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The Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program at Laurier’s Lazaridis School of Business & Economics is recognized worldwide. It is no surprise, then, that students from more than 10 different countries have enrolled in the program.

For many international students, the Pre-MBA — an eight-month intensive English and business preparatory program run by Laurier International — is an option to consider before applying to a graduate program in a new country when English may not be the student’s first language.

“The Pre-MBA was a fast-paced, challenging and highly engaging experience,” says Ruochen He.

He is a former international student at Laurier who took part in the Pre-MBA program in 2015. He graduated in October 2016 with a Lazaridis MBA degree.

“Unlike other English as a Second Language programs, the Pre-MBA maintained balance between English teaching and important business content such as accounting, statistics, and approaches to western business culture,” he says. “It was a fun and rewarding way to help me build confidence in public speaking and group work — perfect preparation for studying at the MBA-level.”

The Pre-MBA launched at Laurier in 2012. Since then, students from around the world — including China, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam — have participated.

“The program is designed to help international students who would like to pursue a Lazaridis MBA gain the linguistic skills needed to succeed at the graduate level,” says Jason Whalen, Pre-MBA coordinator.

The Pre-MBA is under the umbrella of Laurier International, a resource centre for international degree-seeking and exchange students who are looking for information or assistance.

“Laurier does an incredible job at making students feel at home — this year’s Maclean’s university rankings show that,” says Whalen. “I think we make sure that all students, whether they’re from Canada or abroad, feel this support. Laurier International contributes to the great sense of community on campus.”

Through its programs like the Pre-MBA, the Laurier English and Academic Foundations program, and the International Peer Mentor program, Laurier International helps students with issues such as life in Canada and at Laurier, and Canada’s immigration rules and regulations.

“One of the greatest benefits of the Pre-MBA is something that wasn’t initially a primary goal of the program,” says Whalen. “It’s the experience that acclimatizes international students before they start a program as demanding as the MBA.”

Whalen, who owned and operated his own language and education company in South Korea before joining Laurier, understands the intrinsic value in becoming comfortable with different styles of learning. As a recent MBA graduate from the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, he also has first-hand experience in the program’s demanding curriculum.

“Having the experience to adjust to life in Canada and the language skills to succeed before moving on to the MBA is a major benefit of the program,” he says. “The Canadian style of learning is very different than, for example, in Asian cultures — our program helps students adapt.”

Every year, the Pre-MBA accepts approximately 20 students who are interested in applying to the Lazaridis MBA degree programs. The Pre-MBA program, which runs concurrent to the undergraduate calendar from September to April, sees 97 per cent of its students move on to successfully complete the Lazaridis MBA.

“It is imperative that our diverse Lazaridis MBA degree programs expose our students to the globalized world in which they will work,” says Hugh Munro, director of the Lazaridis MBA program.

“One of the many ways for our students to gain this valuable experience is by developing a personal and professional network of influential people from around the world — many of whom happen to be seated next to them in their classes,” he says.

Through his close contact with Laurier’s Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, Whalen is kept abreast of the performance and needs of international students, which gives him valuable feedback on how to adjust the Pre-MBA curriculum.

“When I joined Laurier to run the Pre-MBA program, I was given the opportunity to audit and adapt the program to fit students’ needs,” says Whalen. “That’s one of the benefits of running such a small program that is dedicated to student success. We’re constantly considering what we can do to support the transition to the Lazaridis MBA program.”

Whalen says that one of the biggest hurdles for Pre-MBA students is succeeding on the GMAT — a standardized English administered admission test required for MBA programs. In addition to offering courses on academic listening and speaking, business English and orientation of Western business and culture, the Pre-MBA program provides a GMAT course during the fall semester at no additional charge to students enrolled in the program.

“This GMAT prep course is just one of the examples of how we can adapt to unfolding needs,” says Whalen. “There’s a very high correlation between success in the Pre-MBA and success on the GMAT, which shows that what we’re doing in the program is right and representative of what’s needed to excel in the MBA.”

Prospective students who are interested in the Pre-MBA program should consult the admission requirements and contact Jason Whalen for more information.

“We see a lot of students, some of whom already qualify for the Lazaridis MBA program, apply directly to the Pre-MBA because they know they need extra assistance,” says Whalen. “It’s rewarding to see these students grow in confidence and immerse themselves in the Laurier community.”

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