Friday, May 16, 2008

"Scholarships make Mexicans think big"

(Published May 17, 2008 in The Guadalajara Reporter)

A graduate from a Guadalajara university who aims to take over her father’s air ambulance company is the first recipient of a scholarship to study abroad named for Adolf B. Horn, the former U.S. consul general and president of the American Chamber of Commerce, who died last year at the age of 92.

Jessica Faubert had been accepted into several MBA programs in the United States but chose to enter the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago.

As her father plans to retire in the near future, Faubert will return to Mexico after her studies and run AirLink Ambulance, a leading air medical transport company with bases in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Baja California.

“I need the finance background,” says Faubert, who studied at the Tec de Monterrey and speaks flawless English. “I just don’t have the skill set yet to be general manager.”

Faubert’s chance to study abroad comes courtesy of the prestigious Magdalena O. Viuda de Brockmann scholarship program, which gives outstanding Mexicans the opportunity to earn a Master’s degree abroad. This is the first year of the special Adolf B. Horn award.

Named for the mother of entrepreneur Guillermo Brockmann, who founded the program in 1993, the scholarships enable Mexicans to experience the values and systems of foreign universities, then apply what they have learned on their return to Mexico. In fact, each student selected is committed to staying in Mexico for five years thereafter and is chosen based on a potential to “provide a future contribution to the advancement and modernization of Mexico,” as the mission stipulates.

“We hope they will come back as bicultural people prepared to collaborate with local individuals,” says Anthony Rump, executive director of the scholarship foundation, which boasts an endowment of more than three million dollars.

As would be expected, the selection process is extremely competitive. A series of interviews narrows the applicant pool down to 12 candidates, who are promised the awards subject to proving they can finance the portion of tuition not covered by the scholarship. The applicants undergo a rigorous review by the program’s board of directors, a psychological exam, and are considered by two previous Brockmann fellows.

Faubert had no problem providing the scholarship committee with a detailed five- and ten-year plan. “I have so many ideas,” she says enthusiastically.

She would like the family business to be geared more toward information services. AirLink Ambulance currently focuses most of its energy in its infrastructural functions (the airplanes, pilots, doctors, etc.). Faubert wants to expand the company to work as an intermediary between customers and insurance companies. She cites new cost containment strategies that help save both parties money by looking out for exploitative medical services, such as hospitals that jack up bills for foreigners in crisis.

Faubert also plans to open up the business to a growing demand for medical tourism by offering package deals to Mexico for foreign patients, a booming industry that countries like India and Costa Rica have already caught onto.

Faubert was one of three applicants chosen from Jalisco; six hail from the state of Mexico, two are from Monterrey, and one from Tamaulipas.

Jose Fernandez, the selected recipient of the new Robert Leslie scholarship (awarded to a talented Mexican engineer) and ITESO graduate, is originally from Colima but has studied and worked in Jalisco for the last eight years.

Fernandez’s impressive resume already includes work as the head structural engineer at VAO Engineering, responsible for drafting and calculations of the Torrena project in Guadalajara, a telecommunications tower planned to be the tallest in Latin America.

He chose to study for a Master’s degree in order to manage entire projects such as the Torrena. He will attend a program in construction management at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, in part because it is a much more affordable option compared to similar schools in the United States.

“The culture there is very interesting,” Fernandez says. “It’s a mixed society – a British colony and indigenous people, which is a culture they protect.”

Rump says that the program’s international notoriety has lately generated more opportunities from universities than can be published in the scholazrship brochure. The French government, for example, will pay half the tuition of 75 engineering students who study at several universities in France (a program called Campus France); and Dublin City University in Ireland, Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and the University of Arizona all offer partial and total tuition waivers.

“This has been the highest honor I’ve ever gotten,” says Faubert of the experience. “I would motivate anyone to apply when going for higher education. It’s a reflexive process that is great preparation for university applications, and it makes you focus.”