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Gaining a broader perspective: global focus of the Smurfit MBA

  • Date: Fri, Apr 28, 2017

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The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School has set itself the ambitious target of offering the most global MBA qualification in Europe. The stated mission is to deliver the next generation of globally aware business leaders who will excel, inspire and deliver meaningful contributions to the societies and economist they work in.

That global awareness begins with the students themselves with about half of the participants in the full-time MBA course coming from outside Ireland. That proportion is naturally lower for the part-time Executive MBA programme which is aimed at students living and working in Ireland.

The global focus is also very much in evidence in the course content, with MBA candidates participating in a week-long International Study Tour as part of the Doing Business in International Markets module; full-time MBA participants can undertake an exchange period at one of the Smurfit School’s exchange partners abroad; the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) is a network of 29 of the world’s leading business schools which provides opportunities for Smurfit faculty and students to exchange ideas through short, one-week immersion programmes; and the International Case Study Competition held in John Molson University in Canada and Yale in the US allows Smurfit students compete against fellow MBAs in solving real business problems.

The global immersion offered by the Smurfit MBA is a particularly important dimension of the programme, according to full-time MBA student Ciaran Hope and Executive MBA participant Catherine O’Brien.

Both have primary degrees in engineering but took very different routes to the Smurfit MBA. Ciaran Hope spent 18 years as a composer for films and TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Hollywood before returning home to Ireland to work on the score for Mother Theresa biopic The Letters. “I was home for six months and came to appreciate the country for what it was all over again,” he says. “I could continue to do my work from here and I thought about doing an MBA which would open up new career possibilities for me, and my family all agreed that it was something I should do.”

Catherine O’Brien qualified in civil engineering “right in the middle of the recession” in 2008. She went on to do a Master’s in Sustainable Energy in UCC which in turn led her to work for the ESB in a variety of roles and divisions including asset development, ESB International, and her present job developing new business models and customer propositions in the innovation area of the organisation.

“My motivation in carrying out the MBA was to get a broader understanding of how a business operates from a commercial, financial and strategic perspective,” she says. “ESB has been very supportive as it is committed to developing leadership talent in order to meet the challenges it will face in the future.”

The global aspect is very important to her. “I know about it going into the programme but I didn’t anticipate it being quite so big, it’s been great. I’ve been to Canada and Korea already and I am due to travel to Yale. The global focus is very important from a business perspective as globalisation is an intensifying trend for economies. We acquire all the traditional MBA skills and combine them with a global perspective and this is very positive.”

She participated in the world’s longest-running international MBA competition in John Molson University. “We competed against 36 other universities and got to present our solutions to a business problem to judges from major global corporations. We won our division but one of the biggest plusses was creating a network of other MBAs from around the world.”

Ciaran Hope has also been to Japan and Korea and he took part in the integrated leadership competition in Yale last autumn. This high-intensity competition saw teams work through hundreds of pages of documentation on a business problem over seven hours and then having 20 minutes to present a solution to a judging panel.

“That was a really great week in Yale,” he says. “I made friends there who I will be in touch with forever. We all still talk on our WhatsApp group and it’s great to have an international network like that. I am going to Iceland in June as part of the capstone project for the course. We will be acting as consultants for local companies there. This will further broaden my global experience.”

According to both, a big highlight of the programmes has been the global networks they have been able to develop. “One of the best things has been the much bigger and diverse network I have been able to create as well as the enduring friendships which have come out of it,” says Hope.

“You can’t underestimate the value of that global perspective,” O’Brien agrees. “I am really looking forward to Yale and getting another opportunity to work with MBA students from around the world.”

For further information on the Smurfit MBA visit or register for our MBA Experience Day on May 20th at UCD Smurfit School.

Original article taken from the Irish Times

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