Now a few days from completing the ‘round-the-world global immersion our first-year MBA students began in late June, I’ve made a few observations, picked up a few impressions and heard from a few students. They’re the basis for this month’s column.
I’ll start with a particularly poignant moment I was fortunate to witness at the students’ closing dinner in Barcelona on July 23. As they prepared to decamp for China, Lungile Tshuma rose to offer a toast.
His toast both celebrated the diversity of our latest class of first-year MBA students and affirmed an important goal of the programme: fostering strong bonds among them.
With this new format, we also hoped to distinguish our programme — and, by extension, our students — with a unique focus. Launching the students on a 38-day study of international business from day one carried some risk, but we’ve seen the payoff.
Our faculty, for example, have already spoken about the deep bench this opportunity has attracted. We knew this challenge would attract a certain category and quality of student and on that score, we believe it has already succeeded.
As Senior Associate Dean Patrick Moreton, a chief organizer of the programme, recently told the students, “You’re absorbing and engaging with the environment in a way we’ve never seen before. You’re doing a great job and while you might not be seeing it, we’re feeling good about the learning outcomes we’re getting.”
That dovetails with reports I’ve heard from diversity organizations we support such as Forté and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, where prospective employers were pulling aside our students to ask what drew them to the programme and how it had fared for them so far.
It also dovetails with a personal desire I have harboured for this experience: watching leaders emerge. By definition, this experience was built to “disorient” students and create a global foundation for their future core classes. In each locale, our class includes at least one person who can call that country home and I was eager to hear how they’d respond.
Thus, classmates like Aurora Chen, Frank Chen, Flora Feng, Zach Frantz and others could help organize social events, dinners and provide medical experts while in China.
Beyond these isolated leadership moments, however, I’ve also been gratified to hear from partners we’ve worked with — including the Gramona and Pere Ventura wineries in Barcelona — who have appreciated and valued the business insights shared by our students, even at this early stage in their business school education.
Many of our students have also been forthcoming with feedback throughout their journey, which has led to adjustments in schedules, workloads and assignments Throughout. One such example is that the faculty was making adjustments to accommodate more field experiences in the Shanghai community.
As the first students to embark on this experience at Olin, I’m grateful they’re actively participating as we iterate on the go. I’m truly looking forward to greeting our newly “disoriented” and “globalized” first-year students — whom Lungile has described as “diversely one” — when they return stateside next week.
Pictured above: Lungile Tshuma, MBA ’21, toasting the diversity of the current class of first-year students during the final day celebration of their time in Barcelona.