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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Brightest Go West




One of the things about teaching business in Moscow that makes me very proud f but also sorrowful f is a party that we hold every summer to bid farewell to our students who are continuing their studies abroad.


The tradition of holding these farewell parties began several summers ago when Igor f perhaps the most brilliant student I've met in a dozen years of teaching f was accepted to the Wharton School of Business and received a Muskie Fellowship f the only way he could have afforded such an expensive school. John, an economics teacher, and I decided that Igor needed some new luggage to begin his new life, and we invited a dozen of Igor's fellow students over to celebrate. At the last minute we found out that Dmitry, who'd be coming to the party, had just been accepted to Indiana University. In a mad dash to Global USA, I secured both cold beer and another piece of luggage. Nevertheless, I was slightly embarrassed at the party when Margarita showed up and announced that she was going to Brandeis, and we had no going away present for her.


We've quit giving away luggage to students who leave Russia for further studies, much to the detriment of Samsonite's share price. In the long term, the loss of Russia's most talented young people is an even more important problem than the loss of financial capital. Students who want to return to Russia now know that the best strategy is to get several years experience in the West first. After getting this experience they'll hardly want to take a pay cut to return to Russia.


I'm sad that many of these students will not be able to find appropriate work in Russia. I'm sad that they can't continue their studies in Russia, even though we can educate 20 students here to a similar standard for the cost of sending one student abroad. I'm mostly sad for Russia. The future of the entire country is diminished when the best and brightest leave.


I should apologize to Oleg, Olga, Yulia, Leonid, Kirill and Dasha, among others. Not all of our best students have left Russia. Oleg worked his way up to director of corporate finance at a major international investment bank in Moscow. His career wouldn't be helped at this point by an MBA from even the best school. Olga specializes in Russian tax law and can't learn anything on this topic abroad. Yulia stays to be with her husband, who won't leave Russia for even the best opportunity abroad. But these people are the exceptions that prove the rule. Leonid and Kirill are saving their money and working on their resumes in order to get into the best possible Western schools. Dasha will probably stay in her consulting job for another year or two before being sent to the West to study by her firm. I hope, dear friends, that you will keep in touch with us, and let us know how you're doing. I hope you remember where you came from and the people that you've left behind. I hope that you'll return to Russia f even if it can only be to give a guest lecture in your new specialty to future students. And most of all, I hope that Russia develops an economy that makes it possible for you to return for good, so that you and future students can live, develop your careers and contribute economically in your own country.


Peter Ekman, professor of finance at the American Institute of Business and Economics, an MBA program in Moscow, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times. His e-mail address is pdek@co.ru