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Years after graduation, this Global Executive MBA class is still travelling together

November 18, 2019

Photo of Eva BaumgartnerWhen the Global Executive MBA class of 2016 met for their last residential module in Dubai, they were elated to be finishing up a very challenging 18-month program. At the same time, they were sad to see that their time travelling together was coming to an end.

“In those final days of the program, I think it really hit me. We had become so close. I couldn’t imagine not travelling regularly and checking in with my classmates,” explains Eva Baumgartner (GEMBA ’16).

The class got to work on a post-MBA plan that would help them maintain the sense of community and satisfy the appetite for lifelong learning that they had developed at Rotman.

“We weren’t interested in vacation-style trips together,” explains Baumgartner. “We started to think of ourselves as a global think tank. Everyone in the class can be counted on to bring expertise, ideas and advice to a problem any one of us is dealing with. The best way to build a system like this would be to keep furthering our education and travelling together.”

Since graduating in June 2016, the class has continued to meet every year for modules around the world that explore business design, world economies and sustainability, among other business topics.

Picking up where the program left off

The Global Executive MBA program at Rotman has always adopted the approach that the best way to learn about a business concept is to see it in action. Classes venture all over the world — places like Mumbai, Silicon Valley and Shanghai — to learn about new economies, emerging technologies and other international business topics.

Early on, the GEMBA ’16 grads knew that the modules they organized themselves would need to be just as rigorous and eye-opening.

The planning for each module kicks off at least one year in advance. The group identifies a topic they’d like to explore next; from there, they select a destination that will allow them to study the concept up close. A few members of the class take the lead on organizing the learning aspects of the trip, using their networks to arrange speakers and site visits with firms in the region.

“This is just the beginning. It’ll be exciting to see where we are 20 years from now.”

—Eva Baumgartner, GEMBA ’16

So far, this group has been to New York City (to explore new trends in design and communications), Prague (to get a handle on the Eastern European economy and its burgeoning startup culture) and Reykjavík (to learn about sustainable energy and technologies). In 2020, the class will head to Moscow to learn about the European and international sports industry.

“We picked up where the program left off,” says Craig Dockrill (GEMBA ’16). “We’ve continued to get exposure to new perspectives and geographies. In every place we visit, I always find that there are lots of lessons for me to learn.”

As a director of environmental planning with the Government of Alberta, a big part of Dockrill’s work involves developing strategies that support natural resource management and collaboration with indigenous communities. He found the class’s most recent trip to Iceland, where they met with experts knowledgeable in renewable energy topics and the country’s sustainability priorities, especially insightful.

“I left with a fresh perspective on how to tackle my next challenge,” he says.

Learning from each other

These trips also give alumni opportunities to learn from each other.

The class consists of professionals in education, film, finance, IT, law, life sciences and physics. During these modules, it’s common for classmates to discuss trends in their respective fields.

“From quantum computing to filmmaking, we’ve taught each about almost everything. It’s a fast way to collect insights on new technologies and trends,” says Jan Mehner (GEMBA ’16).

“I always feel inspired when I return from these modules,” says Mehner, who is based in Prague, where he serves as managing director for a pharmaceutical company. “The ideas generated while away stay with me months afterwards.”

The GEMBA class of 2016 and friends in Iceland.

For many, the time spent speaking with classmates is the main highlight. A portion of each module is devoted to catching up and soliciting career or life advice.

“The class is like an advisory committee. If someone is considering a major career move, the rest of the class doesn’t hesitate to bring up tough questions. We’ll often drill each other about all the possible consequences and contingency plans. At the same time, we are aware of each other’s strengths, so we want everyone to reach their potential,” says Baumgartner.

After earning her MBA, Baumgartner, who is an attorney, started a law practice in Vienna. She credits the support from classmates and the program in helping her with the transition.

“We’ve been able to help each other so far, and most of us are in the early to middle stages of long careers,” she says. “This is just the beginning. It’ll be exciting to see where we are 20 years from now.”

Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »

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