The elements that go to making the best of the MBA
Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director
The Irish Times speaks to Orla Nugent, MBA Programme Director, regarding the 50th anniversary celebration of its first MBA graduate awards.
Original Article: Irish Times 25.01.16
The school’s executive MBA (EMBA) programme was established in 1964 by the late Prof Michael MacCormac, who designed the course on a transatlantic voyage following the completion of his MBA in Harvard. “The EMBA is a two-year part-time course and the first students graduated in 1966,” says MBA programme director Orla Nugent.
“The full-time one-year MBA programme began 25 years ago in 1991. The Smurfit School MBA is the only one in Ireland to hold the triple-crown accreditation from AACSB in the US, EQUIS in Europe and AMBA in the UK. We also have consistently maintained our presence in the Financial Timeshighly competitive global MBA rankings.”
She describes the courses as having three elements – IQ, EQ and RQ, IQ being the academic element, EQ leadership and personal development and RQ dealing with reputation.
“The IQ piece is the academic curriculum and teaches you about all aspects of business. It is very much based on action learning with classroom work combined with case studies and work with companies. Students also learn from their classmates.
“The MBA brand is only as good as the people in the class and when we select people for the programme following the admission interviews, we try to have people who are a good fit and who are committed to the course. Students find themselves sitting with people who have completely different world views and ways of interpreting data.
“It is a very collegiate and supportive environment where people share experiences and learn from one another.”
While the academic curriculum is the backbone of the programme, Nugent stresses the importance of the EQ element.
“This is about leadership development and complements the academic work,” she says. “It’s where people get a chance to step back and reflect on who they are, where they are and how they got there.
“They can think about their personal style, how they influence others and how they can be better leaders and better at what they do.”
Students also receive non-judgemental advice and coaching. “It’s about giving people space to think about who they are, what they do and their personal development. The best leaders practise mindfulness even if they don’t know they’re doing it; they step off the treadmill and take time to think.”
The third element deals with careers. The dedicated MBA career development team works with students to define their career vision and equip them with the career-related skills, know-how and confidence to pursue their own post-MBA career goals.
Through a variety of tools, workshops, events, one-on-one career advice and access to other resources, students are helped to take the best possible advantage of the new opportunities which the MBA qualification will open up for them.
It’s more than just about their next steps after graduation, though. “We try to give people the skills they need to manage their careers throughout their lives,” Nugent says. “It’s a question of what story you tell about yourself and what story others tell about you.
“Many of our students on the EMBA programme will not have done interviews for quite a while and we prepare them for that experience as well.”
Networking is also important. “This is a key part of the programme,” she says. “You are going to make friends on the programme. The course is demanding and time-consuming but there is a great sense among the students that they are all in it together.
“Students build up networks based on friendships and relationships. We run courses in networking to help people with this aspect. It’s amazing how many people think they are good at it but are actually quite poor.”
There is a strong international element with both the full-time and part-time programmes featuring international study trips.
“We all need to be more globally aware. In the first semester of the full-time course, students have the option of visiting one of leading business schools in the world for a global network immersion week and in the second semester, they visit South Africa, Vietnam, Dubai or India for an international study trip which involves a mix of classroom and practical work with companies. EMBA students have the option of an international study trip as well.
“There is quite an international flavour within the programmes as well, with 20 per cent of the part-time students and 70 per cent of the full-time students coming from overseas. On the teaching side, 30 per cent of the lecturers come from an international background.”
Nugent says the MBA programmes are particularly suited to people who are already quite advanced in their careers. “Somebody who is already very proficient in a particular area of expertise and wants to put a wrapper on it, which gives them the general business acumen to make better decisions, will benefit greatly. The key thing is that students get a good grounding in business across all sectors.
“They come out able to understand financial statements, capable of putting a marketing plan together and so on. They gain a rounded set of competencies which enables them to be more effective leaders.
“They are able to have a much greater impact and influence on people outside of their zone of expertise.”
Overall, the qualification prepares people to achieve their career goals. “It gives students a better understanding of where they want to go in their careers and what the next steps should be. It also gives them the skills to their goals – if you aspire to be a CEO, it helps you to become a better leader and develop the strategic mindset to set a vision and chart a course for an organisation.”
Applications are being accepted for the 2016 programmes now and the process is quite rigorous, according to Nugent.
“There are three questions on the application form and they are designed to get applicants to really reflect on themselves, what they want to achieve, what they expect from UCD and what they think UCD should expect of them.
“We also ask applicants to talk to two referees who know them well and will challenge them on whether the programme is really for them.”
The process also involves an aptitude test which requires several weeks’ preparation and an interview. “We go through all the applications very carefully at a weekly applications committee meeting,” she says.
“The programmes are limited to class sizes of between 30 and 40 and we want to make sure that the students we accept will be right for the course and that it will be right for them.”
For further information on how to apply for the Smurfit School MBA programme, go to www.smurfitschool.ie/mba/quickfacts/admissions/