The business school where everyone is a minority

Mary Granger has worked at Esade for almost 20 years, and she currently serves as the Regional Director for Asia. She told us about the changes she’s seen at the school over the years, as well as the things that set Esade apart from other schools.

In short

The changing face of Esade

Over the course of almost 20 years, Mary Granger has seen huge changes at Esade. It has gone from 45% to 95% international students, from no dedicated MBA careers team to a huge team of professionals, from attending education fairs abroad (with a one-page flyer) to being there virtually over Zoom. That last change, in particular, excites Mary:

“You feel like you can reach a much wider audience much further away. You don’t have to focus only on the main city in every country. People used to travel thousands of kilometers to come to the fairs – they don’t have to do that anymore. And that’s exciting.” (04:24)

Even the food options in the cafeteria have evolved along with the school.

“I remember talking to the guys in the cafeteria and saying we need to have some vegetarian options. Then the following week I went in and saw beans and ham [as the vegetarian option]. I said, ‘Well this has got ham!’ and they’d reply: ‘Yeah, but if you put that to the side then it’s just beans…,’ she laughs. “From that, I went in the cafeteria seven or eight years ago and found that they have chopsticks available for anyone who wants to use them instead of utensils. So it’s a huge change in every aspect.” (06:57)

It’s a story that seems trivial at first, but perhaps it symbolizes the changing face of a global business school.

How Esade cultivates an international family

With an international student population of 95%, Esade is like a mini-United Nations. But careful efforts are made to ensure no region or country is overrepresented. Mary sees it as an important part of the school’s diversity.

“We try to not have more than 15-20% from any region or country. So we try to keep it as diverse as possible…what is cool about that is no one’s a majority, everyone is a minority,” she explains. (08:26)

Despite the wealth of identities, language, and cultures at Esade, the school manages to maintain a family feel. This is in part due to their extensive network of alumni, who stay connected to the school long after graduating.

“Esade is small enough for people to describe it as a family, and I think that’s the closest explanation I can give as well, ” Mary says. “There’s a huge support system available for people on and off-campus, the alumni are amazing, and they’re there for the other students.” (19:33)

Mitigating the cultural differences between Asia and Europe

As the Esade Regional Director for Asia, Mary is aware of the issues that arise when recruiting a diverse pool of talent. One is the different attitudes towards education in each region. For example, in Asia, the mantra of the education system is: “Don’t bother the professor, don’t ask questions.” (12:30) But at Esade, students are expected to participate at every opportunity.

“[Our Asian students] aren’t allowed to sit back and just enjoy the ride. If they’re not participating, we’re going to call on them, just like we do with everyone else from every other region. It’s very different from most undergraduate classes,” she affirms. (09:40)

Esade tries to mitigate cultural differences between Asia and Europe through their admissions process. When it comes to admitting new students, their ultimate aim is to find ones who can make a positive contribution to the school.

“We spend a lot of time with each candidate and we don’t just look at the numbers,” Mary says. “We’re not a numbers-driven admissions committee. Yeah, you have to have a GMAT that shows us you can do the work, but we’re really focusing a lot on what is going to be the student’s unique contribution.” (11:24)

Why Esade offers something different from a traditional MBA

Esade’s approach is so international that, as Mary puts it, “everything we do is for international students.” (17:37) That means opportunities like scholarships are open to everyone, instead of only being for certain groups or nationalities.

“We don’t have scholarships just for nationals…we have scholarships that are available to the entire pool of candidates, so we encourage people to apply for them,” Mary confirms. (17:40)

All of this is helping to shape a student population that is quite different from other schools. Instead of fitting into national stereotypes, the ones who make it here all share the Esade DNA of togetherness, a willingness to participate, and an openness to diversity. 

“Our American students aren’t typically American, our Asian students aren’t typically Asian, our German students aren’t typically German…the students that come to Esade are looking for something different than a traditional MBA.” (25:24)

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