The University’s business master’s program held convocation yesterday afternoon in Pembroke Hall for the inaugural class of Brown’s joint experimental business master’s program with Spain’s Instituto de Empresa.
The 24 students sat interspersed throughout an audience of about 75 to listen to a series of short talks presented by leaders of the new program, including Brown and Insitute de Empresa faculty members who will teach courses in the program and Craig Cogut ’75, Corporation trustee and founder and co-managing partner of Pegasus Capital Advisors.
Michael Steinberg, director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities and professor of history and music, served as master of ceremonies.
Collectively, the speakers emphasized the unique nature of the program as a liberal arts-focused M.B.A. taught by faculty from both IE and Brown.
“What we do in this program is say, ‘Okay, let’s take the core of the M.B.A., let’s make sure you know everything you need to know about management, but let’s take the conversation further. Let’s take the conversation further by bringing in content from the humanities and social sciences that is usually not part of a management program,” said David Bach, dean of programs and professor of strategy and economic environment at IE and one of the academic directors of the IE-Brown Executive M.B.A. Program.
In the convocation’s keynote speech, Cogut shared vignettes of recent encounters with prominent business professionals who value a knowledge of the humanities. He said that last week, for instance, he met with the CEO of a large insurance company who told him that he likes to see a strong background in history from prospective hires.
“Today’s business leaders must be so much more aware of the world as a whole,” Cogut said.
Vani Nadarajah, associate admissions director at IE, also emphasized a different approach to the M.B.A. that goes “beyond business.” Her speech focused on the inaugural program’s participants and their diversity, qualifications and social consciousness.
“People that are the participants in this program are very into people,” she said. They “have a real passion, motivation, concern for their people.”
Nadarajah also said that the IE-Brown Executive M.B.A. Program is not just about being a good business leader, but also about being a global citizen.
“It’s about being a different class of leader,” she said. “The emphasis is on people and ethics.”
To provide such a background for their students, the program has enlisted faculty such as Brown Professor of Philosophy Bernard Reginster. He will be teaching a course called “Work, Meaning and Identity,” which he told The Herald he hopes will “contribute somehow to make them better businessmen.” But instead of providing students with some intellectual tool directly related to achieving success in the business world, Reginster said he will try to make them think about how their work shapes their identities.
The 24 students, who work in 12 different industries and represent more than a dozen nationalities, said the humanities-oriented approach was a major draw to the IE-Brown program.
“You can get M.B.A. skills at any university,” said Mark Stover, owner of Pine Valley Property Services and a member of the inaugural class. But he said the opportunity for interdisciplinary study drew him to the program.
The participants begin their first on-campus learning module today, which will last two weeks. The 15-month program — which is conducted predominantly online — calls for a total of seven weeks of “face-to-face” learning opportunities to be held in Providence and Madrid.
Santiago Iniguez de Ozono, dean of IE, encouraged the participants to “keep an open mind” in pursuing this unusual track for an M.B.A.
“There’s no program like this,” he said in his speech. “We are going to experience something which is unique.”