Ten students, traveling from as far away as Cambodia, came together on the campus of Bluffton University Aug. 6-11 for the fourth Collaborative MBA residency. While the students began as strangers from vastly different backgrounds, they left with newfound ideas on leadership and lasting bonds.
“The most exciting part has been connecting with others who have had a lot of different experiences to discuss the things that we all care about from our own unique perspectives,” said Annalisa Brenneman, an exchange coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee in Cambodia.
The residency is one of the unique aspects of the collaboration between Bluffton University, Canadian Mennonite University, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College. Because of the partnership, MBA students have access to a large group of professors with diverse backgrounds from the partner schools.
“The fact that people are together for a whole week – taking classes, learning about the program, eating meals together, housing together – they become a very close-knit group. You can see the spirit in the group becomes very strong,” said Dr. George Lehman, director of the Collaborative MBA and Howard Raid Professor of Business at Bluffton. “The residency creates a very supportive environment and it carries them through the whole next year when they’ll be learning and working together through videoconference.”
Anna Herdeck, who works for a public health nonprofit, appreciates the distinct component to the mostly video-conferenced program.
“I like to socialize face-to-face with people. I was nervous about the idea of interacting over the computer screen, and I think that having this week has been really helpful because in the coming weeks when I see the others over the computer screen I’ll feel like I have a connection back to them from this first week.”
During the residency, students begin their first course, Leadership and Management for the Common Good, taught by Lehman. Throughout the week, different understandings of leadership—from the principles of scientific management to the concept of emotional intelligence – are explored. The class is part of the Collaborative MBA’s focus on leadership for the common good which revolves around personal formation and competency, building relationships, and making a profit without harm to people or the environment.
“My undergraduate was in a pretty conservative business setting so I think this definitely takes a more holistic approach to business and is much more in line with what I feel personally,” said Adara Kaita, who works in government in Manitoba.
The group will meet in person again in the summer of 2018 for an international residency in Costa Rica. The international residency highlights how people and organizations are linked by larger global networks.
For the remainder of the 21-month program, participants will meet for class once a week through videoconferencing and will advance as a cohort.
“It’s a big commitment, but I like learning, and I think it’s going to be worth it,” said Jim Cheng, who works in higher education.