Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor
President Thomas Keefe returned recently from a two-week tour of India, China and Jordan aimed at raising awareness of the University of Dallas’ Graduate School of Management. Keefe is the first of UD’s eight presidents to take such a trip. The tour may be a first for a UD president, but it will likely not be Keefe’s last.
Including stops in Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Amman and several other cities, the trip allowed Keefe to foster relationships with universities and other officials throughout these countries.
“We certainly raised the visibility of the University of Dallas in a part of the world where we do not have much visibility,” Keefe said.
The fast-paced tour began on Aug. 25 and concluded on Sept. 9. Keefe was accompanied on the trip by Dr. Sri Beldona of GSM.
“The purpose of the trip was to recruit students for the GSM program from Asia, particularly India, China and Jordan. It’s not quite as easy as that. It’s not a matter of recruiting students directly; it’s a matter of developing relationships with universities and those countries,” Keefe pointed out. “It’s a matter of developing articulation agreements where [those universities] will agree to send their graduates to secure an MBA after they’ve secured an undergraduate business degree.”
Though perhaps a one-way street initially, these agreements could also open up opportunities for UD students to travel to the Middle and Far East and to Southeast Asia for professional or graduate degrees.
“These universities would love for UD students to go abroad,” Keefe said. “I think there is a number of graduate opportunities, particularly in China. China’s looking for bright Americans to come study over there. They’d like it to be a two-way street.
“There are also faculty opportunities – for some of their faculty to come here and teach in our MBA program, and for some of our faculty to go over there and teach,” Keefe said. “It’s developing relationships and creating working agreements out of those relationships.”
The beginnings of some such relationships were the reason for choosing these three countries for the trip.
Keefe said that India was a natural place to start because of Beldona’s deep connections there. Working at UD to facilitate international recruitment for GSM, Beldona grew up in India and has many professional contacts back home.
Jordan made the list because Dr. MohammedSuliman, a professor at a university in Jordan, reached out to Keefe. Suliman, whose family lives in Texas, once stopped by UD and met with Keefe. After the visit, he asked Keefe to come to Jordan, even offering to pay part of the airfare.
China, on the other hand, was included because several universities expressed interest in meeting with Keefe to develop long-term relationships with UD.
Apart from university contacts, Asia generally offers good prospects for recruiting for GSM. With 10 percent of GSM students hailing from India and China, Keefe saw a natural base on which he could build.
Moreover, students from India and China tend in general to have the money and national stability to travel to the United States, something less common in many African and many Middle Eastern countries, Keefe said.
During his visits to these three countries, Keefe routinely dropped by embassies and spoke with agents who recruit for GSM, in an effort to boost UD as a possibility for an MBA.
“I wanted every embassy official to know about UD so that when someone came in and said he was thinking of studying at the University of Dallas, the official would say, ‘That’s a great program.’”
Beginning with stops in Mumbai, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur, Keefe continued to Shanghai and Nanjing where he spent a couple days meeting with heads of several universities, as well as deans and faculty. Moving on to Amman, Jordan, he spent three days at Middle Eastern University, where he was invited to speak at a conference of 400 that was covered by seven TV networks, a definite highlight of the trip, Keefe said.
Though unprecedented, this trip is simply another part of a broader effort to ramp up GSM admissions which have declined as the number of MBA programs in the DFW area has multiplied and construction on Texas State Highway 114 has made access to UD difficult. Closer to home, this effort has included opening new entrances to campus off of Highway 114 and sprucing up existing ones, as well as installing “smart” classrooms in third-floor Braniff and working toward The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation under recently appointed Dean Robert Scherer’s leadership.
As Keefe sees it, GSM plays a vital role in the university on several levels, making such attention very worthwhile.
Perhaps most materially, GSM has for many years been a primary source of revenue for UD. While Constantin College has historically operated in the red, GSM has stayed mainly in the black.
But Keefe is quick to point out that GSM is far more than a “cash cow” kept around to subsidize Constantin College. Instead, it is a central and active part of the UD community that complements the three other colleges that form UD, accounting for 20,000 of the total 30,000 UD alumni.
“A university is made up of independent colleges that complement each other. The University of Dallas is a university; it’s made up of four colleges,” Keefe said. These are Constantin College, Braniff Graduate School, the School of Ministry and the College of Business, which includes GSM.
“Constantin is our pride and joy,” Keefe said. But he stressed that “GSM is an integral part of UD. We complement. You can’t define the University of Dallas by talking only about Constantin College.”
Keefe also sees GSM as living out the same basic mission articulated by Bishop Thomas Gorman at UD’s founding.
“Bishop Gorman called for the University of Dallas to serve the needs of the Catholics of north Texas. GSM is a manifestation of us living Bishop Gorman’s command, as is the School of Ministry and the Braniff Graduate School.”
Seeking to continue and expand this goal to those from other countries, Keefe plans to do similar tours in South and Central America where the prevalent Catholic culture makes students from these areas natural fits for GSM. Dean Scherer’s contacts in that area and the ease of flying into DFW from south of the border also make a trip to this region even more of a high priority on Keefe’s active plans to bolster GSM enrollment.
“GSM is an exceptional academic unit and we’re proud of the work that’s done at GSM,” Keefe said. “I will go wherever I need to go in order to serve the needs of the University. I am particularly committed to raising the awareness of the University of Dallas and its excellent academic enterprise, throughout this country but also throughout Central and South America.”