In March of 2014 Vivian Hou, '12, traveled to NEOMA Business School-Rouen Campus in Rouen, France to receive the  Institut de Formation Internationale (IFI) diploma. Hou is the first-ever University of Richmond student to complete the Dual Diploma Program, earning both NEOMA's bachelor diploma and the Robins School of Business’ bachelor's degree within the span of four years.

Hou's love of French culture began in high school. She left her home in Princeton, N.J. to spend her senior year studying abroad in France where she was able to hone her French language skills while developing a relationship with the culture that inevitably drew her back overseas.

As she researched colleges she discovered the Robins School's Dual Diploma Program. "No other schools that I looked into had a partnership like this with a French university. Besides the University's highly reputable business education and its breathtaking campus, the Dual Diploma Program was one of the main attractions for me. When it came time to apply to college I submitted one early decision application to Richmond."

Hou earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with concentrations in management and international business. Dr. Thomas Cossé, associate dean for international business programs, explained how Hou completed the program requirements. 

"She spent her junior year in Rouen completing NEOMA's third year. The nature of the partnership is such that NEOMA accepts the Robins School's credits and vice versa for NEOMA students who come to Richmond. Vivian also completed the work placement requirement by interning at Citibank in Beijing the summer after her freshman year and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington the following summer. Throughout the process she was able to handle herself admirably and adapted well to the requirements and life abroad. She not only demonstrates a fearlessness for ambiguous situations, but she is also one of the nicest, brightest, most hardworking people I've ever known."

Hou pursued a joint major in international business and French. Her French advisor, Dr. Olivier Delers, associate professor of French, aided her in her research project, "Integrating Shared Value with Corporate Social Responsibility: A Case Study of Sustainable Multi-National Corporations," for which she conducted research in France and the United States interviewing executives and directors from numerous companies including Ben & Jerry's, Coca-Cola and Dannon. The project examines the sustainability and corporate social responsibility movements and compares French and American MNCs' practices. In the end the research project laid the groundwork for her joint major senior thesis combining French and international business topics. 

Delers commented, "Being able to go to France for a year to learn business is a personal challenge. It requires great language skills as well as an understanding of the cultural and academic differences between France and the United States. In turn it indicates to potential employers that you are not afraid of a challenge and that there is a depth and diversity to the way you think. Vivian embodies these attributes fully."

Since February 2013 Hou has worked as a program officer at American Councils for International Education, an international nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that administers government-funded exchange and development programs for students and teachers.  

She concluded, "I'm very thankful for the financial support the University gave to me as I received the Holt Scholarship for studying abroad, the Arts & Sciences Summer Research Fellowship that helped support my research and a Center for International Business Programs travel stipend that allowed me to attend the NEOMA graduation ceremony in March. I feel lucky to have had two academic advisors, Dr. Cossé and Dr. Delers, who provided me with valuable insight and supported me through the Dual Diploma Program and research process. I couldn't have done it without them."

Photo (left to right): Marie Venesque, Hou's roommate and former French exchange student at UR from NEOMA, Sarah Cooper, director of international business programs at NEOMA, and Hou