Leila Bouamatou doesn’t appear as though she had been traveling for two days. Her make-up is impeccable and her bright blue, polka-dotted melehfa stands out against the stoic dress of her Western classmates. She and her husband, Tah Meouloud, are at ease nearly 4,000 miles from home and surrounded by strangers.
Bouamatou and Meouloud are doctoral candidates in the newly formed Executive Doctorate of Business Administration (EDBA) program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. And unlike the other 23 students who compose the EDBA’s first cohort, Bouamatou and Meouloud are international students.
Six times a year, for three years, the couple will travel from Mauritania – an African nation of more than 3.5 million people – to Philadelphia to engage in their intensive, three-day weekend coursework within the Fox EDBA. The program is appealing to Bouamatou and Meouloud, who willingly make the two-day, Atlantic Ocean-crossing trip to the States to expand their professional and academic careers.
“It’s worth it,” said Bouamatou, of the 12-hour flight from North Africa to North America.
Why? The couple said they were attracted to the Fox School because of its accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a high distinction of achievement held by fewer than five percent of business schools worldwide.
Additionally, the couple had determined several years ago the United States was the ideal country in which to continue their educations. They said they chose Fox because of the flexibility of its EDBA – a program offered by only a handful of business schools in the nation – and its central location between fellow East Coast hub cities New York City and Washington, D.C.
The EDBA program combines two tenets that are central to the Fox School mission: research and real-world experience. Fox’s research-active faculty, which numbers nearly 200, covers a wide range of competencies – an ideal aspect for student mentorship within a multi-disciplinary EDBA program that embraces real-life learning and applied practices. The program is offered at The HUB at Commerce Square, a vibrant business center located in the heart of Center City Philadelphia.
When simplified, their pursuit of an executive education amounts to only 54 days in Philadelphia over three years. For such a small face-to-face time commitment, Bouamatou and Meouloud said they have received tremendous support from Dr. David Schuff, Executive Director of the EDBA program and an Associate Professor in Fox School’s Management Information Systems (MIS) department. They also had an opportunity to meet Temple University President Dr. Neil D. Theobald, who spoke to the first cohort of EDBA students in September during the program’s initial residency.
“We are not just left here. We feel comfortable,” said Meouloud, who said he has enjoyed networking with his professors and fellow students.
“Networking is an important component of the student experience,” said Schuff. “A key strength of the program is the diversity in the backgrounds of our cohort. Providing both formal and informal opportunities to learn from each other, both inside and outside the classroom, makes the residences about more than simply attending class.”
Both he and his wife dedicate 15 to 20 hours per week to completing curriculum requirements via the web-conferencing platform WebEx. The program’s density allows executives to graduate in only three years. Bouamatou said she enjoys the program’s commitment to research and hopes to use her time as a doctoral candidate to explore the role of female leaders in family businesses, before extending her knowledge to professional women in Africa.
“My passion for research had been unsatisfied in a way, and the EDBA program satisfied that thirst,” Bouamatou said.
A dedicated student, Meouloud concentrated on the development of global economic systems as they relate to capitalism. Meouloud believes the EDBA program will help him understand how economics and business can merge to reduce poverty in Africa and in developing countries.
In addition to enriching his professional pursuits, Meouloud said he and his wife have long-range aspirations to open a school in Mauritania with structure, content and standards similar to those in the EDBA program in which he is enrolled.
“We are sharing the space with professionals from different backgrounds and learning from them,” said Meouloud, who hopes to facilitate the same experience in Africa and France.
Though the couple has embarked upon only a third of their intensive residences for this year, they said they already could see the program’s potential to enhance their lives.
“My professional life will take on another dimension because the EDBA program gives me the experience, the confidence and the trust needed to move into a key position,” Bouamatou said.
Both Meouloud and Bouamatou matriculated through the French academic system before pursuing Master’s degrees in Europe. Bouamatou studied at the American School of Business in Lausanne, Switzerland before receiving her Master’s degree in finance at Eada Barcelona, in Spain, and her Executive Master’s in Business Administration (EMBA) from the Mediterranean School of Business, in Tunisia. Meouloud earned his Master’s in economics from the University of Nouakchott, in Mauritania, before studying international economic development at Sorbonne University, in Paris, France.
Bouamatou and Meouloud are multilingual, a skill that strengthens their professional and academic pursuits. Each speaks French, Arabic, Spanish and English, while Meouloud also is fluent in Chinese.
“I have had a multicultural educational and professional background for the last 10 years,” Bouamatou said. “I hope that I will bring new insights to the cohort based on different experience we have been going through.”
Professionally, Bouamatou has served since 2009 as the head of the Treasury Department at GBM Bank of Mauritania, the leading corporate and investment bank in Mauritania. Her interest in banking peaked in childhood when she watched her father – a banking entrepreneur whom she regards as her greatest mentor – succeed in foreign investments. He “built an empire from nothing,” she said.
An international economist and human resources manager for BSA Technologies, Meouloud “identifies the economic aspects of the situation.”
“And he’ll be the one to bring advice,” Bouamatou said, finishing her husband’s sentence.
Offering their cohort a vast and varied perspective, both Bouamatou and Meouloud have determined to gain everything possible from the EDBA program and the Fox School. This determination is evidenced in a French phase that Bouamatou features in her resume. Translated to English, the phrase suggests that perseverance creates great opportunities.
Bouamatou and Meouloud traveled 4,000 miles in pursuit of their next great opportunity, and they’re not looking back.