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Kulwadee Wangkeo

Fuqua School of Business at Duke University

Kulwadee Wangkeo believes in life without limits. Born in Bangkok and raised outside New York City, she has devoted herself to breaking down the cultural barriers that stand between domestic and international students at Fuqua. This fall, Wangkeo and one other classmate are launching the International Student Involvement Committee, which aims to better integrate foreign students into American culture and the business school lifestyle.

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Wangkeo worked in commercial banking for several years before enrolling at Fuqua and concentrating her studies on general management. This summer she interned at the Exxon Corporation in Texas.

Help Mold Your International Community
People who come from other places in the world oftentimes find our culture very different and very assertive. Some of these students have a hard time finding jobs and summer internships in the United States because they are unaccustomed to “selling themselves.” Some have come from cultures that believe good grades should lead to good jobs, and that’s not how it works here. These students, I have found, don’t participate as much in school activities because they feel intimidated or different.

Although Fuqua is an international school, it’s not enough to just have the numbers. Thirty percent of our students may come from around the world, but that means nothing if those people don’t participate and join our community. So our student government started a committee called International Student Involvement.

My philosophy is that you sometimes have to trick people into doing things. For that reason, we are not organizing any boring seminars. Instead, we are planning social activities and taking steps to facilitate interaction through international film nights, cooking classes, and a venting session after term one. Fuqua’s long-standing international buddy program will also become an integral part of our committee’s work.

Shake Hands With World Leaders
Grades are not the only important aspect of Fuqua. Students should concentrate on making friends, and learning how to work them. That’s one of the big bonuses of going to a school like Fuqua: you get to meet the future business leaders of the world. Ten years from now, you are not going to remember what grade you got in corporate finance, but you will still value the friendships you made in business school.

Make It Yours
Fuqua is a very small school. A lot of second-year students mentor and tutor the first-year students. A lot of the administrative processes are done by students as well. For example, Career Fellows help the career office prepare students for their corporate interviews. And all of our admission interviews are done by second-year students. That very close involvement gives us the sense that this is our school, and we can change things if we want.

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And that is one of the reasons we want to get international students involved, because we don’t want them to think this is just an American school. Along those lines, we try to make sure that international students participate in the admissions process. We also now have one student in the Career Fellows program who is devoted to just international students’ issues. He helps with VISA problems, contacting foreign alumni, etc.

We are making an effort to set ourselves apart, and we want to make this an international school.

Constantly Reassess
Students come here to reassess themselves and change careers. Some of that is through classes and some takes place through the career process and the job search experience. Many second-year students are now returning from their summer internships to say, “Oh, I would never want to go back there again!” There are big discoveries about self and career all the way through business school.

Tackle Group Problems
Everything in Fuqua is group work. Every single class. During the first year, you are broken down into sections with 60 students. Last year, during our orientation — or Integrated Learning Experience — everyone was randomly broken into groups of five or six students. Some professors assigned people to stay in those work groups throughout the year. Other professors allowed students to choose their own groups.

There was some criticism last year. Because everything is so team orientated, you can’t just throw people together randomly. Some groups fail, and others work together wonderfully and never, ever break up. We would like for the minds here to churn around a bit more. So this year Fuqua has assigned a faculty advisor to each team to help manage problems, spread around the work, and act as a resource.

Evaluate Your Educators
Every term we evaluate our professors, that information goes into their employment files. Through our feedback, Fuqua has changed teachers for core courses, replaced some professors, and hired some new ones. Fuqua also tries to train the teachers to student specifications. Some professors are even video taped and analyzed because they just aren’t good at presenting their material effectively. Also, the staff here is small, and students know most of their professors, so they often feel comfortable just going in their office and talking about problems.

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