Provo » BYU's Marriott School of Management prides itself on helping students learn the skills that will allow them to compete, whether on Main Street in Utah or on the global stage.
For more than 2,200 students, that means putting them on a course where they can not only survive in the workplace, but thrive. The stories of So Shan Huo, Emily Ainian and David Liddicoat -- all three from widely divergent backgrounds -- typify the journeys of those who pass through Marriott's halls.
Business in China » When it comes to how businesses in China parcel out jobs, culture often favors seniority over competence.
So Shan Huo, a second-year Master of Business Administration student at BYU's Marriott School of Management, says she will work in the United States for a few years before returning to her homeland for a job there. That way, she can step into a middle-management position rather than start on the ground floor.
"The knowledge gained here is hard to [use] in China as an entry-level manager," said the 24-year-old international student. "Sometimes people get jealous and stop you from growing."
This winter, she has been interviewing with Hewlett-Packard, which is looking for a candidate who understands American and Chinese cultures, has the right marketing skills and is fluent in both languages.
Huo hails from Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. She came to BYU as an undergraduate in her senior year, majoring in international economics and trade. She expects to earn her MBA in marketing this spring.
She initially came to Utah after being chosen by her Chinese school to be part of an eight-month exchange program.
"American education encourages you to be creative and outspoken and show initiative," she said. "Chinese education does not emphasize any of that. It emphasizes memorization and being obedient. Students do not talk in classes unless they are absolutely sure of the answer."
And in China, going to college is the easy part. "All the memorization is done in high school, and college is not as strict. In China, you will graduate; it is guaranteed."
She praises the Marriott school for its emphasis on preparing students to think globally.
"A lot of our case studies are based on Chinese companies," she said. One advantage she has, of course, is speaking the language.
"For many students here, it is tough learning Chinese."
The value of a push » One of the benefits of landing an internship between semesters is that it can lead to a post-graduation job.
That's how it worked for Emily Ainian, a senior accounting major who won't have to stand in an employment line after she graduates this spring. The best part is she gets to return to her home base when she starts working at a small accounting firm in Glendale, Calif.
The native of Burbank always found school easy growing up, but that smooth ride ended when she arrived in Provo four years ago.
"I didn't know I would study accounting," she said. "When I came here, I thought I would be a math major."
When she switched at the beginning of her junior year and entered the Marriott School of Management, "professors started pushing me. It is so difficult in accounting, but they show us what we are capable of. Unless you are pushed, you don't know what you can accomplish."
That motivation has paid off in many ways, but perhaps nowhere more than at her internship last summer with the Glendale firm.
"A partner showed me a balance sheet and all the numbers. He asked me to analyze them. I did and got it right. My confidence really shot up," she said, adding that laying numbers down on the page is easy, the hard part is analyzing them.
"Gaining that confidence is the biggest thing I have taken from this [BYU's] program."
Will she go for an advanced degree?
"I'm thinking about getting my master's and will see if I go into tax or auditing work or something else." For now, it's back home this spring to a new job in her chosen profession. She figures that at 21, she has a lot of time to consider her future.
Help finding a job » Australian David Liddicoat is one of the older students in the Marriott School of Management. At 35, he is a well-established family man with a wife and four children. This spring, he is set to receive his MBA in finance -- and, like many graduates from the highly ranked Provo school, his job-search worries ended before they began.
Like Ainian, Liddicoat took advantage of his school's internship-placement services and landed last summer at Symantec, the Mountain View, Calif.-based developer of the Norton Anti-Virus software. That led to a job in corporate finance that begins this summer, with the potential of him returning to his native Perth after a few years.
"The goal of a lot of international students is to get a job in the United States and then return home," he said, while others want to stay permanently. His plan is to work either for an Australian company with U.S. operations or a U.S. company with Australian connections.
Liddicoat started at BYU as a freshman many years ago before leaving to finish a bachelor's in commerce at the University of Western Australia. Then he went to work as a financial manager in private-wealth management.
He returned to Utah through a chance meeting in Australia with former Marriott Dean Ned Hill (1998-2008), who played up the school's strengths for international students. Liddicoat was offered a scholarship, "so I thought, 'Let's have a look at that.' "
Liddicoat said among Marriott's strengths are its "healthy competition among students and a lot of collaboration." He praises the school's placement efforts, whether putting students into internships or helping them get jobs after graduation.
"There's a huge amount of stress to maintain your studies and, at the same time, try to get a job. They give us a lot of help" to deal with that.