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At IBS, Magid merges academics and government

Published: May 19, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

Brandeis’ International Business School may be tucked away from the rest of the campus in Sachar Woods, but it’s proving to be an important part of the university’s future. IBS Dean Bruce Magid has represented Brandeis on Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick’s most recent trade mission to Brazil. Magid began as dean of IBS in 2007 and, he says, he brought the missions to Brandeis.

Magid jokes that he left Massachusetts when the Big Dig began, and only returned when it was done. He began his career in the public sector in Venezuela; when he did return to Massachusetts, he was appointed by the governor to the Board of the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, where he urged the governor to look toward Latin America as a potential trade partner.

“Nobody really thought about Brazil, but Portuguese is the second-spoken language in Massachusetts and it’s now the sixth largest economy and there are these incredible opportunities just beginning in Brazil,” Magid said in an interview last week. Where other countries were already “picked-over,” Brazil was still untapped in opportunity for Massachusetts. Magid convinced the governor to look toward Brazil, and when he came to Brandeis, got the university more deeply involved in the missions.

“We have a lot to sell to the Brazilians,” he explained, citing Massachusetts’ strong universities and untapped potential for international trade.

The country, Magid said, is looking to “move from a commodities exporter to more of an innovative industrial sector” and Magid, with his 35 years experience in Latin American countries, convinced the governor of Massachusetts, who had previously been to trade missions to China, to look toward Brazil as a potential partner.

“If we increase international trade and we attract foreign investment, that generates jobs,” Magid said, explaining Governor Patrick’s strategy to market the state and its massive university system to developing nations. The efforts paid off, he said. “It culminated when the president of Brazil visited the United States; she visited two cities: Washington D.C. and then she had a lunch with the governor and a few of us here in Boston.”

The transition to the academic world was not abrupt. “I always had maybe not a foot, but a toe in the university world,” Magid said. He had intended to go into higher education since the beginning of his career, but was advised to work in public and private sectors before attempting the academic.

He did proprietary research as the chief international economist for Bank of America and wrote articles and pamphlets on emerging economies and export finance, always marginally connected to the academic world.

“When I came to the point in my career where I was ready to make that move, it was a natural move,” he said. He worked at a number of other universities, including the Michigan State University, before coming to Brandeis.

Magid traveled to Israel in March 2011 with the governor, helping to develop further ties between the nation and the commonwealth. The most recent trade mission was to Brazil, a country that Magid, as a veteran financial adviser in the nation, was already familiar with. He knew the business customs, and knew how to market Brandeis and Massachusetts to the developing nation.

As head of the International Business School, Magid has worked to attract international attention. “We’ve been positioning Brandeis International Business School as the go-to school in the area of international trade and investment. So when we had the trade summit, it was viewed by the governor’s office as the public follow-up to his trade mission and Brazil was one of our focus countries,” Magid said.

“What Brazil needs to do is educate people” in science, technology and math, and then it will send students to U.S. universities. On the trade mission, Magid encouraged Brazil to utilize Brandeis students. “We’ve really moved up in terms of the consciousness of the governor’s office, having gone to both Israel and Brazil.”

The International Business School, Magid says, reflects the values and experience of the Brazil mission, where business culture is more personal.

He cites the smaller class sizes, in which professors and students can develop relationships. It sets IBS apart, Magid says, from other business schools. Still, he admits it could see improvement in attracting applicants.

He hopes one day that IBS will be on par with Georgetown and Tuft’s Fletcher School in terms of recognition.

While Brandeis’ position in the Massachusetts business world and internationally were helped by the trade missions, the university’s national standing, “whether it’s extended beyond Massachusetts, it’s hard to say. In many ways it’s curious. I would say in some ways, Brandeis, and certainly the international business school, has a better reputation and is more well-known overseas than in Arizona or Utah or Wyoming.”

Which is not necessarily a failing, explained Magid. Students who want to go into international finance are attracted by the Global Trade Summit and conferences at the International Business School. “We’re finding students from the United states who say ‘Oh, you were part of the mission to Israel.’

“What we really need to do is figure out how to translate that and try to attract more students from the United States to the school. We’re doing really well overseas but we want to get more U.S. students.”

Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed information about Magid’s professional history. We regret the error.