This June, 11 new faces graced the Point Grey campus of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, fresh off the plane from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Bachelor’s in Commerce (BCOM) students, in town for a week for a host of company visits and lectures, formed part of the latest stage of the flourishing partnership between Sauder and Kenya’s Strathmore University
Established in 2005, the partnership originally focused on taking teams of Sauder students over to teach aspiring entrepreneurs in Nairobi’s slums.
Professor Thomas Ross is now academic director of the program, and has a more holistic operation in mind. Among other things, joint research, student exchanges, and pilot schemes for faculty visits are on the horizon.
How did this new partnership come about and what are your hopes for it?
This new partnership aims to strengthen existing bonds with Strathmore, and was made last year when our Dean visited Kenya. Therefore it’s an extension of our previous activities, but we’ll be diversifying our activities this time around.
We hope to get our MBA students over there soon, and we have also built a model under which some Sauder faculty members will travel to Nairobi to teach in Strathmore’s MBA and Executive Education programs. They will also assist with Strathmore’s nascent PhD program.
My research centre is also cooperating with a Strathmore center to help them develop expertise in competition policy, and I’m working with the Kenyan Competition Authority as well. We are hopeful that there will be more student exchanges and that more joint research might emerge.
How do you plan to introduce guest lecturers to Strathmore students?
All my lecturing so far has been to students on their Master’s of Public Policy Management on a two-month visit, but I’ve also paid shorter visits where I gave guest lectures on things like competition policy.
I haven’t actually taught on their MBA program, but I imagine most of us will in the future.
I found the Strathmore students to be very mature and prepared, comparable to our students really. It’s a young business school, but certainly an up-and-coming one.
They have beautiful facilities and it’s a very pleasant place to visit, and we’ve had a lot of interest among our faculty in visiting them.
What can partnerships with African institutions offer western b-schools?
We mainly benefit from understanding business in that part of the world a little more, and along with collaborative research, it’s also an opportunity to extend our model of teaching to different parts of the world and inspire people and institutions.
Kenya specifically is also English-speaking, and is one of the continent’s business hubs. Our students expressed great interest in getting out there, learning about Africa and business there, and using it to their career advantage.
Will you be continuing the Nairobi slums initiative with this new partnership?
We certainly expect to be continuing it and hope more socially-conscious MBAs continue to take part, although the timing of it can be difficult with regards to internships.
It’s a life-changing moment for our students, most of whom have never been to a slum community in Africa. We often find them in tears upon leaving because of the bonds they’ve created with the locals and with each other.
Dean Helsley is currently discussing sending UBC MBAs to Nairobi as part of our Global Immersion Program, which was something we had planned meticulously for February but had to call off after a terrorist incident.
We’re delighted to be entertaining those opportunities again, and we’ve had a great deal of interest in Nairobi as a destination on that program.
What did Strathmore’s BCOM students get up to in Vancouver?
The BCOM team at Strathmore were trying to integrate international experiences into their curriculum, and we were able to help them in that regard by offering this trip.
They were here for a week and every morning we had academic activities for them, so they had lectures, and we also had some company visits lined up for them, including the Port of Vancouver.
In the afternoons we tended to do more light-hearted stuff, like museum visits and ice-skating. We had a bunch of our students involved as well, so they were mostly interacting with Sauder students.
We’re now discussing how we might continue this, albeit in a way that enables them to stay longer and secure course credit.