast Asia, and there are a multitude of benefits for this University and for the Singapore students we serve. We could scarcely resist the match."

The Singapore MBA program focuses on international management with a strong emphasis on Asia-Pacific business issues. The Haworth College of Business is partnering with the Center for American Education in Singapore to deliver the program, which meets all standards of AACSB International: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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