Teresa Longo: Amanda, when I wrote you an e-mail asking if you’d be interested in participating today, you responded, “Good timing! I’m in an airport on my way to London.”
Amanda Barth: Yes, I was on my way to the UK for recruiting and I was in tears because I was so overjoyed to be back out in the global market and traveling for an in-person recruiting event. We are so very fortunate at the Mason School of Business to travel all across the United States and all around the world in search and our talented global MBA students. It was a trying two years [during COVID], trying to operate in a virtual reality. But [fall 2022] we were able to participate in the MBA Tour event in London with over 40 business professionals. We were also able to reconnect with William & Mary alumni in London and to have some small group dinners so it was a really successful recruiting event.
The two featured American universities were William & Mary and Harvard. So it was really special.
One of the main reasons that I’ve remained in this position at William & Mary for so long is that I can’t imagine another role on campus that would lend be the ability to make such deep and lasting relationships. Fabricio and I were talking about when we first met, and it took literally 30 seconds for us to make the connection that he is Brazilian, and one of my favorite recruiting destinations is South America and Brazil.
So I mentioned right off the bat today that there are two students that I would love to introduce Fabricio to—Juliana Olm Cunha is our associate director for graduate career management and her husband Gustavo Lambert is now working at Capital One, but they are graduates of our MBA program that I met while recruiting in Brazil. Juliana was just getting started with marketing for the Rio Olympics, and when I met her at a function, she said, ‘Amanda I’m a few years away from my MBA but I hope we can develop a relationship.’ And in fact we did. She was able to work another two years towards the Olympic Games, fulfill her obligation, and then the next August she enrolled here at William & Mary. But in the meantime she met her husband Gustavo and she brought him with her. So I was able to benefit from maintaining a relationship, and now Juliana is serving the graduate community here as a professional on staff. I’m sure we’re going to take this forward as I continue to recruit in South America.
Longo: Fabrizio, before you were a professor you were a student in Brazil, where you’re from, and then you were a student in Argentina, and then Emory University. That’s an interesting trajectory.
Fabrizio Prado: Perhaps meeting new people and establishing connections is at the core of my answer as well. I come from the southernmost part of Brazil, four hours away from the border with Uruguay and Argentina. Eighteen hours away from São Paolo. So, we’re much closer to Argentina, and that meant seeing people with another language, meeting friends in the summer from Argentina and Uruguay. I was always curious about what’s on the other side of the border.
When I started studying history in Brazil, a big thing for me was not just thinking about Brazil and the Portuguese empire. That’s why I did half of my master’s in Argentina. That was my first time having real immersion in another language, and realizing that thinking in another language opens a whole new world. It makes us reconsider the basic objects that we know in our daily life. You start seeing how people describe them differently. I fell in love with that feeling. But also I think that learning about different cultures really helped me to understand myself, understand the world, seeing new possibilities in terms of business, politics, culture and music.
When I got back to Brazil, I started teaching, and I realized very soon that I was interested in exposing my students to other cultures. But at that time in Brazil, it was difficult to write the history of a different country. So I began studies in Argentina, and I was introduced to an American professor, who had spent her life working on cross-border interactions in South America. She happened to teach at Emory University. From that connection, suddenly I was a Brazilian studying the history of Uruguay and Argentina in the United States. And eventually here I am at William & Mary teaching my students about the history of Latin America and the Atlantic World.
At a certain point these personal connections—these networks that one builds—take you across a very vast ocean.
It’s easy for us to think about business and history in terms of nations. We think of Brazil’s history, of Mexico’s history, of the United States -- but that gets obfuscated a little bit when we are not as connected to our borders.
The Atlantic World actually is a “space” that goes beyond one specific country. We cannot separate the history of the U.S. from Europe much less from Africa, or because of trade, from China and India. The years of the early republic were so important, as the Atlantic World was breaking away from traditional “boxes” and emphasizing the transnational and trans-imperial connections that forged our nation—that forged our cultures and economies.
Amanda, you may have a response to some of what I’m saying about the boxes or boundaries that still exist around countries.
Barth: That really is the most important aspect of MBA study in a global environment and a global community. I see that happen with our MBA students every day. We’re about 40% global in the MBA cohort and representing approximately 20 different countries in every incoming class, so our students get the benefit from immersing together and learning from each other every single day in a classroom dynamic, with shared conversations from varying perspectives. Those discussions involve students from Brazil, India, Nigeria and Ghana—all over the world—so we’re a really incredible learning community. So, yes, a lot of positive affirmation for what you are saying, Fabricio, and what you have experienced in your life.
That’s a spectacular part of what I think we’ve been able to do with the business school community. We ensure that we are not a regional MBA program here at William & Mary, but that we are a global presence.
Longo: For these MBA students, is the U.S. the first border they’ve crossed, or have they done something more like what Fabricio did?
Barth: I would say that for the majority of our international students, this is their first global opportunity. Out of the 40 or so students, perhaps 10 to 15 have had other study opportunities, typically within their region where they live. Students are also Fulbright scholars or are students that have had maybe a year of high school abroad or a year of university abroad, but now they’re working professionals who are traveling to the U.S. for the first time really for a full graduate experience. Some of them have limited travel and some of them have said, “You know, I have never been outside of Nigeria, and this is the first time that I’m even traveling out of my country.” And it’s an incredible experience to welcome them and to work so closely with our partners here at the Reves Center who make that immersion into the U.S. and into our William & Mary community such an easy and successful transition.
Longo: What are some of the jobs they have when they complete their education at William & Mary?
Barth: Thankfully I am able to address a much healthier employment outcome for our global students now. We’ve had some challenges; 75% of American universities experienced a decline in global applications from about 2018 until after the pandemic. But this season we’re now seeing the reopening or the welcoming of U.S. companies to our global talent again—a resurgence of opportunities for our students. We’re seeing internship outcomes and placements at companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and companies like Capital One and JP Morgan are all interested in our MBA talent again. We’re also seeing an ascension of CEO’s who are from global backgrounds. That is very helpful. We’re also looking at new policies for employment visas. William & Mary made the decision to take a few of our MBA specializations and to go after a STEM designation, that is also opening a door of opportunity. If a global MBA works for a STEM company they have the potential to get an extension on a traditionally one-year OPT so they’ll be able to potentially add an additional two years of employment with a company like IBM or Microsoft or Amazon in the STEM space.
For a while we had to address the value proposition of studying in the States and what they would gain, but now we’re able to show that fuller ROI on their investment is here. And I think we all agree we need top global talent in the country to keep us moving forward to be competitive in a global landscape. We’re really excited about prospects moving forward.
Longo: Fabricio, you took students to Brazil to study with you and gave classes out in the city. We’d like to know more about that.
Prado: I think I’m on the other side, complementing what Amanda’s doing. It’s one of my big pleasures here—actually I was walking here, thinking “What other programs can I think of to do?”
When taking students to a different country, it’s beautiful to see they’re opening their eyes, opening their minds and blossoming. Getting everything they can out of those interactions. You can see that they are really changing the way that they see the world, and it is so rewarding.
Taking students to Brazil was a challenge in some ways, but it was extremely rewarding. Brazil is a huge country. 200+ million inhabitants. A very large and diverse population. So when we got to Rio de Janeiro, a global city of 12 million people, the students felt a little bit overwhelmed in the beginning. Then they started getting acquainted to the neighborhood, the feeling of walking around on the streets of Rio. The sidewalks are crowded. So the students had to figure out where they were going, the space they would occupy on the sidewalk. And with the Olympics, the image of Brazil became more familiar to many Americans, but there still is a lot of fear. The reputation of the city, sometimes, is not as nice as one would wish, but suddenly you see that these students realize that we should not be afraid. Children are playing on the streets; children are playing on the playgrounds. So they started exploring the city on their own, and every day I made a point of trying not to teach inside of a classroom. Before talking about the founding of the city we went to the Sugarloaf [Mountain]. That’s where the city started. We walked around, and we walked on the historical sites as I was explaining what was happening 400 years ago. We were able to see the areas where the action happened. As we got closer to the present, they were able to talk to people that were actually part of that story. They were able to talk to folks that were entrepreneurs in the favelas--the shantytowns. And instead of thinking about the favelas as something that’s “out there somewhere,” suddenly it’s not “out there." It’s the community we are in. And we are seeing the perspective from here. They are talking to entrepreneurs, to musicians that are living there. So their perspective has changed substantially. I felt that students at the end were showing me things in places that they discovered in the city.
[In study abroad] students get to experience a foreign language in its environment. There is a human connection that includes body language, sometimes a smile, and you could see that that happening with the students. I think at some certain point it happened to me too. Our students are eager to learn and once they have these opportunities, they embrace them. Any fear becomes something of the past, and they were really trying to get everything that they could at the end. I remember that. At the beginning they were saying, “I’m going to have too many weekend trips,” but in the end they were asking, “Can we add some more trips during the week so we can see different spaces, different environments and meet different people?”
And I found it interesting that returning to William & Mary, the students didn’t change their major, but they changed their emphasis. Some of them now are in law school, and they are totally interested in international relations. I had students that were majors in Africana Studies. They were thinking just about the African American experience in the United States as something isolated. But there is an African diaspora that goes beyond [the U.S.] and some challenges that you’re seeing here happened elsewhere--in this case in Brazil.
That’s what I like about the environment of the university; we are in one place, but it is full of diversity.
Longo: Let’s talk more about the work of the university which you just described. I’m thinking about the term “global university.” What does that mean to you?
Barth: When I think about a "global university," I reflect on the partnerships that we’ve gained in some of the teaching experiments that we’ve tried to undertake. We also take the MBA students on global business immersion, and in those contexts we rely on our global partners. So it might be a university that we partner with. For example Professor Rahtz conducted a study. I believe it was with Eli Lilly, They partnered with Prasetiya Mulya Business School in Jakarta, Indonesia, and also Deakin University in Australia. In a virtual world they all studied a complex problem of introducing a new drug to market in Indonesia in the Southeast Asian market. They all came up with a solution and then met in country in Indonesia. So it was William & Mary and Deakin visiting Prasetiya Mulya, and they were able to come together and then present their findings to Eli Lilly on how they would bring a controversial drug to market in Southeast Asia, specifically into Indonesia which is predominantly Muslim. It was the best example -- well there are many great examples – of a learning lab that I had experienced in my tenure of really seeing different perspectives, different teaching styles, and then partnering with a giant global company to produce something that would result in an in-country immersion. The students had an incredible time. Our alumni still say that that was one of their best—not only global learning experiences, but learning experiences in general—in the program
Longo: So when you hear "global university" then, what comes to mind isn’t a single place but these partnerships and collaborations. Fabricio, what do you think of when you hear the term "global university"? Is there an example of a place or a model university?
Prado: I don’t think it’s specific to a place. Perhaps a global university is a place where many cultures, many connections, many roads meet, and from where you can access many places.
I think of a global university as a place that attracts a lot of talent, a lot of people with different experiences and backgrounds, so we always have this inflow of different references and experiences and talents.
But at the same time it is a launching pad, from where we can access different places, learn about different cultures, have different experiences.
So for me the global university is a two-way space or hub that serves to connect as a hot spot of cultural experiences and diversity in general.
Barth: I’m from a very small town in Ohio and to think of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen now is sometimes overwhelming for me. One thing that I truly believe, is that education can be a great equalizer. There are times that I don’t think of myself at all as a dean of admissions or a gatekeeper but as an ambassador to the United states in some regard or one person that’s going to enter a student’s life and be a difference maker by helping them to see how education can change their entire world or someone’s world within their network. We have also shared stories with alumni that do reveal that difference that we made in their ability to support their family back in their home country or their ability to stabilize a dynamic. Some of the stories that students have shared have been incredible.
I’m raising my 6 year old son to understand that there’s a world that’s much bigger than the world that he lives in here in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Prado: As you say, when you travel you see much more, and you can reflect on what you see at home. Being an ambassador is so important, because when we lead a study abroad program, we are opening the eyes and minds of our students to the world. They are seeing and empathizing with people abroad. And it goes beyond the national aspect. It’s not what [the nation of] Brazil is doing; Brazil is full of people. South Africa is full of people. The people are not the same as the government. The people of Russia are not the government of Russia. You can see how imperialism and colonialism fueled with nationalism can cause tragedies. But when we travel, when we see this idea of bringing people to the global university, you can see different perspectives here in your own world and you’re going out into the world where people will see who you are.
A lot of Brazilians were looking at my American students and thinking, “These guys are super wealthy kids.” Not necessarily. They started seeing that ‘these guys’ have similar experiences. So our students are ambassadors not just to show what the U.S. has to offer for the world, but also for the world to understand the U.S., and that we do not necessarily represent the administration or government. And that creates empathy, the idea of a shared human experience. I think crossing bridges is a central part of our mission here and at any university.
Teresa: If you had jobs other than what you what now, what would they be?
Barth: I think I would literally try to be an ambassador to a foreign country. I absolutely love working in a global context and some of the organizations that we’ve partnered with over the years like Fulbright and Amideast. It is so rewarding to feel that you’re a difference maker, and the human connection is absolutely everything. And so I would welcome an opportunity to represent our country in a global environment and to be a difference maker in that capacity, so I wasn’t entirely kidding. I would love to have that opportunity down the road or to retire and join the Peace Corps. That was my one life regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to join the Peace Corps. understand there’s a fabulous program for retirees in the Peace Corps.
Prado: I think that if I were not a historian, I would continue to be an educator. More and more I value the importance of education at the basic level and also the importance of fostering transnational interactions. I think that if I were not in a department of history I would be in a school of education.