March 19, 2012

Diverse Backgrounds Provide Unexpected Insights

Post By:
Phil Duffy
International MBA, 2012

Prior to joining the International MBA program, I’d read multiple sources that claimed learning from classmates constitutes a major part of the MBA experience. However, as a slightly older student with 16 years of management experience, I was skeptical that classmates with less experience would significantly broaden my business knowledge. Luckily for me, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The BU IMBA program recruits from a wide distribution of nationalities and professional backgrounds, and that diversity brings with it a collective wealth of cultural and business experience. Learning from such a diverse group requires nothing more than an interest in people and a good ear. Within hours of arriving in Beijing I was learning about green energy systems in the Middle East and non-profit programs in Africa, and classes hadn’t even started yet!
The China semester capitalizes on the student-student learning experience by bringing everyone together in a single space, under intense conditions. Living, studying, exploring and relaxing together everyday for three months forms a bond amongst classmates that MBA students rarely experience. But it’s more than just a bond of friendship. As groups break for dinner or drinks, conversations often reflect on the day’s classroom activity with students applying the models taught to their own industries or modifying concepts to work within their own cultures. I’ve seen students who struggled with Operations Management concepts in class become enlightened when a fellow student applied the concept to the restaurant they were dining in. Other students drew on their legal expertise to expand on issues brushed over in our accounting class, whilst others challenge classroom teachings by contrasting scenarios with real life trade-offs.

The China semester is also a boiling pot of entrepreneurial innovation, with countless virtual businesses being founded, managed, critiqued and extinguished. Concepts are exchanged like wildfire, with students drawing on their own experience, encounters in China and concepts taught in class, to visualize the next billion-dollar venture. 
A good professor introduces theoretical concepts during class, which they often illustrate with one or two concrete examples. But in my experience the majority of applications and deep-level processing come through conversations with classmates in non-classroom environments. In the IMBA program you’ll be amazed by how much expertise surrounds you. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and expect it will rarely be repeated in the future.

Collaborative foundations were laid during the China semester and continue throughout the time in Boston. The combination of diverse backgrounds, shared experience and unified training produces colleagues that are educated, driven and share the same values. I have no doubt the bonds formed during the IMBA experience will remain key relationships, both professionally and personally, long beyond my time at BU.   

Phil is an International MBA candidate concentrating in Marketing. He's originally from the UK, but has been living in Asia for many years. He has experience in design for manufacture and started an entrepreneurial venture in Hong Kong. Phil can often be found puttering around campus, or propping up the bar at Cornwalls.
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