NCSU lands French campus

Business school adds to prestige

Staff WriterMay 19, 2010 

  • A French business school at N.C. State University's Centennial Campus? Mais oui!

    It's a natural addition to the eclectic, 25-year-old, 1,120-acre research park that houses a golf course, recreational lake, dormitories, classrooms and research labs alongside offices of international businesses.

    The concept of the Centennial Campus is to bring together disparate elements, such as private industry and public education, into one community. At one point the campus was to include a monorail connection between the rest of N.C. State. The hotel and conference center, long planned and long delayed, are still in the blueprint stage.

    Among the companies and organizations that call Centennial Campus home are software maker Red Hat, electrical equipment maker ABB, pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline and the National WeatherService.

  • Skema is France's largest business school as measured by total students, now numbering more than 5,000. Skema's Raleigh campus will begin with 30,000 square feet of space on the Centennial Campus but has plans to expand. Students here would be undergraduates as well as graduate students, studying abroad for a year and working with local companies in high-tech clusters, a tested formula in the Skema system.

— One of France's largest business schools is opening an outpost on Centennial Campus and will bring 300 students here in January to learn le business American style.

The Skema business school said Tuesday that it picked N.C. State University over sites in Florida and California because of its proximity to Research Triangle Park.

Skema development plans call for housing as many as 600 foreign students in the area. It plans to offer dual degrees with NCSU and to conduct research projects with professors and students at area universities, said Steve Allen, associate dean at the N.C. State College of Management. The chance to place students in internships at companies in RTP was also an attraction, Allen said.

"This is actually a pretty big deal," Allen said. "It would be like if the University of Chicago located at a Raleigh-sized town in France."

Skema is one of the rare foreign business programs to establish a physical campus in this country, Allen said. Typically, top-seeded foreign students subject themselves to cutthroat competition for the chance to study at an American university. This country's business schools are so sought after that American universities such as Duke University set up foreign campuses in India, Russia and China to meet foreign demand.

"For many French students, America is a dream," Skema dean Alice Guilhon told The Financial Times recently.

Skema officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. According to Skema's website, the school was created in June through the merger of the Ceram Business School in Paris and the ESC Lille School of Management in Lille and Paris. Skema has 138 professors and three campuses in France. It also has campuses in China and Morocco and is planning to open campuses in India and Brazil.

Vive la difference

The Triangle bears a faint resemblance to France when it comes to passion for regional cuisine and outdoor recreation along with a mild climate (when you don't include the humidity), said Lil Lacassagne, owner of Saint Jacques restaurant in Raleigh. He noted that young people everywhere tend to share the same international culture of music and movies.

"But let me tell you," Lacassagne said. "There is France. Then there is the United States. And in between there is the planet. There is nothing similar."

The French institution is working out the final details of a lease agreement at NCSU. Details under discussion include whether Skema will have its own library and student commons, or whether it will share NCSU's facilities, said Michael Harwood, interim associate vice chancellor for Centennial Campus development.

Skema already has an agreement with UNC-Chapel Hill for faculty and student exchanges, the school said, and is in advanced discussions to establish a relationship with Duke.

It also has an agreement with the RTP Foundation to foster research projects between Skema faculty and students with RTP's high-tech companies, including Cisco Systems, SAS Institute, Red Hat, IBM and Lenovo, according to its announcement. Officials at the RTP Foundation could not be reached for comment.

"It will be a nice addition to our international academic institutions," said Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. "We beat a number of other markets in the Southeast" to attract Skema here.

john.murawski@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8932

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