New cases and learning experiences, the chance for faculty
members to teach in teams, and an international, growing number of students made
for an increasingly rich set of experiences for the second cohort in the University of Virginia Darden
School of BusinessGlobal
MBA for Executives (GEMBA) Class of 2014.
The GEMBA participants, 28 in all, are in their fourth
quarter of the program, and recently returned from visits to Paris and Berlin.
The cities served as backdrops for lessons in global marketing, cross-border
mergers, and examinations of European banks navigating the Euro crisis and the
new regulatory environment Basel III.
“Paris and Berlin are cities that many of us had been to
previously, but under very different circumstances,” said Jordan Sorkin, Second
Year GEMBA student. “Seldom have we traveled to Paris and learned how to value
a European company with international business operations hedging against
It was this type of experiential learning and teaching that
shaped the overwhelmingly positive experiences of both the students and faculty
members who traveled with them.
Professors Yiorgos Allayannis, Lynn Isabella, Andy Wicks and Paul
Farris led the cohort’s class sessions and case discussions. A visit from
Darden’s Dean Bob
Bruner also contributed to the dynamics of the participants’ experience.
“I think having Bob present this year was a nice addition.
Not only did he attend classes, he interacted with the students. That seemed to
be significant to them and a boost to the program,” said Wicks.
“We continued to push two key differentiators of the program.
First, the integrative and cross-functional nature of a Darden program in which
Darden faculty travel together with the students for the residencies, allowing
for closer collaborations among faculty and deeper connections with students,”
said Allayannis, who also serves as associate dean for GEMBA.
“The second distinct characteristic of the program is the
link between the cases we teach and themes we cover in a residency with the
visits we make and speakers we hear,” Allayannis added. “It is this
coordination that allows for a deeper understanding of the issue such that the
whole is bigger than the sum of the parts.”
Learning From the Crème de
Sorkin described the last message Isabella shared with his
cohort before they embarked upon their journey: “Push yourselves to explore a
country that may potentially be more familiar to you than other countries we
will and have visited. Do this by using a different lens than you may typically
use and see what you can discover.”
Sorkin found out that there was much more to learn about
business in Paris.
Isabella taught a case on Disneyland
Paris, and then the group visited EuroDisney, where company leaders
discussed a range of issues from finance to marketing. The students were
challenged with the question of how to bring an iconic American brand to Europe
and be successful.
“We learned about the costs of doing business in Europe as
an American company with fierce competition. The speakers, of mixed
nationality, allowed us to see the operating assumptions, actions and
consequences of this extension of the Disney brand in a non-United States market,”
Sorkin said. We looked at the park by the numbers, getting to pour over margins
and expenditures with a vice president of finance standing by to frame decisions
made about costs and financing. We also had a senior marketing executive on
hand to talk through their segmentation strategy, retention rate and plans to
The group then turned into cultural anthropologists, observing
the differences between Euro, American and Tokyo Disney.
Banking in Berlin
As fate would have it, the cohort arrived in Berlin on the
eve of Germany’s political elections, which opened the door for deeper
conversations about the economic environment in Europe.
“One of our speakers, a German economist, gave us a great
overview of the European and German situation and where he saw Europe moving
towards,” said Allayannis.
Another highlight for Allayannis — collaborating with his colleagues
to teach a case — created a diverse exchange of ideas and perspectives.
“The banking case I taught with Andy, “Deutsche
Bank and the Road to Base III,” brought up issues such as the global nature
of banking, the intensity of global competition and the battle for value,
market share and profitability. It also focused on the current realities of
global regulation, corporate social responsibility and being a global German
Innovative Teaching Through
“I believe the push for us to teach together and to make our
teamwork more global in nature is stretching us in a good way, and making for a
much richer learning experience for the students,” said Wicks, who joined
forces with Isabella to try a different approach with an existing case.
The pair asked students to craft a two to three minute
role-play depicting a supervisor and employee having either a successful
conversation about the employee’s performance or an unsuccessful conversation. Half
the class did the "successful" scenario; the other half did the
“The scenarios got a lot of powerful issues on the table and
helped them to bond,” said Wicks.
Also, Farris and Wicks teamed up to teach a case that
explored themes in marketing and ethics.
“Andy and I taught a case on a small firm entering a large
retail market and facing the risk and cash flow effects of being asked to pay a
quarter of a million dollars in ‘slotting allowances,’ which are fees paid to
retailers to ensure shelf space in their stores,” said Farris. “The ethics of
retailers charging for shelf space and questions about the limits of socially
desirable product differentiation were integrated into the marketing management
issues,” he added.
In January, the GEMBA Class of 2014 will go to India, where
they will further their understanding of global business strategy, operations
and decision analysis.
“Learning how to manage a tough conversation, writing a
marketing plan, making an ethical decision and hedging currency risk are
valuable skills to master independently, but getting to see where they converge
in the executive suite in making difficult decisions is truly the output of a
Darden global MBA,” said Sorkin.
About the Darden School of Business
The University of
Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business
schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique
Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose
research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a
tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who
are ready to make an impact.
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