Summer is the time to kick back for incoming MBAs. You’ll find them biking around Amsterdam or hiking through Bali. When they’re not lounging in Airbnbs, they’re taking MOOCs to fill their gaps or interning to indulge a passion. After years of shouldering the load, they’ve earned the summer to recharge.
That is, unless they’re part of the Class of 2021 at Washington University’s Olin Business School.
In June, Olin rolled out its inaugural Global Immersion Program. The immersion, which starts in late June, isn’t the typical 10-day trek filled with cookie-cutter presentations and evening sightseeing. No, this is five weeks on two continents, where Olin first-years take classes, conduct research, and complete projects. Instead of climbing walls or enduring speeches, students are soaking up international business practices and cultural mores. Such activities provide a global context to the business fundamentals and dilemmas they’ll soon explore in their coursework.
CLASSES AND CONSULTING
Working and traveling together in unfamiliar terrain, the Class of 2021 has naturally bonded, developing shared memories that foster trust and openness. Along with camaraderie, the summer immersion has enabled these first-years to build confidence and accelerate their growth – making them all the more formidable in the classroom…and recruiting. While many programs resort to a ‘boot camp’ model, the immersion is more space camp: a platform to imagine, experiment, connect, and flourish.
“The newly-launched Global Immersion program appealed to me because of its emphasis on learning by doing, not just in the class or the local community but taking the learning process across continents and cultures,” writes Nitish Kumar Yadav, an engineer from the energy industry. “The opportunity to undertake consulting projects for a local winery in Barcelona or preparing the go-to-market strategy for launching donuts in China was not something that other programs could provide.”
What exactly does the Global Immersion entail? In August, Kendra Kelly – “a game-changing, glass-ceiling shattering” marketer – outlined her experience, which began with two weeks of classes and orientation in St. Louis. “We traveled to Washington, DC, where we took classes at the Brookings Institution on global institutions and values. Then, we ventured to Barcelona where we took classes at ESADE and worked with Spanish wineries to craft strategies to solve their challenges. I am currently in Shanghai, where I am taking classes on business models from a global context and implementing strategy through global operations while working on a retail project.”
A ‘RESILIENT’ CLASS
That’s just the logistics of it all. Behind the scenes, the immersion brought out the best in the class. Arriving in St. Louis, Gabriel Samanez, who founded the first crypto mining company in Perú, was struck by how supportive and helpful his classmates were in making the transition to a new country. Overseas, Alexandra Ignatius found herself “in awe” of how quickly her classmates stepped out of their comfort zones. “For example, one of my classmates who had never taken an accounting course volunteered to take the lead on developing a financial model for a winery consulting project in Barcelona. I was inspired by his willingness to be vulnerable in service of learning a new skill set.”
While such acts reflect courage, Lori Ashley Witherspoon found the immersion ultimately tapped into the defining quality of the class. “We endured illnesses, familial strains, language barriers, jet lag, loneliness, etc. However, through all of this, the entire class remained steadfast and engaged in the program and engaged with one another. That is resilience.”
The Global Immersion represents part of the MBA program revamp undertaken by Dean Mark Taylor, who joined Oin in 2016 after leading Warwick Business School. This change can be summed up in a new tagline: “Based in St. Louis, but informed by the world.” Of course, remodels are always easier with a strong foundation. That’s one of Olin’s great blessings, a highly-respected MBA program traditionally known for high placement and part of one of the top undergraduate business schools in world. At the same time, students rank the Olin School faculty among the best in the world. Better yet, the program maintains an intimate class size, which enhances students’ ability to develop life-long networks and friendships.
Go to page 3 for an interview with Dean Mark Taylor and page 4 for access to 12 profiles of incoming MBAs.