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From Education to Diplomacy: The Generalist’s Rotman MBA Path

October 13, 2023

Nick Richard (MBA ’20) received his undergraduate degree in psychology, and spent two years as a bilingual, fourth-grade school teacher based in San Antonio, Texas. He loved kids and enjoyed having an influence on young minds. However, he eventually came to realize that to make a positive impact on the lives of even more people, he’d have to elevate his education.

Nick Richard (MBA '20)

“I loved the direct and very visible impact I could have on my students, but twenty students felt like a very small scale.”

Richard says the Rotman MBA was an accelerant to be able to do that.

“I wanted to magnify my potential impact exponentially, and I saw a Rotman MBA as a way to do meaningful work - to support kids like my students, all over the globe.”

Richard - an American from Texas - came to understand that he wanted a career that allowed him to do three things. “I wanted to serve my country, do interesting and meaningful work, and live all over the world.”

He enrolled in the combined Master of Global Affairs/Master of Business Administration (MGA/MBA) program — a joint degree where, in three years, students earn two professional degrees from the University of Toronto, one from the Munk School and one from the Rotman School of Management.

Throughout his MGA/MBA, Richard was active in the Rotman community. He served as a representative for the Latin American Business Club, participated in MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) - a training program for impact investing - and joined several case competitions.

Richard also completed an exchange program at the EGADE Business School, Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico, which he says was one of the highlights of his time at Rotman.

“I made lifelong friends, travelled all over Mexico, learned so much about marketing and business intelligence and was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Mexico City.”

He also participated in  a Global Consulting Project (GCP) offered through Export Development Canada that was supervised by Rotman/Munk faculty member Professor Walid Hejazi.  He and a few team members had the opportunity to travel to Japan and Singapore as part of the project and act in a consultant role.

“It was the exact nexus of geopolitics and business and so tailor-made in many respects for dual students.”

Richard believes that the MGA/MBA was pivotal for him to be able to switch industries, acquire important skills and stand out to employers.

He certainly did stand out to employers. When Richard finished his program, he was quickly picked up by his current employers in the United States government.

Richard describes economic officers as being involved in just about every facet of America’s bilateral and regional foreign policy - particularly in the areas of environment, science, technology, health, trade and investment. “Rotman and Munk thoroughly prepared me for my work, by immersing me in multiple sectors and paradigms crucial to understanding local, regional and global economy,” he says. “Without this knowledge, I could not do my job effectively.”

“I wanted to magnify my potential impact exponentially, and I saw a Rotman MBA as a way to do meaningful work - to support kids like my students, all over the globe.”

—Nick Richard, MBA '20

He explains that from a practical level, the Foreign Service is extremely selective, and the education he received from both Rotman and Munk prepared him well for the Foreign Service Officer Test – and launched him into a role which he feels contributes to the benefit of all Americans. “A healthy global economy and a robust economy that is dynamic, well-connected and resilient is a rising tide that lifts all boats.”

Richard acknowledges that for a fourth-grade teacher with a degree in psychology, his path may seem like an unusual one - but he says that many of the soft skills he gained in his first career were quite transferable, including critical leadership skills.

“Not many jobs enable a 21-year-old, fresh out of college, to suddenly have twenty ‘direct reports.’ And when you think about it, the performance of those direct reports directly affected my own job performance.”

Richard says what he liked best about Rotman’s MBA program is that you can specialize - or not.

“For many of my peers coming from industry backgrounds, the MBA was a way to accelerate their career, or make a strategic pivot. For generalists like me, the MBA provides a fantastic foundation.”

Richard encourages any generalists from a non-business, non-financial services background to apply to Rotman’s MBA program – and not be intimidated.

“Being in the same required finance and accounting classes with peers who had already worked for years in the industry was scary at first. But it forced me to go from zero to 100, academically,” he says.   

“Overall, the learning curve was exponential.”

Written by Meaghan MacSween | More student and alumni stories →