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What Differentiates a Fletcher GBA?

April 29, 2024
Sign reading "The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Founded 1933" located at the entrance to the Fletcher School

Are you searching for a graduate business program with an international perspective? Do you hope to learn global management contextualized by the geopolitical, social, legal, and economic forces in which businesses operate? Do you prefer the flexibility of online learning but also seek a community of peers? If so, the Master of Global Business Administration (GBA) at Tufts University’s Fletcher School could be the right fit. 

For a professor’s perspective on this innovative program, we spoke with Dr. Monica Toft, the academic dean and professor of international politics and the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. A former sergeant in the US Army, Toft is conversant in multiple languages, an accomplished academic, and a successful author. 

For Toft, the online program provides a special opportunity to bring students together from across the globe; as she puts it, “We’re coming from different parts of the world and those experiences come into the classroom.” The students also bring with them years of experience in a convergence of different industries and sectors. This combination enhances the educational experience by bringing in fresh ideas, new questions, and deeper discourse on global challenges.

The GBA program’s rigorous coursework includes a unique deep dive into international politics and diplomacy. Research opportunities, such as independent studies or through faculty-led research teams, on critical global issues offer additional exposure on topics of significance, from international law to international environmental policy, human security to global diplomacy and war.

We asked Dr. Toft about the qualities that distinguish the Fletcher GBA. Here’s what she had to say.

International security and warfare are not typically taught in any depth in MBA programs. Why is it essential for business professionals, and especially global business professionals, to understand these issues?

Look at what the Russia-Ukraine war did to global trade, shutting down the Black Sea and leading to crises and inflation throughout a number of countries that relied on grain coming out of Ukraine, one of the bigger grain deliverer, as well as oil and gas from Russia. Small and medium powers around the world had to adapt to these disruptions by deciding which side they are on and whether they could get concessions—like freer trade agreements—as a result of aligning, or they may have to make difficult decisions, such as giving up some trading partnerships. Wars, particularly among major powers and great powers, are quite disruptive to the international system. But, we might also consider pandemics, which readily become global, as COVID19 revealed in not only disrupting global supply chains but in creating tensions between countries as they sought the origins of the virus, and then in the development of vaccines to combat it.

Also, there are spillover effects. War economies emerge. Will supply chains be disrupted? What if there’s an absolute vital mineral in, say, Congo, that goes into our computer systems? Can that be sourced differently? Can you get it from another place? How about energy? Look at Russia, turning off gas and turning it back on to the Europeans to try to pressure them to not go along with the imposed sanctions regime. War is absolutely vital to understanding the play of trade. 

War not only disrupts trade, but it also disrupts people’s lives and forces mass migrations. People cross borders as a result of a crisis in one country, and markets are disrupted by people fleeing violence. These events empower criminal organizations, further complicating matters.

Consider what happened in Europe after the Syrian civil war, for instance. When many of the Syrian refugees pushed through Turkey into Western Europe, Europeans had to make a decision about whether to let these migrants in and how many. Some countries were more willing than others. It significantly disrupted European Union relations and created tension with the NATO alliance.

Turkey ended up signing a deal to retain a lot of the Syrian refugees because European powers were worried that an influx of non-natives into their states would disrupt the political system—and it did, to some extent. It led to anti-immigrant bias and it led to more polarization and populism, where citizens started to question and reject the existing political systems. It challenged politics throughout those countries as people became more anti-immigrant and anti-refugee, wanting to protect the native identity, however they defined it.

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You helped to establish the Fletcher Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University. What is its mission and what role does it play in informing the GBA program?

Its mission is to do high-level, first-rate scholarship. The objective is to inform sound foreign and national security policy. The Fletcher Center also trains and mentors the next generation of scholars, including MIBs and GBAs. When I teach, I bring some of my research into the classroom, as well as guest speakers to share their wisdom and their insights. 

We finished our first major project, which investigated US military interventions since 1776, resulting in the book, Dying by the Sword. The next project is the Afghanistan Assumptions Project, which tries to understand how the United States and its allies became embroiled in that conflict for 20 years—20 years and we had basically defeated the Taliban and Al Qaeda by December 2001, but we stayed for another 20 years. Why is that?

What makes the online GBA program unique?

I love the GBA students because they’re mid-career and they come from a diversity of backgrounds in terms of business, non-business, nonprofits. They’re not just business folks. They’re interesting, diverse, and more experienced. 

The online format allows people with extraordinarily busy lives to enroll. They participate from Dubai, from Singapore, from Australia, from Boston, they might be over in the next building. And they’re all coming together in this classroom—and it is truly a classroom where we’re learning from one another. They are a community, even though it’s online. 

Being remote improves the learning environment, because things are happening in different places and students often bring what they’re experiencing locally to the classroom. If somebody is coming in from Australia, there might be elections happening and they might talk about how that is impacting politics there. If somebody is in Singapore and China has done something that impacts it or the region, they’re going to bring that into the discussion. So, it’s fabulous that we’re coming from different parts of the world and that those experiences readily come into the classroom. 

I always start my classes with: What have you read this week or heard this week that you’re thinking about differently because of this course? In the residential program, students tend to read from the same news outlets—but online that is not the case. And so I too am learning a lot because the students bring their local and regional politics into the classroom. This is one of the factors that makes this program unique.

I find that my GBA students are often the most committed Fletcherites, even though they don’t come to campus to attend their classes. And when they do meet in person, for convocation, in-person immersions, or graduation, they always say it feels like a reunion. They’ve never met in person, and yet it’s a full reunion. It’s truly remarkable. 

Advance Your Global Business Aptitude With a Fletcher GBA

Success in today’s global business environment requires broad skills and insight. Quantitative aptitude, data analytics, and management and leadership skills are essential, but they aren’t enough. You must also understand the geopolitical, cultural, legal, and environmental factors that drive intra- and international commerce domestically and abroad. 

The online Master of Global Business Administration, offered through the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, provides a unique interdisciplinary approach to studying international business administration. Faculty and students bring diverse professional and academic experiences to the classroom to promote a multilayered, nuanced approach to business problem-solving.  A hands-on approach to learning includes real-world challenges for real organizations in a capstone project. International immersions—in Athens, Greece to explore innovation in crisis or in Mexico City to study sustainability and energy—provide additional hands-on learning experiences. Through it all, you’ll develop a global business skill set that extends beyond ledgers and business projections to effect positive change worldwide.

If you’re looking for a global business degree that frames issues within their larger legal, social, political, and economic contexts, contact an enrollment advisor to start your application or learn more.

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