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Incoming Global Executive MBA students look forward to learning about business and trekking the globe

October 22, 2019

Photo of Aaron ShaplandThe chance to explore key business concepts and emerging trends with seasoned professionals? Check. Travelling to interesting places around the world? Check. The opportunity to develop a global network? Check.

The new Global Executive MBA program, delivered jointly by SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and the Rotman School, checks all the boxes for ambitious executives hungry for learning more about business in a global context.

The new iteration of this program, which welcomed its first students this fall, highlights the strengths of these two leading business schools. From SDA Bocconi, students can expect to learn more about specialty industries including luxury brands and automotive manufacturing. From the Rotman School, they will get up to speed on the latest in fields like fintech and financial risk management.

Over the next 18 months, students will be flying to bustling cities all over the world — including Toronto, Milan, Mumbai and San Francisco — to explore emerging trends and business concepts up close. Their travel companions, fellow students, will include senior-level professionals working across a range of industries (including finance, tech and energy) and from various regions of the world (such as Canada, Italy, China, Ecuador and France).


“The Global Executive MBA program gives students opportunities that other schools can’t come close to providing.”

—Aaron Shapland, GEMBA ’21


“The Global Executive MBA program gives students opportunities that other schools can’t come close to providing,” explains Aaron Shapland (GEMBA ’21).

“Our class has the chance to both study and practice business all over the world. At the same time, we’ll be earning degrees from two of the top business schools.”

Earlier this month, the students completed their first residential module of the program in Toronto, where they dived into sessions on microeconomics, leading people in organizations, quantitative reasoning for management and leadership development. Though they’re just getting started, these students have great expectations for what’s to come.

Developing a global perspective

Photo of Elena AfanassievaFor Elena Afanassieva (GEMBA ’21), the new Global Executive MBA program is about acquiring a global perspective.

“The world is changing rapidly, and I was looking for an MBA program that could help me keep up,” explains Afanassieva, a senior manager with BMO Financial Group. “Between Rotman and SDA Bocconi, I knew that I would learn a lot about fundamental business concepts, including global markets, negotiation and strategy.”


“The world is changing rapidly, and I was looking for an MBA program that could help me keep up.”

—Elena Afanassieva, GEMBA ’21


While she has been based in Toronto for the last 25 years, Afanassieva has always kept an eye on the developments in financial services — especially on how regions outside of Canada have adopted mobile banking and fraud prevention technologies. She hopes the program will introduce her to other trends developing around the world.

Of course, the opportunity to explore new places was a big factor in why she chose this MBA program.

“What’s special about these upcoming trips is that I won’t be seeing places from just one perspective,” she says.

"I’m looking forward to learning from everyone in the class. There are a number of different industries, regions and backgrounds represented in the cohort. I want to hear what others might observe, perceive and relate to during these modules. Looking at the world through multiple lenses will make for a richer learning experience.”

Making an immediate impact

With weeks-long breaks between residential modules, the program gives students valuable time to work on assignments, reflect on the material covered, and take these new insights back to their workplaces.

“I’m looking forward to understanding how various aspects of business, such as leadership, finance and business design, connect and come together. I’m here to become a more well-rounded leader,” says Shapland, who is CEO and managing director of Vordik, a digital consulting and web design agency.

Truly global, distinctly personal. Offered by two leading business schools, the Rotman-SDA Bocconi Global Executive MBA is a transformative program with a highly personalized focus on leadership development.


Shapland is accustomed to travelling for business, often splitting his time between the company’s offices in Poland and Canada. He hopes the program might give him further insights on how to engage with different markets.

“I’m excited about the entire program and being able to compare and contrast all the different countries we’ll be visiting,” explains Shapland. “I’m planning on walking away with a vast collection of perspectives on global business.”


Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »


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