• 4 minute read

Up Close with Stephanie Villemagne

From INSEAD to CUHK, Stephanie Villemagne has developed a wealth of knowledge in leading MBA programs. What does a successful MBA program mean to her?

By Mabel Sieh, Managing Editor, China Business Knowledge @ CUHK

From INSEAD to CUHK, Stephanie Villemagne has developed a wealth of knowledge in leading MBA programs. She shares with China Business Knowledge about herself, her earlier experiences and visions as the new MBA Director at CUHK Business School.

I would describe myself as a French woman with a global mindset. As a teenager I went to the United States as an exchange student. This experience shaped up who I am today: My world seemed small and predictable back in Europe and suddenly I was in this big country where everything is ‘possible’. It opened a lot of doors including the international one. From that moment on I decided the world was my oyster and life was too short not to take it on and try to understand as many cultures as possible.

I have lived in six countries across three continents and travelled to 50 more countries. And I am still hoping to grow that number even though now I have a husband and two young kids – Louise who is six years old and Charlie who is just 20 months old, to drag along with me!

At INSEAD, more than half of my team was based in Europe. In the past, I have run diverse teams with some locally based and some virtual, all sharing the same enthusiasm at working in a multicultural environment.

The challenge of working with students from 80 nationalities is to mirror the processes across time zones and countries. If you give a different answer to a student depending on his or her location, it creates precedents that you don’t want to face when running a global program. That means you have to make sure your processes are aligned while keeping local contexts in mind. It is not an easy task at all but one that only diverse teams are well equipped to deal with.

Nowadays, I don’t think there is a choice in being international or not, this is the world we leave in. Everything is global, from the clothes we wear, our friends, the impact of one thriving or declining economy over others, to the financial markets and economy.

Being international is more a question of human adaptation to the smaller world around them. It’s scary for some, exciting for others; however, it is surely a reality already. We have to know that no matter what happens, we are not going to go back to our own small familiar “villages”. We have to understand that all interactions are now global and the only way to adapt is to understand that difference is not always negative – most of the time it actually is very positive.

Education institutions have a large role to play in educating the new generation about our differences to make sure that we learn to live peacefully with others from different nationalities and cultures. This also means learning how to do things differently – including how to do business.

A successful MBA program to me means attracting topnotch individuals and transforming them into a strong alumni community throughout a solid academic process. It’s a virtuous circle – when you build a strong and relevant academic program, it will attract good faculty to teach and research, which in turns attracts good students. You can add the recruiters to the mix and there you have your golden formula.

I found a very strong program to run here at CUHK Business School. The breadth and strength of the alumni community are superb and that is a real added bonus for a new comer like me!

I am extremely happy to see that our Business School is one of the most gender diverse schools in the region and I hope to be able to bring other types of diversity, such as nationalities, backgrounds, etc. to the MBA and Graduate programs in general.

I do think we have been a tad too discreet about how good we really are and I am hoping I can help change that.

Our challenges in the society today are a lack of innovations, business skills and tools to solve humanity’s problems. We are faced with many urgent and looming crises: lack of education, hunger, depletion of natural resources, lack of drinkable water, pollution, etc. And we need creativity and business skills to help alleviate these problems. I believe we can be making money and at the same time having a positive contribution to society – social entrepreneurship is a great example.


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