Dallas school sets out to groom business leaders

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am

A leading university in the US has developed strong links with Hong Kong and provides excellent networking opportunities for students

One of the most effective tools anyone can possess in the world of global business is the ability to network.

It is an ability that opens doors and generates a world of opportunity - which is why business schools put so much emphasis on nurturing students' networking skills and providing an environment in which those skills can flourish.

One Texas-based business school, with strong links to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Chinese University, has particular reason to play up its ability to help students develop the ability to network.

The Southern Methodist University (SMU) Cox School of Business, in Dallas, has been ranked No1 in the United States and No7 in the world by The Economist magazine for the 'potential to network' that its graduates leave the school with.

Founded in 1920, the school, which is seeking to attract more students from Asia, boasts that it can offer unmatched access to professional advice, career networking opportunities and social connections around the world. It already draws a steady flow of Hong Kong students - and has developed successful international exchange programmes with HKUST and Chinese University.

According to Linda Kao, the business school's director of MBA Global Programmes, the exchanges give students from both Hong Kong and the US the opportunity to study abroad and broaden their global perspective.

In addition to benefiting Hong Kong students travelling to Dallas to study, exchanges with the Chinese University have also given US students, specialising in doing business in the mainland, a wealth of opportunities.

'We want to provide as many international opportunities to our students as possible and we feel it is important for them to be in the field, to travel to the region they are learning about, to see it and hear it first hand,' Ms Kao said.

'As a result, our students bring a different perspective to the classroom discussion, to their professional lives, making them better business leaders. That is why the SMU Cox brand is well thought of in the nation and around the globe.'

Ms Kao said the number of Hong Kong and Chinese students at the Dallas school was 'fairly stable, although we would like to see more', and said both the city and the institution offered unrivalled opportunities for MBA candidates from overseas.

The school has also been ranked among the top business schools in the US and overseas by a number of publications, including Business Week, the Financial Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.

It has tapped into Dallas's vibrant business community by running a series of courses that put its students in real-life commerce situations, including a unique Global Leadership Programme which partners students with senior executive mentors in the area.

One of the elements that make the Dallas school easier for overseas students to adapt to is its philosophy of a small private school environment.

It claims that its size and culture encourage interaction and collaboration, and enable students to develop close relationships with professors and fellow students, inside and outside the classroom.

It may be thousands of miles from Hong Kong, but Ms Kao insisted that students who went to Dallas to study found they adapted quickly and rarely felt homesick.

In fact, many of them enjoy their time so much that they stay behind to live and work in the city once they graduate.

There are practical business-oriented and social reasons for the high numbers of Chinese graduates who have settled in the Dallas area. According to a list released by CollegeGrad.com, Dallas is among the best cities in the US for college graduates seeking entry-level jobs.

Dallas is also regularly ranked as one of the US's top metropolitan areas for tech jobs, and the Dallas and Fort Worth area has been ranked ninth nationally for international economic activity by respected independent economic analyst Moody's Economy.com.

'People in the south are very friendly, they are eager to help and Dallas is an international city that embraces diversity,' Ms Kao said. 'On the SMU campus, in addition to many student organisations, we have an international centre that offers many support services ranging from housing to networking. We also have a host family programme.'

She added: 'Dallas has a very vibrant international community, several China towns, a Chinese Community Centre, and Chinese churches and temples of all different religions.

'In the Dallas and Fort Worth area, we have close to 100,000 Chinese. Most of those people moved here and stayed because it is such a wonderful place to live and work.'