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The director of admissions for the "global" business school with campuses in France and Singapore talks about the admissions process
A global perspective is something that all top B-schools strive for, but INSEAD embraces multiculturalism even more strongly than most. INSEAD calls itself "The Business School for the World," and Caroline Diarte Edwards, INSEAD's director of admissions, marketing & external relations for the MBA program, takes that mission seriously. "Sometimes people think INSEAD is still a European school, but given that we have a completely parallel campus in Asia, we very much see ourselves as a global school," she says.
As an INSEAD student, Diarte Edwards studied at both campuses—in Fontainebleau, France, and in Singapore. But her international experience doesn't end there. A British citizen, she studied languages at Cambridge, and she speaks English, French, German, Spanish, and some Indonesian. She worked for the International Finance Corp. in Jakarta, Indonesia, and as a London-based management consultant on assignments in Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S.
Diarte Edwards spoke recently to BusinessWeek.com reporter Kerry Miller about how students can expand their international horizons at INSEAD. An edited excerpt of their conversation follows:
As an INSEAD student, you studied at both campuses, in Fontainebleau and in Singapore. How does the experience at the two locations differ?
The campus exchange is something that adds a very interesting dimension to the INSEAD experience for the students. When I came to INSEAD, I had been studying in Europe and then working in Europe, so the opportunity to study in Asia was very valuable to me and gave me a lot of exposure to very different cultures.
The campuses are quite different in style. The Fontainebleau campus in France, we're in a small town in the middle of a beautiful forest. It's quite rural. People live in the surrounding villages. But it's a big campus, so we have a large community of students here—typically around 600 MBAs at any one time—plus a lot of executives who come here for programs.
The Singapore campus is in a very urban environment, so that creates a very different feel. It's also a smaller campus, so we normally have about 150 students who start in Singapore for each class—150 in January, 150 in September. And that creates a bit of a different dynamic in the student community as well. When I started the program in Singapore, I quickly got to know everyone who was on the Singapore campus, whereas in Fontainebleau, because it's a bigger group, you're always meeting new people. You might not know everybody.
Generally, the campus exchange has grown in popularity, and now about 70% of our students do exchange across the campuses. It's really a benefit to be able to live and study on two continents and get exposure to very different environments. For me personally, I was looking to potentially move to Asia, and I ended up working in Indonesia when I graduated. I certainly wouldn't have been able to do that if I had studied only on the Fontainebleau campus for the whole year.
So I think for students who are looking at broadening their experience and getting a wider exposure and potentially opening up more career opportunities, being able to study across both campuses is very valuable. We also have the exchange with Wharton, so we have about 35 students per class who exchange with Wharton, as well. We actually have some students who do Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Wharton, all within one year. For students who have a particular interest in working in a North American market, then the Wharton exchange can be very valuable, as well.
Do students apply specifically to the Fontainebleau or Singapore campus?
No. Admissions are centralized, and the decisions are made completely blind of campus choice. So when the admissions committee is making a decision, they will not see and they will not take into account which campus an applicant has applied to. Where possible, we will accommodate people's campus choice, but...
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