Kicking Off in Chicago

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Chicago Booth

New Executive MBA students gather at the Harper Center during their KickOff Week in Chicago. View more photos from the week here.

This June, 237 individuals from over 50 different countries around the globe converged in Chicago to start the Executive MBA Program. It’s always exciting for me to see students from diverse backgrounds, industries and functions come together for what will be the most challenging, inspiring and rewarding 21 months of their lives - and this year was no exception.

The start to our program is rigorous. Students jump right into their first courses and begin to explore who they are as leaders in their first LEAD sessions. They also hear from prominent members of our community. This year, students were addressed by President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Mark Hoplamazian, ’89, who encouraged them to seek out “reverse mentors” - young advisers who offer different perspectives which can be very valuable to a business. They were also treated to a fireside chat with Nobel Prize winning faculty member Eugene Fama, who relayed this message: “You came here to learn something- so do it!”

Both of these leaders emphasized core values that reside at Chicago Booth; a respect for diverse perspectives, a willingness to challenge each other and work hard, and the importance of community. Students here are taught to challenge ideas and ways of thinking. When your ideas and assumptions are challenged - especially when done by your fellow classmates who are from hugely varied backgrounds - you are forced to support your ideas, using data and evidence and think about the problem from many different angles. This builds your confidence, and makes you a better thinker, a better decision-maker and a better manager.

But it isn’t just about challenging for the sake of it. It’s clear from watching students go through this program that they want to learn from and support one another. They respect each other even if they don’t agree. This fosters a distinct learning environment that allows students to try new things, take risks in a safe environment, and get honest and direct feedback from successful professionals from around the globe - something that is very difficult to find in the workplace.

The path that each student takes to get to this program is very different. What always surprises me is how quickly they warm up and start getting to know one another. By the closing dinner cruise on Lake Michigan several people told me that they already felt changed. And despite being exhausted from an exhilarating #BoothKickOff they couldn’t wait to get to London for the next class week!

Richard