Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business (NU GSB) and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University have been successfully cooperating since 2009. During this time more than one generation of business leaders has been nurtured. We talked about the intricacies and advantages of a strategic partnership with NU GSB Dean Patrick Duparcq, Assistant Dean of the Fuqua School of Business Robert Olinger, and Associate Dean for Global Initiatives at the Fuqua School of Business Fernando Bernstein.
Please tell us about the partnership of NUGSB with Duke University Fuqua School of Business. What goals and objectives were set when concluding a strategic partnership?
Usually, strategic partnerships between two schools are about capacity and brand: school-1 teaches a number of courses for school-2 and through its partnership also provides brand credibility to school-2. We believe that the NUGSB-DUKE partnership has gone well-beyond that and has provided mutual benefits for both.
For Duke, the partnership with NUGSB provided a unique opportunity to be part of an exciting and ambitious project to build a world-class university in an emerging market with amazing opportunities. It has provided hands-on and real global experience to faculty who otherwise may have had a very US-centric colored perspective. It also has helped Duke University to solidify their brand-name in Central Asia.
For Nazarbayev University, the strategic partnership provided support in critical areas (e.g. faculty and student recruiting, world-class standards, high quality standards), additional capacity in teaching our courses (in some of our programs Duke delivers up to 50% of all classes), and opportunities to work on joint research. It goes without saying that Duke’s global brand has also helped NUGSB to establish itself as an equally high-quality brand.
Duke University's Fuqua School of Business established its partnership in 2009. The goal of the partnership in 2009 was to advise, guide, and collaborate with Nazarbayev University in establishing a world-class business school. We designed our partnership to evolve to match NUGSB's growth, so early on, Duke was involved with almost every strategic and tactical decision. As NUGSB grows, we focus on the areas Nazarbayev University identifies. For example, in the earliest days, our primary focus was launching great MBA programs, while today, the primary focus is building a research-focused culture through recruiting and mentoring talented faculty.
What benefits does this strategic partnership provide for NUGSB students?
Our students already have access to an amazing international faculty full-time at NU with degrees or previous experiences in the top business schools of the world (Stanford, Insead, LSE, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Michigan, UIUC, Wharton, etc.).
The strategic partnership with Duke adds a number of extras for students: access to even more world-class faculty, more choices in elective courses (Fuqua has a much larger faculty compared to NUGSB), and last but not least, an opportunity to have the “Duke Experience” for two weeks during the International Residency at Duke University.
Students at NUGSB benefit directly from the partnership through their experience with Duke faculty teaching in their program at Nazarbayev University, a two-week residency on Duke University, and other programmatic participation such as Career Week.
More importantly, NUGSB students benefit from the commitment NU has to high quality and deep strategic partnerships, as this commitment shapes the school and university's direction. It has influenced the design of the curriculum, the physical infrastructure, the quality of NU faculty and administrators, and the quality of the student population. NU's commitment to maintaining strategic partnerships demonstrates a deep commitment to excellence. It is not easy to invite strategic partners to advise and guide. It requires an openness to criticism, a willingness to listen, and wisdom to determine what advice is helpful and then work toward improvement. The beneficial results of this process fall to the student through the quality of their educational experience, alumni network, and long-term affiliation with a great institution.
The full-time MBA and Executive MBA programs were created with the direct participation of the Fuqua School of Business, how does this program differ from similar MBA programs in other universities in Kazakhstan?
NUGSB wanted to be known from the start as a program that could compare in quality with the top business schools in the world. The best way to convince the market of this reality is to have the programs co-designed. Duke will not risk its hard-earned top-ranking among business schools in the world by associating itself with an “average” program; the programs had to be of top quality on a global scale.
All our faculty are PhD qualified from top universities in the world with an excellent research record and publications in the top research journals in the world. Simply stated, our professors not only teach the standard frameworks that drive business in today’s world, they have helped design the theories and frameworks. Having research-active professors in the classroom makes all the difference in providing knowledge that will serve graduates for the rest of their careers.
I am unaware of other MBA programs that are part of a research-oriented university in Kazakhstan; NUGSB's program will likely be more aligned with the current trends in business research, presenting a sizeable institutional advantage. Located in Kazakhstan, the institution will better prepare students for the business environment they will experience post-graduation.
The single most powerful advantage within the programs is the 'cohort' model; students study as one group closely together from the beginning until the end of the program. The advantage of this model permits deep learning from peers within the classroom in which students will develop lifelong friendships that lead to a robust network beneficial long after graduation.
Lastly, NUGSB invests resources in creating relationships within the business community in Kazakhstan and provides opportunities through its unique Career Service department focused on creating opportunities for students at firms, through internships, practicum projects, and ultimately full-time employment.
NUGSB is a research business school. What advantages does this provide for students? And why is it important?
Research-oriented schools provide significant time for faculty to discover and publish new findings within their area of expertise. Contributing novel findings to their area requires remaining up to speed on new research developments. Their research benefits the in-class experience, as it too will keep up with the rapidly changing business environment. Research active faculty tend to be passionate and curious about their field of study and profession, leading to a lively interactive classroom experience.
Fifty years ago, it may have been sufficient to know the “standard approach” to a particular business challenge, because the world was fairly stable in terms of business processes. But today, we live in a fast-changing and increasingly uncertain environment. Research involves determining how things work under a wide range of changing conditions.
Our professors not only teach the “state-of-the-science” today, but through their research also know how business will do well when underlying conditions significantly change. As we mentioned earlier, having research-active professors in the classroom makes all the difference in providing knowledge that will serve graduates well for the rest of their careers.
Why do students travel for a two-week residency at Fuqua and what do they learn from this experience?
First, our students take courses during their international residency, with tests, class attendance and exams. We don’t believe in “academic tourism”.
But more importantly, we want our students to be immersed in and interact with an international business environment different from our own day-to-day environment in Kazakhstan. For our residency at Duke, they interact with local entrepreneurs and have access to the famous “research triangle” in North Carolina.
In other programs, we adjust the residency accordingly. For instance, the MSF (Finance) program has an international residency in London with courses on investments and commercial banking but also with exposure to the #1 Financial center in the world.
The international two-week residency at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business is an unforgettable cornerstone experience of the NUGSB program. It is an intense academic experience during which the Executive MBA students and the Full-time MBA students live and study together. Students can disconnect from their day-to-day life during the residency and focus solely on the experience with their classmates. They do this on the campus of Duke University and under the tutelage of its faculty. The intensity of the experience leads to a deep bond between students of both (EMBA and MBA) cohorts, builds new networks and relationships, and exposes students to a new academic and business environment. During the residency, students visit local entrepreneurs, have access to guest speakers, and have an opportunity to meet Fuqua students. Students often explore the regional area during free days, which includes mountains, beaches, and other cities like Washington DC.
What plans does NUGSB have in near future?
NUGSB is pursuing multiple strategic initiatives aimed to increase the quality and visibility of the school. Programmatically, the school is launching a new Masters in Human Resource Management and designing its PhD program. On the academic front, the school continues to hire talented faculty to continue producing high-quality and relevant research. The school is also pursuing AACSB accreditation and has been working toward this goal for some time.
NUGSB has a clear path for the future.
We will increase our faculty. The larger faculty will enable us to do more research, more applied research, and also offer a larger portfolio of courses and programs to suit the needs of industry.
We will keep internationalizing our student body, first through increased participation in student mobility program, and over-time a larger percentage of full-time international students.
Both will be helped significantly through accreditation. We are well underway with our AACSB accreditation (the “gold standard” for business accreditation), and hope that once obtained, we’ll be able to attract more international students to our programs.