Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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Alumni of Best Business School

           On that stormy night of September 10, 2013, when it took about three hours for some hapless travelers to go from Quezon City to Makati, some 25 Philippine-based alumni of the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain braved the rains and floods and attended an alumni reunion in the residence of the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Jorge Domecq.  Since the time I personally witnessed the start of the first ever MBA program in the entire European continent in 1964 at IESE, with the very generous help of the Harvard Business School, there must have been some fifty Filipinos who have taken their MBA in what is often ranked by publications like The Economist, Financial Times, Bloomberg as the Number One business school in the world.  That number of IESE alumni is still relatively few compared to the MBA graduates of prominent U.S. business schools like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Northwestern, etc.  I have noticed, however, that over the last ten years, the number of Filipinos in the MBA program of IESE has been increasing by the year.  Whereas the average in the last century was even less than one a year, lately there have been four to seven participants from the Philippines in every batch of the IESE MBA program, aside from top executives who take part in  the varied execution education programs like the Advanced Management Program (AMP).

          Ambassador Domecq, in his Welcome Remarks, summarized the prodigious success of IESE in just fifty five years of existence:  "I do not need to tell you that IESE is one of the most prestigious business schools, not only in Europe, but also in the world.  We are rightly proud of you in Spain because IESE means efficiency and success.  The IESE Business School climbed to the number one spot in the Financial Times 2012 overall ranking of business schools offering executive education programs.  Also, the Financial Times has ranked IESE's MBA program as third in Europe, and seventh in the world, closely competing with Stanford, Wharton or the London Business School."

          The reasons for the success of the IESE Business School were very well articulated by the Ambassador:  "Quality is the key for IESE's success.  It is the Academic quality that makes 98% of its graduates find a very good job just three months after graduating."  Indeed during the two years I spent recently in Barcelona as a Visiting Professor at IESE, I witnessed the highest priority that the School assigns to building a world class faculty.  I counted more than 100 Ph.D. holders with the most diverse nationalities, with graduates from the best universities all over the world.  The professors were more than just teachers; they were mentors in the full sense of the word since they were concerned with the whole person development of each student.  That is why the Ambassador remarked that "when surveyed, students also mention personal development as an essential element of their experience in IESE."  For those who freely sought it, spiritual counseling was also available, care of the priests of Opus Dei who acted as Chaplains of the School.  Finally, the Ambassador also explained why graduates of IESE are among those who can counter the overly materialistic and hedonistic cultures in some businesses today.  IESE's alumni "disseminate their highly regarded moral values in the 21st century global society:  values that are worthwhile considering in the business world, where individuals showing honesty and integrity can really make a difference."

            As probably the first Filipino to be in contact with IESE way back in 1963, I was able share with the alumni the roots of the IESE-Harvard cooperation that started in October 1963.  For fifty years, professors from the Harvard Business School selflessly transferred their teaching and research skills to those of IESE, who in turn were able to help numerous business schools in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe to put up their own executive education and MBA programs. In fact, the best business school in China today, the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) was established as a joint project of IESE, Harvard and the European Union.  For several decades, professors from IESE took turns in being the President of CEIBS. I would like to take this occasion to pay tribute to the various generations in the leadership of the Harvard Business School that has persevered in lending support to IESE for fifty years.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.