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The Bentley MBA 2017 Centennial Class is Ready to Graduate: Takeaways from Our Experience
By Francesca Concina, Alena Vorobieva, Temitayo Tijani, Prajkta Waditwar & Hongling Tong, BMBA '17
It was a hot July, Monday morning when we arrived at Bentley for the first time. We were told that we will spend the next year together, every day, eight hours a day, at least. It sounded impossible. We were excited, a little shy, smiling, looking around sleepy and jet-lagged. Now, 10 months after, we know each other as if we have always been friends. We have been through so many experiences, modules, tough times, exams; the world around us has changed since last July, and we changed —professionally, and personally.
The Bentley MBA program is an international, intensive, full-time learning experience where four themes —innovation, value, environment and leadership — enhance the skills and abilities of the managers of tomorrow. We would like to share with you some other interesting insights and peculiarities of the program, now that the graduation is knocking on the door.
The Life at the MBA Studio
The BMBA studio is not your typical, old-school, blackboard classroom setting. It is a learning studio in every sense of the word. Furnished to taste with state-of-the-art equipment, the studio boasts as many facilities as any high-tech learning environment can expect to have. The impact of this ultra-modern study environment is that learning becomes a more vivid experience for students. You are also able to connect with the real world in the instant your learning experience requires you to. Given the emphasis on the experiential nature of the BMBA program, we get to do many team activities. These team activities are stimulating, often fast paced, exciting and as competitive, as you would expect to find in an MBA program. The interesting thing about working in teams is that you get to understand and appreciate the diverse competencies of individuals and cultures. Working randomly with 29 people from 19 different countries across five continents is a sure way to learn what idiosyncrasies to expect working in a multinational workplace. Working in teams also teaches you the essential elements of tolerance, collaboration and reliability. You don’t want to disappoint your colleagues as much as you don’t want to disappoint yourself.
Working with Cross-Cultural and Cross-Functional Team
Working on a team is nothing short of an adventure. With every day’s teamwork, we have learned to respect and accept the cultural differences and different working practices. Before this MBA, the gestures, behaviors and speaking styles of other culture used to be either surprising or embarrassing for us, but after learning these differences in individuality and our unconscious biases, we made ourselves efficient to manage diverse teams and bring the best outcome of team’s hard work.
Innovation with USINE: Build, Make, Iterate!
In September, we went to Paris to work and innovate at USINE. This was the first time we worked on prototyping with a team in a specialized prototyping studio. The challenge our team faced was that we had one day to brief our design to the USINE engineer, who helped produce all the tailor-made materials for the product, and then we collaborated to put the material together for final prototyping product. We are still very impressed by team’s creativity and flexibility. This experience taught us how to deal with setbacks and how to practice flexibility: when we found the material provided by the USINE studio, we could not present our design as we wished, but we brainstormed as a team and pivoted with the limited materials available and presented our new design perfectly.
Heritage Management in Greece
In Athens, we had the chance to study heritage management while visiting some of the most amazing, enchanting archeological sites in the world. During this field experience, we learned to understand potential business implications that can impact a city or location. We also learned to have an open mind in defining heritage (cultural, natural, food, industrial), to apply social sciences to innovate and preserve culture, and to use operational marketing to redesign the customer journey of tourists in the museums and archeological areas. The most important takeaway, however, was having the right attitude. If you do not have the right mindset, the right approach, you better stay home. When traveling with the BMBA you have to be open-minded, ready to see things from a different perspective, eager to innovate, to change, to make a difference. This is a life-changing experience if you embrace it.
Understanding the Entrepreneurial World at 360 Degrees
As a link between the value and environment themes, as well as a segue way into the leadership theme, we explored the food industry in San Antonio, Texas. During our eight days there, we met with leaders from eight diverse food companies, ranging from one-person entrepreneurs to large businesses with several thousands of employees and nonprofit organizations. We had the opportunity to discuss topics such as food waste, stakeholder engagement, and strategic management. During our company and manufacturing plants visits, we discussed future trends in the food industry, and how to deal with threats from a global field of competitors.
These experiences have shaped our time at Bentley and have pushed us to think outside the box to become better leaders tomorrow.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.