Robert Bruner

B-school Dean of the Year: UVA-Darden's Robert Bruner

December 21, 2011: 3:05 PM ET

It's been an impressive year for many business schools, but UVA-Darden's Robert Bruner is leading the way when it comes to making an MBA a globally relevant degree.

By John A. Byrne, contributor

Darden School of Business Dean Robert Bruner

UVA-Darden School of Business Dean Robert Bruner

(Poets&Quants) -- A year ago, Robert Bruner found himself in a discomforting place -- at the end of a wagging finger and a hard-hitting question.

The dean of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business was in Shanghai at a reception for potential applicants to the school's prestigious MBA program when a young Chinese woman stood.

"Why don't you admit more Chinese?" she asked sharply. The room fell to a hush, waiting for Bruner's answer.

He pointed out that China already was the most highly represented nation among Darden's international students. To admit far more students from a single country, he argued, would likely mean that Darden would offer less diversity in any given class and accept applicants who weren't as qualified to attend its highly selective MBA program.

"Why would you go half way around the world to study with people exactly like you?" asked Bruner. "The point is to get out of your zone of comfort and stretch yourself against the very best talent in the world."

The prospective applicant nodded and smiled. The point was made, and Bruner moved on to a softball question more typical in such settings.

But the question lingered in his mind because Bruner believes there are few agendas more important to the future of business education than how a school responds to globalization.

Is it by recruiting a more international student body and faculty? Teaching more case studies with global impact? Sending MBA candidates abroad for consulting assignments with foreign companies and multinationals? Investing in satellite campuses and research centers around the world? Or partnering with other business schools in far-flung corners of the globe?

To Bruner, these are not academic questions. Like many of his business school rivals, he is grappling with these issues as his school tries to prepare students for a truly global world. The difference may well be that he sees globalization as the new inflection point for management education and is hell bent on using it to get Darden to the next level. More

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