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Thursday, July 1, 2010

UCLA Anderson dean extols global viewpoint

Staff writer

Business opportunities today are inherently global, so traveling to get an MBA in a foreign environment is an advantage, according to Judy D. Olian, dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

News photo
Dean's list: Judy D. Olian, the eighth dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, is interviewed in Tokyo on June 22. COURTESY OF JUDY D. OLIAN

Because market competition today is just as likely to come from around the globe as from around the corner, future leaders, regardless of nationality, must deliberately expose themselves to global thinking, global opportunities and global cultures, Olian said.

"In the workplace today, you are likely to have a mixture of people from all over. So to be a leader, you need to know how to function in that environment," Olian said during a recent interview in Tokyo with The Japan Times.

UCLA Anderson is considered a top-tier business school, especially famed for its entrepreneurship program. The Financial Times this year ranked it fourth in the world in that category.

The school also has a very strong global leadership focus, according to Olian, who was in Tokyo last week as part of an Asian trip to touch base with the school's prominent alumni, including Nobutada Saji, president of Suntory Holdings Ltd., and Matsuo Iwata, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd.

Asked about young Japanese becoming inward-looking, Olian said: "Any form of insularity is a concern in today's global communities and global markets. Because it's just not the reality of the way markets function today."

If younger generations key in only on their domestic market, they will miss the threat surely to come from outside, she added.

Olian, born and raised in Australia, graduated from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and earned her master's and doctoral degrees in industrial relations from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

UCLA Anderson admits 360 full-time students a year, of which about 30 percent are international students, according to the dean. In recent years, the school has been accepting about 10 out of about 70 applicants from Japan, Olian said.

"Our strongest alumni community outside the U.S. is in Japan. . . . I encourage Japanese prospective students to apply to UCLA Anderson. We think they are very talented and add a lot to our student body."

She said that if people choose to study in a domestic business school, it just means they have to try much harder to develop a global viewpoint.

Widely admired large Japanese corporations, including Sony, Nissan and Toyota, have to act like small, nimble firms if they are to remain competitive because the cycle of advantage is so short, Olian said.

"The size (of corporations) sometimes can hinder innovation, not always, but those companies have to constantly push for people and structures to enable and allow innovation," she said. "And this is not anything unique to Japanese companies. It is true of General Electric or even Google, which is now a very large company."

The tide of globalization is also affecting U.S. business schools.

According to Olian, who used to chair the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an umbrella organization of global business schools, many business schools have cropped up outside the United States in recent years, especially in China, Russia and India, resulting in more competition for good students and first-class faculty.

"I'm competing in hiring, instead of just with domestic schools, but with schools from all over the world, including here (in Japan), like Keio or Hitotsubashi or some of the other major universities that are hiring Ph.D.s who might have come to UCLA, but are now considering coming here," Olian said, adding it's healthy competition.

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