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McCombs Expands Global Reach

Scott Mattei and his family in front of the Eiffel Tower

Ask Scott Mattei, MBA '95, why he arranged a sabbatical from a private family office in North Carolina to spend a year with his wife and his two young children in Paris, and he'll talk about the power of foreign exposure and networking to "burst your bubble."

Ask Eric Clark, BBA '94, MBA '04, why, after returning to Texas from a four-year stint in Singapore, he and his family would want to do it all over again for Dell in London, and he'll talk about how relationship-building is key to any business and how American myopia stymies the bottom line.

So when Dean Tom Gilligan greets alums in London on Feb. 7 at the (what-could-only-be-British) pub, The Only Running Footman, at an event hosted by Mattei and London ex-pat Shawn Wells, BBA, '86, the Dean won't just be giving a strategic update. He'll actually be extending the school's reach and influence by capitalizing on a vast network of alumni and partner schools around the world for which there are promising plans for engagement.

Strengthening Alumni Ties

According to the latest figures, there are 2,400 McCombs grads living abroad in 104 countries, with Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Japan topping the list. Outside the U.S., there are 12 McCombs alumni chapters in as many countries. The London chapter, one of largest outside the States, boasts over 100 active members.

But alumni working abroad make up just a tiny fraction of the global story. With a total of 90,000 living McCombs alumni, those currently living abroad constitute less than three percent. This says nothing about citizenship, however: Non-U.S. citizens make up about 10 percent of the total, several thousand of whom are living in the States.

Strengthening the ties between McCombs and international alumni (whether stateside or abroad) is a focus of international entrepreneurship Senior Lecturer John Doggett. Tapped by the dean in 2011 to become the school's first Faculty International Alumni Liaison, Doggett, with assistance from McCombs Alumni Relations Director Keary Kinch, launched the McCombs Mexican Alumni Network (MMAN) in 2012.

The MMAN is reaching out to all Mexican students and alumni of McCombs, no matter where they live, in order to create different and more meaningful connections to the school, such as networking and support channels, business information resources, endowments, and other contributions.

MMAN President Tania Rodriguez, MBA '11, initially hoped the project would become a template for other alumni associations. She didn't have long to wait. Quick on the heels of the Mexico group, the McCombs India Alumni Network (MIAN) was launched, with chapters in Austin, Dallas, Houston, New York City, and India. With a mission to create "a lifelong and worldwide community of McCombs alumni interested in India," MIAN offers educational and networking opportunities for career advancement and fosters dialogue on doing business in India.

Three's a charm: The Latin American Alumni Association is also in the process of launching.

What's not being counted in all these international alumni numbers is the extensive global exposure that McCombs students gain during their degree programs, and carry with them for life.

Boasting the Best of the British Isles

London Business School facadeSignificant interest greeted the news of two powerhouse partner schools signing agreements with McCombs for 2014-15. The world-renowned London Business School and the London School of Economics and Political Science are the newest and brightest gems to join an already extensive collection of elite partner schools for MBA student exchange.

Together with the existing British exchange options — Manchester and Warwick business schools on the MBA side, and the universities of Bath (England) and Edinburgh (Scotland) on the BBA side — McCombs has its own "crown jewels" of British exchange. And with the recent addition of the University of Limerick (Ireland), a partnership that Dean Gilligan himself initiated, McCombs can boast the best in the British Isles.

Robust Growth in Study Abroad

The Texas MBA currently has 27 destinations across 23 countries for one-semester study abroad. The gamut of offerings include some of the best foreign business institutions in the world, including HEC in Paris, ESADE in Barcelona, FGV in Sao Paulo, CUHK in Hong Kong, and Bocconi in Milan. In addition to the two new London schools, Tokyo's prestigious KEIO University and the University of Cape Town are joining the list for 2014-15, bringing the tally to 31 schools in 24 countries.

According to Debbie Carney, MBA international exchange coordinator, demand for outbound exchange has roughly doubled over the past couple of years. Thirty-one MBAs will spend a semester abroad during the current academic year. Meanwhile, on the inbound side, this year marks the largest single intake of MBA foreign exchange students in school history.

When you include the 7-to-10-day MBA Global Connections programs, which this year include destinations in China, Southeast Asia, Russia, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, and Ghana, approximately 80 percent of all MBAs in the full-time program will spend time abroad during their studies. Additionally, 100 percent of the students of the three working professional MBA programs (Evening, Dallas, and Houston) take a short session abroad as a program requirement.

The BBA side is no less impressive. Boasting 29 partner schools across 24 countries, 35 percent of all Texas BBA students in 2012-13 went abroad for more than a week — most for more than a month, according to Polly Trigger, assistant director of BBA international programs.

That is the highest percentage among all colleges at The University of Texas at Austin. Considering the numbers involved — 4,451 McCombs undergrads have studied abroad just since 1994 — the amount of global exposure is noteworthy.

Trigger has seen an uptick in demand for study abroad, most recently in applications to the newly-minted summer faculty-led program with the London School of Economics. "We filled all 25 seats in the first day and we didn't even have the final details on the program's cost," she says.

Networking, Networking, Networking

What's the benefit of all this global exposure and experience? While the advantages are manifold, everyone seems to converge on one main item — networking.

Administrators point out that students studying abroad are in class not only with the foreign business elite, but with future business leaders from some of the best schools in the States. "If you want a global career, the smartest thing you can do is study abroad; your global reach is so much better," says Trigger. "The mix is incredible. You walk in the classroom, and your LinkedIn contacts just doubled," adds Carney with a laugh.

Eric Hirst, associate dean for graduate programs, emphasizes that business is no longer just local. "To be successful, you're going to have to work with people all over the place, travel all over the place, source from all over, and sell all over the place."

Alums concur. Clark, who founded a chapter of the Texas Exes in Singapore, credits moving to the island nation as a life-changing event "because the number of my relationships mushroomed dramatically, and relationships are so vitally important in the business world."

Mattei, who points out that his 8-year-old daughter in Paris attends class with 17 kids from 15 countries, adds, "No matter where you are in the States and who you talk to, you end up in a bubble. Living abroad explodes that bubble, stretches your mind, and re-connects you in ways you didn't anticipate."

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