Mar 8, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

As more MBA programs are designing curricula aimed at imparting real-world knowledge to students, Ethiopia is one of the latest beneficiaries of this new focus, according to a recent Financial Times article. Here’s a closer look at the efforts underway, along with how they’re not only helping Ethiopia, but also positioning participating MBA students for career success.

Making an Impact

The FT article featured the story of a team of MBA students from the US to traveled to the Ethiopian city of Hawassa to formulate a “strategic plan to protect a swath of land in Hawassa, 175 miles south of Addis Ababa, the capital. Not only did the formulate a strategic plan aimed at “shield[ing] Hawassa’s lake from dangerous pollutants, creat[ing] a public park and bolster[ing] local infrastructure to support the city’s expansion,” but they also had the opportunity to present their ideas directly to Hawassa’s mayor, Pewodros Gebiba.

The project also served another purpose, however: to help students “get an understanding of what it’s like to live in a place that’s going through such rapid economic growth.”

The Big Picture

This is just one example of business school projects underway in countries around the world designed to broaden students perspectives beyond their own countries’ borders. This represents a departure from the conventional b-school focus on theory while uniquely supporting the needs of contemporary students.

As one b-school professor told FT, “The millennials, whether they articulate it or not, want to be part of something larger than themselves. And we [as schools] are not just about creating the next generation of profit-maximising business leaders.”

Echoed a student, “I came to business school to become a well-rounded, empathetic global leader. I want to understand the changes taking place in the global economy, not just what’s going on in downtown Manhattan.”

This new approach suits changing employer needs, as well. MBA recruiter Martin Plumlee told FT, “Companies want critical thinkers and problem solvers — folks that know how to take a complex problem and come at it from a different perspective. Doing real-world projects in business school is an opportunity for students to practice those skills.”


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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