An Interview with Prof. Li Haitao, Associate Dean of the MBA Program, Dean’s Distinguished Chair Professor of Finance, CKGSB
On November 23, CKGSB celebrated the 10th anniversary of its MBA program, convening distinguished business leaders, alumni and students. They reflected on how CKGSB is grooming future business executives and the challenges and opportunities in China’s fast-paced economy.
Prior to the celebration, Prof. Li Haitao, Associate Dean of the MBA Program and Dean’s Distinguished Chair Professor of Finance, shared his insights on how the MBA program has evolved over the last decade, how students benefit from CKGSB’s world-class offering and the future of business and management education in China.
Q: A lot has happened since the creation of CKGSB’s MBA program in 2003. What do you think have been the program’s biggest accomplishments?
A: The MBA program is an integral part of CKGSB, and the institution as a whole has been able to accomplish so much in the last decade. For instance, CKGSB has attracted more than 40 full-time and long-term visiting professors who have graduated from top schools from around the world. More than 80 percent of them joined CKGSB full-time from tenured positions at the world’s leading business schools. They are all top-notch academics and excellent teachers who thoroughly understand business in China. As a student, you would get the same quality of lectures as the leading business schools in the West but also gain a deep understanding of China.
We also pride ourselves in spearheading rigorous research on how business is done in China. We have set up a Case Center and written more than 300 case studies covering a range of industries and sectors. But we are also a global platform with a presence in New York, London and Hong Kong in addition to our mainland campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. In fact, all of our MBA students are required to take our overseas module and spend three weeks at a top business school in the U.S. or Europe. This equips them with a global perspective. Moreover, our large alumni network across all the CKGSB programs connects the students to movers and shakers in the business world. And because our MBA program is small and intimate, lifelong friendships and beneficial business connections are easily fostered.
CKGSB also offers a “lifelong learning” platform for alumni. The Career Management Center (CMC) not only gives guidance to students on how to navigate their careers in this fast-paced economy but also provides the same services to alumni. Alumni have opportunities to take classes and join current students in the overseas module and other activities.
Over the last 10 years our diverse and unique offerings have attracted both Chinese students and an increasing number of foreigners who want to do business in and with China.
Q: You mentioned that CKGSB is dedicated to creating deep insights on business in China. Can you give us an example?
A: It is hard to get an in-depth understanding of China through media reports or superficial conferences and seminars alone. You need deep insights backed by thoroughly and independently conducted research. Take the CKGSB Business Conditions Index (BCI) for example. This index was created under the guidance of Prof. Li Wei and provides a barometer on the state of the economy as viewed by China’s entrepreneurs. Because it gauges the perspectives of business executives who are in the front lines of China’s economy, it is an excellent resource for people who want to better understand business conditions in China.
Q: Business leaders today are facing unanticipated challenges brought about by globalization, advancement in technology and other changes in the economy. How does CKGSB equip students to deal with these changes?
A: The purpose of an MBA program is multi-faceted. We at CKGSB first try to help students identify their passions by exposing them to different disciplines, different business people and different industries. After they identify what they are passionate about, we help them to develop their core business abilities. Will that be enough for a great MBA program? No. Globalization, sustainability issues and technology are all changing and affecting the world. For an MBA program to be relevant and help graduates excel, it needs to provide students the knowledge and the insights that will help them succeed in the future by anticipating what might happen. Although innovation by nature is unpredictable, through our research, we try to forecast possible business trends and help students prepare for them. For example, CKGSB was one of the first schools China to incorporate humanities into the MBA curriculum. That helps students understand the increasing importance of social responsibility and apply what they have learned in real life situations.
Q: You mentioned earlier that CKGSB encourages alumni to engage in “lifelong learning.” Can you tell us more about how this is achieved and what its benefits are?
A: We tell our students that the MBA program is not the end of their education but the beginning. You need to keep learning and developing to stay competitive in your career. A lot of our students, for example, are very passionate about starting their own businesses, and we try to cater to that. Once you are a student here, you are a part of this great network. Professors and alumni from the MBA, EMBA and other programs are equipped to help you realize your business goals. We have also opened up our classrooms to our alumni as business has continued to change over the years, and they may feel the need to brush up on the latest practices. Graduates of CKGSB see an immense benefit in having access to such resources for the long term.
Q: You also mentioned that foreigners are interested in this program. Why do you think they should choose CKGSB as opposed to other prestigious universities in the West?
A: Our programs are well-suited to foreign students who are interested in China. Our positioning of the MBA program is “a world-class MBA program for China business.” We have the insights and connections, which other schools in the West may not be able to provide. On the other hand, we provide the rigor and intellectual outputs that are leading business education in China. If you have bigger dreams and are not satisfied with the status quo, then CKGSB is for you. Our alumni are inspirational leaders who are doing great things in China, and they can give you a perspective you cannot get anywhere else. Being a foreigner with connections in the West and also in China can open many doors for you. Our generous scholarships also ensure that we attract the best students who aspire to have global, impactful and meaningful careers.
Q: What specific programs will CKGSB’s MBA program implement in the future? What do the next 10 years look like?
A: We will continue to strengthen the curriculum based on our core competencies – China insights, alumni network, world-class faculty and individual attention to students. We are also planning to give more hands-on experiences to our students. Currently, we have the Diversified Consulting Projects (DCP), where we send our students to Chinese companies to carry out various business projects. We want to build upon this and do it extensively and rigorously. We also want to have more global DCPs. For example, this year we sent a group of students to IMD Business School in Switzerland to work on a project for a European company. IMD also sent a group of students to China, and they worked on a project for Chinese companies. We want to have a deeper connection between theory and practice. We have a great advantage in this regard because a lot of our alumni are top CEOs and leaders of Chinese companies.
CKGSB is also in the process of creating a dual-degree program with top U.S. schools where our students will have the option to earn a degree from both institutions. This program might also be open to our alumni. In addition, we are developing an entrepreneurial center that will help students set up companies and provide them with essential services.
These are just a few highlights of the many things we have planned for the next few years. It is an exciting time to be in China, and we hope to continue serving as a global business platform through the next decade and beyond.