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What Georgetown McDonough MBA Students Learn Outside the Classroom

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What do Colin Powell, an Indiana dairy farm, the D.C. Department of Public Works, and a triathalon have in common? They are all part of the fabric that comprises life outside of the classroom for MBA students at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Sure, it makes sense to judge a business school on what takes place inside the classroom. But in skimming three seemingly unrelated recent news briefs from the school, we realized that taken together they help paint a picture of what life outside the classroom can look like.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell Speaks

In September, the former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell visited Georgetown McDonough to speak on the subject of leadership. He discussed his former military and government experience, as well as a turning point in his career: earning his MBA. The event was part of the Stanton Distinguished Leaders Series and was hosted by the McDonough Military Association, an MBA student club for military veterans.

Faculty, staff, alumni, and students were all invited to observe the conversation, which began with Powell touching on his MBA education. He shared with attendees about how his MBA—which he earned from George Washington University in 1971—enabled him to focus “on the more human elements of leadership,” explained the McDonough press release. He also talked about how he improved his management and leadership skills by gaining a better understanding of basic human psychology.

Powell then went on to speak about his career. He shared his experience of being pulled in a variety of different directions, including public service positions, telling audience members: “You serve where you are needed. This is what service is all about.”

Then, he went on to highlight what he views as essential components of effective leadership, namely helping others, stressing the human element of an organization, and building trust. He explained that he never tried to be an authority but to influence others, stating “leadership and followership are completely enmeshed.”

Finally, he touched on the importance of diversity. “We are a vibrant economy because of immigration,” he said. “We shouldn’t demonize anyone.” He talked about how diversity is important for leadership and for building a stronger America. The event ended with questions from audience members and drew praise from many in attendance.

As Prashant Malaviya, an associate professor of marketing at McDonough, said on Twitter: “Honor and privilege to welcome Colin Powel to Georgetown McDonough. Amazing talk! Thank you!”

Dr. Patricia Grant, senior associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, tweeted: “It doesn’t get any better than meeting General Colin Powell…”

Hands-On Experience

Outside of learning from presentations and speakers, MBA students at McDonough also learn through hands-on opportunities such as a recent visit to Fair Oaks Farms, a sustainable dairy farm in Indiana, as well as a summer internship with the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW).

The farm visit, which included 18 MBA students, was part of the course “Principled Leadership in Business and Society” taught by Associate Professor Ed Soule.

The trip was designed to help students learn more about sustainable business by seeing it in practice. Fair Oaks Farm is the sixth largest dairy cooperative in the nation and an agri-tourism destination owned by Sue and Mike McCloskey. While visiting, MBA students were able to see how the farm employed various practices and technologies to minimize its environmental footprint while maximizing the comfort level of the cows.

“It’s one thing to read a case about a sustainable business, but seeing it and meeting the people adds another dimension,” Soule said in a news release about the trip. “The other objective of the trip was for them to interface casually with the McCloskeys, to pose questions, and get a more nuanced understanding of the business.”

Second-year MBA student Emma Loughman called the farm an “epicenter of innovation” and said she enjoyed learning about the difference between organic and sustainable farming.

As for the internship with the D.C. DPW, two students—Paul LaCorte (MBA ’18) and Leo Dzidziguri (MBA ’18)—participated in the trial program between the department and Georgetown McDonough. Over the course of the hands-on, three-month experience, the students responded to a request by the city administrator to evaluate two critical areas: light vehicle repair turnaround and citywide compliance and preventative maintenance.

The internship required data collection, analysis, visualization, process mapping, site visits, and audits. “We were involved in projects that required knowledge from multiple fields,” Dzidziguri said in a news release. “For example, I performed statistical analysis on several years of data to identify reasons why the Fleet Management division could not meet its key performance indicators, while at the same time studying the operations and recommending a new map for more efficient processes.”

Extracurricular Fun and Fitness

Finally, no MBA program is complete without a bit of friendly competition. Early in September, three Georgetown MBA students participated in the 12th Annual Nation’s Triathlon. Hall Wang (MBA ’19), Taylor DeVoe (Evening MBA ’20), and James Hesburgh (MBA ’19) signed up for a 1,500-meter swim, 26.2-mile bike ride, and 10k run relay—respectively. This was an opportunity for the MBA students to meet outside the classroom and campus to explore their common interests.

In a short news brief on the school website, Wang described the triathlon as a relationship-building experience. “I like to think we showed what the Georgetown MBA experience is all about,” he said. “Regardless of cohort or program, we build relationships and partake in our community, one fun adventure at a time. Ours just started with a really early alarm clock and ended with some sore body parts, but now we have an exciting story to tell.” 

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.