At the risk of generalizing, it’s not too unreasonable to assume that for a lot of potential applicants to an MBA program, the first stop on the admissions website is the list of rankings and job placements. And if that’s where a potential applicant to W&M’s Mason School of Business starts, it won’t disappoint. The business faculty is consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation by The Princeton Review and gets an A+ from Businessweek, and there’s a long list of rankings and stats attesting to the high quality of the program.
But if you want to get a feeling for the zeitgeist of the school – what sets it apart from other programs – your next page view should be the Values Statement:
As a global citizen and member of the Mason community, I embrace the following values:
- Respect and responsibility for self and others
- A spirit of generosity
- A life dedicated to inquisitive learning and development
- My words, actions, and relationships will demonstrate my commitment to these values within the program and throughout my life.
And nobody knows better than Amanda Barth, Director of MBA Admissions at the Mason School of Business, that it’s the combination of these assets that attracts and could ultimately wins over an international student, which is her goal.
Barth has focused on increasing the international student population, and she’s overseen a significant increase in numbers. She credits the support of the Dean and the entire W&M community for the commitment to internationalizing the school. It’s a smart business model in an increasingly global economy, but it’s also good practice because, as she says simply: “Diversity makes for an interesting learning experience.”
Barth is optimistic but savvy about both the opportunities and the challenges for W&M in the international market. She acknowledges that for international students, the schools in Europe are well respected and have the advantage of an excellent price point. But Barth has helped Mason create a unique W&M niche.
Barth understands her constituency and W&M’s strong points:
- The prestige and quality of W&M;
- A diverse, international population. Almost half of full-time MBA students at W&M are
- international, so students know they will feel comfortable; and
- The safe and supportive environment of Williamsburg, which is a particular plus for women and students with families. Nearly half of the international students will bring their families with them, some with small children.
The Right Combination of Talent, Experience and Outlook
Barth first came to W&M to pursue her Master of Education degree in the Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership Program from 2004-2006. After completing her Master’s she worked as a development officer at the Arizona State University Foundation in Tempe, Arizona. Barth returned in 2009 as Associate to the Director of Admissions at the Mason School and has been Director of Admissions since 2010.
Barth attributes her ease with traveling internationally and embracing different cultures to having a “gift not to see things differently. I’m very adaptable.” She also prepares herself extremely well. “You should take the time to conduct research about a region,” Barth recommends. “You will be received well, if you know how to present yourself.” Her openness comes in handy not only with international recruitment, but in all her outreach, including with private corporations, government, military, NGOs, alumni and even the occasional student needing a hand on move-in day.
Her involvement with the students doesn’t end with their acceptance into the program. Her philosophy is that she and the entire admissions and career development staffs work together to stay actively engaged in each student’s time at W&M. “We want to create a true learning community where everyone participates,” Barth states, “This is such an exciting place to be, and I look for people on my team who truly care about students.”
A Strategy for Outreach and Alumni Engagement
The personal touch is indispensable, but the growth in international students is also the result of a well- reasoned strategy of identifying the key markets where W&M does well and building on those existing core relationships while looking for areas to expand. Or another way to put it, create a balance of steady markets with emerging ones.
Currently 40% of full-time MBA students -- representing more than 20 countries -- are international. W&M’s current key markets are: Southeast Asia, India, parts of Latin America, the Middle East and Arabian Gulf, Japan and Korea.
Where are potential new opportunities? Barth is looking at expanding into Central America (Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala), Africa (Nigeria, Congo, Zimbabwe, Ghana), in addition to continuing efforts in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf States.
It’s Barth’s outreach and enthusiasm that have been primarily responsible for the development of Middle East and Arabian Gulf partnerships. She travels a good part of the year, participating in the MBA and QS World MBA marketing tours, which are held in countries around the world to bring together top ranked business schools with potential applicants, alumni and employers. One of Barth’s examples of what can happen at these kinds of events was in 2013 with Alba (Aluminum Bahrain), one of the largest aluminum smelters in the world. As a result of the connection Barth made, Alba’s CEO Tim Murray, sent students to Mason in 2013. The number of international students jumped from two to twelve that year, with students coming from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon and Turkey, all a result of Murray’s connections. Murray then served as an Executive in Residence at W&M in 2014.
The Executive Partners Program is a big draw for global candidates, because getting coaching from an American senior business executive is a unique and effective career boost.
In addition to corporation connections, Barth works with AMIDEAST and the State Department to recruit Fulbright Scholars. In fall 2016, Mason boats two scholars from Egypt, one from Iraq and one from Tunisia.
Barth also recruits from all branches of the U.S. military. Approximately 20% of the current full-time MBA program are military. “Most military are senior in rank and have had global deployments, which helps them connect well to international students, who have also had to learn to adjust to different cultures,” Barth notes. “They also enrich the learning teams or study groups by sharing their experiences and leadership ability.”
It’s also interesting to note that 40% of the international students are employer- or government-sponsored, a testament to the commitment and partnerships that have been established.
Building an Alumni Network
“Alumni connections are a huge help,” Barth adds. “We make the most of global candidate alumni representation in almost every global city we visit, and all our alumni are helpful in making connections for corporate sponsorships.” W&M alumni also stand out compared to even the big name business schools, because of how engaged and enthusiastic they are. Barth refers to them as “Admissions Ambassadors” who may be international students returning to work in their home countries or U.S. citizens working abroad.
There are almost always more W&M alumni that come to MBA events. Dean Larry Pulley visited Japan last fall and met with 60 alumni. “We’re a touch point back for the alumni to the college.”
And a brief sample list of corporations with alumni is as impressive as it is varied: 3M, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Samsung and Toshiba.
Support and Engagement on Campus
Barth also understands how vital the connections and support with the international community are here in Williamsburg. Barth’s collaborative relationships are local as well as global, and she and her staff work closely with the Office of International Students, Scholars and Programs (ISSP) at the Reves Center. The “safe environment” here is not only the advantage of a small city, but also a vibrant international community, with ISSP’s International Family Network (IFN), Conversation Partners, and now with the new English Language Program (ELP). “ELP is going to be a tremendous asset.”
Barth is well aware of the challenges for international students, ranging from communications issues to adjusting to the American style of education, where teachers encourage problem solving and independent thinking over rote learning. That’s another advantage of the W&M teamwork, though, because the same campus supports that make for a happy and fulfilling experience are also the kinds of resources not as easily accessible at other schools but will help with job search and training.
A Personal Mission
Barth’s hope is that in addition to finding employment, through some of these interactions and connections she has helped set in motion by diversifying the W&M Mason experience, “Somebody’s eyes will be opened by getting to know a new region, or a person from a different country, and that will make a difference in the life of somebody else."