While the Cox School of Business is honoring 100 years of business education in Dallas this year, the SMU Cox Global Leadership Program (GLP) is marking its own milestone: 20 years as part of the MBA core course requirement for all Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) students and an optional GLP trip for Professional MBA (PMBA) students. In those two decades, more than 2,200 students have benefited from GLP experiential learning, a critical capstone at the end of the first year of the MBA program. More than 1,000 companies and speakers have hosted GLP visits around the world.

Prior to departing, students prepare for their GLP trips by doing research, attending seminars, going on site visits and submitting white papers. After they return to campus, students reinforce what they’ve learned by making group presentations and answering questions at a symposium attended by Cox faculty, staff and external guests. Over the years, many students have described the GLP experience as “life-changing.”

Assistant Dean Linda Kao, who helped design and launch the original SMU Cox GLP, says both the FTMBA and PMBA GLPs have evolved over the past 20 years. For one thing, she says, more theme-focused classes, such as strategy, entrepreneurship, real estate, accounting and business analytics, have been added. The original destination countries were China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Panama, Cuba, UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, the Slovak Republic and Sweden. Destinations now include Israel, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Germany, Morocco, the Czech Republic and Canada.

Another change has been to offer the PMBA GLP trip as an option for all MS and One-Year MBA students, as well as Online MBA students when that program launched in 2019. With the unexpected changes in global travel brought about by COVID-19, the Cox GLP and similar business school programs will be changed in ways yet to be determined.

Prior to COVID-19, Kao noted that “We made GLP offerings live-consulting, project-based experiential learning opportunities to better prepare our students for real-world challenges by giving them the chance to use academic learning to solve complex real-world consulting projects.” Student projects could come from companies, startups, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. The same kind of GLP opportunities will be offered to One-Year MBA students in 2021.

Looking back 20 years to when SMU Cox first offered the GLP, Kao says, a lot has changed. She recalls that the euro had not yet been introduced, China wasn’t yet part of the World Trade Organization and few students had cell phones, so calling cards were a must-have for anyone who wanted to call home. Paper tickets were mandatory for boarding and airport security was relaxed. Kao points to the one fact she deems most important: “At the inception of GLP, we were the only school to mandate and fully fund the program for FTMBA students. Eventually, the global programs similar to what SMU Cox first offered emerged as the gold standard for business school graduate programs.”