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Friday, March 10, 2017
Politics and Teachable Moments for MBA Students
Following President Trump's January 2017 Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, a furor erupted across America. The backlash was not purely political. Some of the loudest voices came from the halls of academia, where immigrants comprise a substantial portion of the student and faculty population. A recent GMAC survey found that 56% of two-year MBA applications are from non-citizens.

This week, the Trump administration issued a new, narrower ban. While it has sparked slightly less outrage, at least some in academia are viewing the ban through a different lens: a learning opportunity.

Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, considers both of the executive orders to be teachable moments. Business schools are amongst the most geographically diverse of post-graduate institutions, largely because the world of business is now largely global. Students stand to learn more about context when exposed to cross-cultural models.

Boulding understands the need for delicate handling of a political hot-topic, but his approach is pragmatic. The practical effects of the ban are yet unknown, but it is likely to either prevent or discourage foreign talent from pursuing education in the U.S. In that regard, it may become a forecast of real-world trends under increasingly isolationist U.S. policies.

MBA programs in particular are built upon the backs of case studies. Factoring in global economic shifts and sociopolitical trends is essential in creating hypotheticals that mimic reality. For now, that reality is changing at a dynamic gallop, forcing business schools to square off with a very different academic landscape.

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