Business at Fletcher: Making the Profitable Sustainable
There is no "sugar coating" when it comes to Fletcher's Master of International Business (MIB) program. Dean of global business Bhaskar Chakravorti tells it like it is. "My generation is handing the younger generation a world in a mess—pandemic, war, supply bottlenecks, lack of leadership," he says. "But if you want to take the bull by the horns and solve problems, come to Fletcher. We'll give you the confidence, tools, and community to make that happen."
The world's hardest problems, and biggest opportunities, according to Chakravorti, share one common issue: sustainability. That's why Fletcher's highly successful MIB program, which pioneered a new cross-discipline academic degree, has sharpened its focus on this critical area for the incoming fall 2023 class. MIB trains leaders to tackle sustainability from every angle—environmental, social, and governmental (ESG) as well from broader economic and systemic angles.
"Sustainability is where our planet needs us to go," says professor of management Alnoor Ebrahim. In his class Leadership Building, Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path, a case study targets an apparel maker shifting to sustainable cotton. "How does it build that through its supply chain and communicate its value to retailers and consumers who want low prices?" he asks. "The question for any leadership, whether it's an NGO, business, or government, is 'How do you keep sustainability at the center of your societal and financial performance?'"
There's another advantage to Fletcher's MIB program: cross-disciplinary learning—no academic silos. The two-year course of study delivers contextual, global intelligence. Students learn business fundamentals as they would at business school, but MIB adds an interdisciplinary robustness unavailable elsewhere with classes focused on understanding environmental issues, development, human security, geopolitical shifts and technological changes.
"We've broken the mold of higher education," says Chakravorti. "At Fletcher, we dance at the intersection of academic disciplines. We celebrate that intersection."
Here's a typical class day: Start with an early morning session on international security, specifically war and its domino effects. Then corporate finance—how to make powerful decisions based on income statements and balance sheets. Now choose between a course on global political economy or negotiating strategy. After lunch, discover how business visionaries create market solutions for political problems in a class on entrepreneurialism. Close with a seminar on migration and how it stimulates economic growth.
"Our students are immersed in problem solving from all angles—environment, development, social inequalities, and human security, cyber security, and national security," says Chakravorti. "These business students work hand-in-hand with policy. They learn empathy—how every local problem impacts people. I believe Fletcher is the only place in the world where you can do all that."
Fletcher graduates career-ready MIB students. One reason why is the second year capstone project that can be done for credit as part of a paid summer internship. Many capstones concern sustainability. Last year, two students teamed to develop a methodology to assess societal impact risk of new ventures. Another duo examined data sets rating agencies use to evaluate ESG performance in public companies. "They got jobs in that space because they dove into it, understood it, saw the gaps, and were committed to making it better," says Ebrahim.
Career readiness plays a key role in the new degree track Quantitative Methods (QM). It has a STEM-oriented curriculum with a focus on data analytics, macro- and microeconomics, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and programming that signals to employers a high degree of quantitative competency.
For international students, QM adds two years to an Optional Practical Training work permit. "It opens doors to many more employers. It gives you a longer runway to prove yourself to them and a much longer arc in terms of experience in the U.S.," says Chakravorti.
All students get a Career Acceleration Grant that funds student-led research projects. One student used his to travel to El Salvador where he analyzed how Bitcoin's adoption impacted that nation's economy.
MIB students do real-world research at Fletcher's Institute for Business in Global Context. They compete for its acclaimed D-Prize which honors sustainable ways of delivering solutions in developing nations. Fletcher's Digital Planet institute has long-running research projects on technology adoption and how we can make technology a force for inclusion and multiplication rather than a force for division. Their findings impact how venture capitalists set funding priorities.
"MIB is not some abstract, theoretical space. We educate students in the context of a world that's changing around them. Their research is an integral part of their journey," says Chakravorti.
For potential students who want to crunch the numbers on the MIB program, Fletcher has performed well in competitions with peer schools. The MIB team nabbed first place at Cornell's Emerging Markets Case Competition in 2021, and it took runner-up honors in 2022's Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge.
"Our students do extremely well against all the big business schools in these competitions," says Ebrahim. "Not only do they have the foundation but they have other intellectual tools—global intelligence and the ESG skill set."
Fletcher has been an innovator in the field of international relations for 90 years. The continuing evolution of its MIB program, now in its fifteenth year, confirms its unparalleled record of leadership.