Graduate Management News

August 2016

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

The Importance of Recruiting a Diverse Classroom: The View from HKUST MBA and Its Students

Diversity is a defining element in many graduate business programs. Discover how diversity influences the HKUST MBA program, the culture it creates, and how it attracts and recruits students from all around the world.

At the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology MBA (HKUST MBA), diversity is our defining value. It has been so since the program was established more than two decades ago. This is not just a "nice to have", but rather a value embedded in every decision that we make, it’s something we practice day in day out.

Immersing in a Diverse Learning Environment

Hong Kong is a global metropolis and a melting pot of cultures. In the city’s central business district, Central, you will find professionals from diverse backgrounds, a true microcosm of what this city stands for. As you travel 45 minutes from West to East of Hong Kong and across the harbor, you slowly leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city, and enter what we boast of as paradise. The HKUST campus is sprawled across 150-acre of sweeping natural beauty on the Clear Water Bay. The minute you turn into the Lee Shau Kee Business School, you will once again find yourself in the midst of another microcosm of Hong Kong.

A diverse classroom allows students to learn and collaborate in an environment that mimics the workplace they will rejoin after graduating. Not only because our students will end up working in a diverse city like Hong Kong or other major cities across Asia, but rather in a world that is becoming more seamless. It’s a reality that any professional will work in or with diverse teams no matter where they find themselves. Recruiting a diverse classroom enables students to learn in that relevant context.

How We Recruit a Diverse Classroom

How do we ensure that we recruit a class that is diverse in ethnicity, upbringing, education and professional background down to their values, thoughts, personalities, post-MBA aspirations and passions in life? It’s certainly not rocket science, but I also hope that we haven’t simplified it too much.

The majority of our staff who conduct student interviews are either MBA alumni who have returned to take up leadership roles in the MBA program, or have been with the program for at least two years and spent a good amount of time with students in and out of class. We understand the culture of the program, and the unique chemistry that each intake creates.

We always ask ourselves two questions: Would we enjoy being in the same team with him or her? Would he or she be able to embrace someone different from him or herself? We are not the only ones who put candidates through this litmus test. Our current intake, who have experienced firsthand the benefits of being in a diverse class, also act as gatekeepers and meet with candidates in more casual settings.

Once we have our full intake, and prior to their enrollment, we spend a full day looking at profiles of all incoming students, reviewing what we’ve learned about them during consultations, interviews and others points of interaction, then mapping them into study groups of four to five people. Our goals it to make each group as diverse as possible, whether it’s because of where they are from, their pre-MBA experience, personality, and many other elements. This group will go through core classes together, work on group projects together, and there is no “out” to it. Mind you, we are not saying it’s a smooth sail with these groups, but with no way “out,” students are encouraged to use their groups as training ground to start practicing their leadership skills.

What Our Students Think About Diversity

Feedback is vital to the success of any program. Consider asking your students what they think about diversity. After we’ve done our part to create a diverse culture within the program, we like to receive feedback from our students. We asked the HKUST full-time MBA intake of 2016 to complete this sentence: “At HKUST MBA, ‪diversity is…” Here are several responses to share.

At HKUST MBA, #diversity is…

  • … thinking independently together.
  • … everywhere, anytime.
  • … having 100+ perspectives and one common goal.
  • … the fabric which ties everyone together.
  • … a way of life.
  • … like a chemical reaction, the greater the mix, the louder the impact.
  • … a painting with many colors and creates one amazing scene.
  • … embracing differences in backgrounds, cultures and values.
  • … like Pokemon Go, the more you catch, the better the momentum to evolve (of course we would get one about Pokemon!).

Finally, here is our favorite one simply because we are in Hong Kong – at HKUST MBA, diversity is like dim sum, each made up of distinctive ingredients but tastes so good in harmony!

About the Author

Phebe Loo is Assistant Director of Marketing & Admissions, MBA Programs, HKUST Business School.