What’s New at INSEAD? [Show Summary]
No school exemplifies the trend global business quite as much as INSEAD, which was founded in France, but has campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as well as partnerships with Wharton in the U.S., Tsinghua in China, and the Sorbonne. Virginie Fougea, Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD will take you through the unique history of INSEAD, its mission and vision, and how you should approach the application.
Interview with Virginie Fougea, Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at INSEAD [Show Notes]
Today it’s my pleasure to have on the show Virginie Fougea Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at INSEAD. She began working at INSEAD shortly after I put Accepted on the web way back in 1996. She also participated in Accepted’s old text-only chats, typing madly away. In 2012 she became the Associate Director of Admissions at INSEAD, and on the day that I previously interviewed her for the podcast 3 years ago, she officially became Director of Admissions.
Can you give an overview of the INSEAD’s full-time MBA program for those listeners who aren’t that familiar with it? [2:24]
INSEAD was founded in 1957 by Georges Doriot, a French national and graduate and professor of Harvard. He came back to France after World War 2 and decided to promote peace and prosperity in Europe, with the idea being a common business school with different European countries working together. French, English and German were required languages at the time, though now it is just English. The institution does not belong to any government and is a private non-profit. The curriculum is designed to be taught in one year, and has been since the beginning. We now have 500 students per class, and two intakes per year, one in January and one in August. Students also choose between three campuses – the original in France, in Fontainebleau, which is 60km outside of Paris, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.
You and I spoke a couple of weeks ago, and before we turn to admissions tips I’d like you to share with listeners some of the exciting recent developments at INSEAD. Let’s start with the €40 million gift from Andrea Hoffman Class of 90. Can you tell us how INSEAD will use the money? [4:38]
This is the single largest gift in INSEAD history and enabled us to launch the Global Institute for Business and Society, which we just launched this past week. It will be a transformative entity – working on theoretical frameworks, strategies, analytics tools, business models or new ways of teaching and disseminating knowledge. The goal is to align businesses with the societies they serve, and goes back to the vision to promote peace and prosperity. The hope is that future leaders from around the world involved in businesses will deliberately account for societal and environmental impact in their decisions as a result. The idea is that this will flow through all the entire INSEAD experience, from the coursework to green campuses.
Can you also tell us about IW50? The 50th Anniversary of INSEAD admitting the first woman to its program. [7:53]
We admitted the first two women to the MBA program 50 years ago, and were one of the first schools to do that. We wanted to recognize the leadership of women in the world, and through different events we wanted to influence the way men and women conceive of women as leaders. We brought people from everywhere in the world, from countries where women don’t have the same rights or access to education or to work even, and by having this celebration we wanted to advance women in leadership roles.
Women currently represent 35-40% of incoming classes (roughly 180 women), so we have come a long way!
Finally, on Oct 1, INSEAD announced an evolution of its mission and branding. “We bring together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society.”
a. Why the change? [10:25]
The brand has always evolved to reflect the ever changing world, from a European school post-WW2 to a global school based in three different continents, and we felt the need to reflect on that to see if all was still aligned. Indeed with the opening of the Global Institute it aligns with the idea that we are a mission-driven school, have to bring people together, and teach people how to do business together for greater impact and return to societies, to populations, and to the environment. The logo and brand is fully aligned with our roots and current mission.
b. What are the implications of this change practically for INSEAD’s students? [12:00]
It is a confirmation of our values of tolerance and diversity, and doesn’t have an immediate impact or implication, but clearly states to the world that we clearly believe in diversity as a force for good. We have always admitted people of many different nationalities, cultures, religions, sexual orientation, passions, and professional backgrounds, and we want to promote that as part of the values of the school.
There are 94 nationalities in the class entering in 2018. With 500 people in each intake that creates tremendous diversity and very interesting discussions.
c. To applicants? [14:08]
It is very important for our applicants to be thoughtful in their applications and reflect on the vision and values as they prepare.
Let’s turn to the application, for just a second.
Can you go through the function of different application elements:
a. Online app including Job Description Questions, Motivation Essays [17:59]
The Job Description Questions are sometimes seen as essays, but here this is to help us understand an applicant’s leadership potential and ability to contribute to class discussion. People need to speak about the nature of their work and feel free to use concrete and specific examples, but it’s not an essay. Understanding the day to day work shows how the person is valued as they move along in an organization. The Motivation Essays I see as the most challenging aspect yet the most crucial. Together with the videos that is the unique opportunity for applicants to introduce themselves. People explain achievements, motivation for the program, the values of INSEAD, thinking patterns, value set, etc.
b. In supporting documentation: CV, Letters of rec, video interview [24:00]
We ask for the CV so they have already started thinking about the job search in the MBA program. Some people have not written a CV since the end of their undergrad studies, perhaps working 3-5 years not needing to update one. It also gives us more information about their activities and responsibilities, and complements the application form. We provide a template which is what is distributed to recruiting companies, so it is the objective for the applicant to use that, but they can use another template if they want.
For recommendation letters, the first thing people need to understand is they should select people who know them really well in their day-to-day activities, since there are questions related to leadership potential and ability to contribute.
With the video interview, it provides the opportunity to introduce yourself, show leadership, motivation for the INSEAD program, etc., and people do a great job with them. It is also a tool to assess English skills, poise, and just to shine. We get an understanding of communication skills and lots of things that are subtle like body language, but shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to entry. It is another element we consider. If the video interview didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, it’s ok.
What can an applicant expect in an INSEAD interview? [30:26]
They are conducted by alumni, which is very specific to INSEAD. We want our alumni to be part of the interview process because we want applicants to be able to ask questions of the alumni. Also, alums know what it takes, what the program did for them both personally and professionally, so the idea is to have an exchange and conversation between alum and applicant, seeing the applicant as if they were in the program. So the alum is assessing how this person would contribute to the program, what will they share with the rest of the class, etc. Because of the diversity of INSEAD, with applicants coming from many different countries, we rely on our alums so applicants don’t need to travel for interviews. We are very careful of potential cultural biases, and having interviewers who are local gets rid of or at least brings awareness to the potential biases. The interviews can be conducted in English or the native language (with at least part in English). The admissions officer in charge of the applicant will carefully select the interviewer, not just randomly pick one who is available. It is someone who has graduated a few years ago, and most likely someone from a sector similar to the applicant.
What advice do you have for an applicant planning to submit by the January 9 (R3) deadline for the 9/2019 Intake or for the Feb. 20 deadline for the R1 Jan 2020 Intake? [35:24]
The first thing that is often asked to be confirmed is if they have more chance in R1. We know the qualities we are looking for, and places will still be available in R4. The only issue for R4 applicants is they are left to non-scholarship offers because scholarship decisions are made earlier.
What advice do you have for applicants planning ahead for the Sept. 2020 Intake or later? [37:17]
First one that comes to mind is talk to alumni if they can, since it is a good way to get a feel for the program. If they happen to be in one of the three locations we are happy to host them on campus. Also, start thinking about who could be the right recommenders.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [38:10]
No questions, I think, but maybe I’d just like to reiterate the point to not hesitate to reach out to the teams we have, as we have people who are happy to guide applicants. It is easy now through social media to get in touch with us.
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