NEW EXECUTIVE CHALLENGE DESTINED TO BECOME A FAVORITE OF THE INCOMING CLASS
While McDonough’s first and second year classes are similar numerically, the MBA program is hardly on autopilot. Last spring, the school launched its first annual Georgetown McDonough Executive Challenge, which also served as a final exam for its Leadership Communications course. “It was an amazing day,” reminisces Prashant Malaviya, Senior Associate Dean for MBA Programs. “Nearly 100 executive-level alumni returned to campus to role play three cases with the entire full-time first-year class. Students spent classroom time learning about influence, assertiveness, re-setting expectations, conflict, decision-making, and managing the boss throughout the course, then they were asked to execute their lessons in a simulated encounter with our alumni.”
It was a win-win for everyone involved, adds Malaviya. “Our students gained the experience of facing uncertainty in the boardroom, and they were able to network with some of our most accomplished alumni. In return, our alumni enjoyed coming back to Georgetown and engaging students in the classroom.”
That pales in comparison to the big news. After a year-long search, McDonough named Paul Almeida, its Deputy Dean of Executive Education and Innovation, as its new dean in June. Almeida replaces David Thomas, best known for overhauling school curriculum, boosting applications and raising over $130 million dollars in his last capital campaign. However, Almeida is more likely to leave his legacy in different areas. In a March 2017 interview with Poets&Quants, for example, he outlined how he planned to better integrate technology into executive education. If past is prologue, you can expect such an approach to filter into the full-time MBA cohort soon enough.
WHAT COULD A NEW DEAN MEAN TO STUDENTS?
“We’re also looking at the evening program. Where can it go next? How can we give the students more flexibility than they already have? Do they have to come in twice a week? Can they not come in at all? Can classes be either in-person or online or some combination thereof? And how do we do it in a way that actually enhances that sense of community and their ability to get to know each other and build off each other? Can artificial intelligence help us look at standard courses that everyone does — like statistics and microeconomics and accounting — so that we can highly personalize each of their learning careers on all this basic stuff? So, we’re looking at wonderful things. And some will work, some will not work, and some will work in ways we never imagined. But, we won’t fail for lack of trying. I can guarantee that.”
In fact, such efforts are already underway in the full-time program, adds Malaviya. “Last year, we launched an online module as part of our Global Business Experience course that brought the perspectives of global business leaders across 12 industries directly to our students in advance of their consulting projects for clients abroad,” he explains. “This spring, the school’s Innovation Initiative examined more opportunities our MBA programs will have to use technology to best deliver our personalized and rigorous MBA to our students, and we will be working to implement some of these ideas over the next year. Our objective in these initiatives will be to provide students greater customization in learning the content and in accessing the content.”
Dean Almeida has a slogan: “The best in the world and the best for the world.” This maxim reflects the truly global nature of the McDonough MBA program, where students learn financial, operational, and marketing tools so they can apply them to a higher purpose. At McDonough, global realities and business fundamentals aren’t treated as church-and-state entities that only meet in a one-off experience or a handful of electives. Instead, as Malaviya points out, global business is interwoven into the curriculum top-to-bottom. Notably, the program boasts three required global business courses.
ALUMNI CALL GLOBAL BUSINESS EXPERIENCE “TRANSFORMATIVE”
“Global business education at McDonough starts right from the outset of the MBA program with our three-week intensive opening-term course, “Structure of Global Industries,” where students work in teams “running” a global industry in select industries,” Malaviya says. “This is followed by a core course on Global Policy, and culminates in the Global Business Experience (GBE) in the second year.”
It is the GBE, however, that has stirred the imagination of the Class of 2019. For months, students partner with firms like Dell, Citibank, L’Oréal to address a business challenge. Eventually, they travel overseas to locales like Shangai, Dubai, and São Paulo to present their solutions to senior leadership. For Ou, who plans to transition away from the nonprofit sector during her MBA, the experience is a way to gain experience that she can “showcase” on her resume. At the same time, Ho is looking forward to being able to “learn by doing in a global setting.”
More important, adds Malaviya, the GBE reinforces the cornerstone of the McDonough educational philosophy: Cura Personalis. “During the Global Business Experience, students do more than consult for companies abroad. They gain insights, find new perspectives, and make connections that are not possible to do without venturing out into the world. The GBE also has a service component, where students volunteer in the global communities they visit. We want these experiences to be transformative — and often our alumni tell us that the Global Business Experience was the pivotal moment of their MBA career.”
“DIVERSITY IS HARD”
This global temperament, coupled with the school’s service ethos, was the biggest differentiator for Borray. A first generation American, she dreams of being part of something bigger than herself at McDonough. “My parents always emphasized the importance of traveling the world, understanding other cultures, and generally living with a global perspective,” she shares. “It’s always been important for me to incorporate that in my life so when I started my MBA research and learned more about Georgetown and its large international student and faculty population and programs like the Global Business Experience, I knew immediately it would be a great fit.”
It may be a fit, but Dean Almeida cautions that a global program like McDonough can be taxing on students and faculty alike. Forget language barriers. The process of enculturation — setting norms and nudging people out of their comfort zones — can become quite daunting. “If we wanted to fill up our program with students from the United States, I could do that overnight,” he emphasizes in his 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “Everyone likes the world diversity. But diversity is hard. You have to make sure you put processes and systems into your program that allow people who are from other areas or less confident or more junior or from other cultures where you don’t speak up so easily, to have a chance and really play that role that allows diversity to work.”
The payoff, of course, is a student body that is confidently able to navigate the topsy-turvy global world ahead. “We realize part of the challenge of globalization is learning to see the world from other perspectives,” Almeida adds. “And, in spite of our best intentions, we are not very good at dealing with people with different sensitivities, different cultural understandings, different ways of operating. Through this program, we wanted to create a series of experiences and interactions so that they’re forced to learn from one another.”
Go to next page for profiles of 12 first-year McDonough MBA students.