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The Serge Bellanger scholarship nurtures next-gen business leaders

More than a dozen business students receive these prestigious $10,000 scholarships each year from the French-American Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   21-07-2017

Attending a top-ranked business school carries a hefty price tag, so a scholarship is crucial for many students. The Serge Bellanger French-American Business Scholarship offers financial aid to French students planning to pursue an MBA in the United States, and to American students pursuing an MBA, or a mastère specialisé in a business discipline in a ‘grande école’ in France. The French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) Foundation is making a big commitment to scholarships as they award $10,000 one-time scholarships to over a dozen students every year.

FACC Managing Director Martin Bischoff (pictured on the right) told BrainGain Magazine in New York City that the scholarship program has been growing. It started in 2012 with six scholarships, and the number grew to 15 in 2016. He added that by the end of this summer, the Foundation would have handed out 51 scholarships for a total of $510,000. The FACC Foundation raises funds for the scholarship program through its glamorous annual gala. France’s TV5MONDE and its CEO Yves Bigot will be honored at this year’s gala on September 28 in New York. 

Globalization is here to stay, and Bischoff says that students who want to work in our interconnected global world should study abroad. “It’s a very enriching experience. It opens your mind not only to a foreign culture, but also gives you a different perspective on your own culture which can be very enriching both personally and professionally,” said Bischoff, who himself has feet in two worlds. Bischoff, a New York native, studied French in high school and was inspired to study abroad for a year in Paris. He holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and a BA in French and Spanish from Le Moyne College.

In his chat with BrainGain Magazine, Bischoff spoke about where to start if you want to be a Serge Bellanger French-American Business Scholar.

 

Would you say that a business school degree is necessary to succeed in the modern economy, and this scholarship program is the ticket to great opportunity?

In my personal opinion, an MBA is not a necessity, but a business background and acumen in finance, marketing and accounting is beneficial for someone wanting to start a business career in today’s economy. The internet age has shown us that you can be very successful in the business world with a degree in engineering, computer science or some other field. Still, the scholarship program is a great opportunity as it helps to defray some of the costs for the students that are going to live abroad for a year of school.

It’s also a great networking opportunity. Along with the French American Chamber of Commerce which has nearly 1,000 members in New York and 5,000 members in the rest of the US we have been become very engaged with the scholarship recipients. There is the financial piece, but there is also the enormous networking opportunity.
 

How does one become a Serge Bellanger French-American Business scholar? What principles are at the heart of the program?

The scholarships are merit-based and the scholars are judged on academic excellence and attainments. They also must have the energy to use their talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports or other extracurricular activities. The selection committee seeks applicants who offer the promise of effective service to the world. We want to see people who are engaged in society, perhaps involved in some volunteer activity and philanthropic work.

Fundamentally the scholarship program is about educational and cultural exchange. It’s an opportunity for young people to live in a foreign country and gain exposure to a different culture, business practices and engage with students from around the world. The cultural appreciation gained through the experience is fundamental. It teaches students to appreciate difference and diversity first-hand.

It also nurtures future leaders of the French American business community. The Americans who will study in France will have opportunities for internships and jobs with France-based companies, much like the French students studying in the US who will have opportunities with US businesses. These talented young people are going to shape French American trade and economic relations in the future.
 

How do you apply for the scholarship?

To apply for a Serge Bellanger Scholarship, students must submit an application packet to the Selection Committee, the French-American Chamber of Commerce Foundation in New York.
 

What should your application include?

The application has to detail and highlight a student’s educational history very clearly. Shortlisted candidates are invited to interview via phone with our selection jury. Along with the completed scholarship application form we require:

  • The official admission letter from the institution you have applied to
  • An official copy of your university transcript. Transcripts must document grades from the most recent semester
  • GMAT or GRE Scores if you are applying to an MBA program
  • Other relevant standardized test scores if you are applying to a Master’s or mastère spécialisé program in a French grande école or grand établissement
  • A personal essay
  • A CV or resume and any optional supplemental information
  • Two letters of reference

Do applicants have to gain admission to an Ivy League university or a highly selective college to win the scholarship?

The short answer is no. Having said that, many of our recipients go to the top schools both in France and in the United States. This year we have scholars at Harvard, MIT, Wharton. In France, we have them in INSEAD and other well-known schools. Our applicants invariably apply to the best schools on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s almost a given with their high academic performance.

How important is the reference letter to the overall scholarship application?

It’s important in as much as we want to see that people in a position of authority, whether they be former bosses or professors or others who have worked closely with the applicant, are willing to endorse them for the work they have done. It’s important to have those good reference letters, but I will not say it is the biggest criterion. The key criterion is academic performance as it is a merit-based scholarship.

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline is April 15, and the recipients are generally notified in mid-June.

How many scholarships are offered each year and what is the amount awarded?

It’s been growing every year. In the first year of our inception in 2012, we offered six, then in the second year it was eight, the year after 10, then 12 and 15. Overall, by the end of this summer we would have offered over 500,000 in total scholarships. The scholarship pays out $10,000.
 

Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

 
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