Every year the University of Greenwich Business School hosts a full day conference in May which is themed, organised and delivered by the current cohort of full-time Executive MBA students. Unlike many other similar events at other business schools, this one is a key part of the students’ curriculum.
I spoke with Petros Ieromonachou, Head of Systems Management and Strategy and Director of Connected Cities Research Group at the University of Greenwich Business School in the UK, about this student led event.
What is the Executive Business Conference?
For the 13th year running, the University of Greenwich Executive MBA students held a Business Conference to present and discuss global issues/trends and current business topics. To come up with the business conference theme the MBA students brainstormed several ideas concerning today’s business environment. Topics such as sustainability, globalisation and technology frequently appeared as hot topics for discussion. Looking at recent changes in politics such as the proposed Brexit and the US elections, students realised that they are living in an uncertain world that is not easily predictable and changes are becoming more rapid. These changes bear opportunities and threats for businesses and are important considerations for Responsible Leadership. It was important to all MBA students that the business conference theme should evolve around these topics.
How is the event organised?
The event is completely organised by the current cohort of full-time Executive MBA students as well as those studying the second year part-time Executive MBA programme. The students appoint a conference committee, decide on the conference title and theme and organise all of the marketing and logistics over a three-month period. The students also invite and coordinate presenters for the conference as well as develop their own presentations around the topic to be delivered at the event.
How is the event embedded into the curriculum?
The University of Greenwich Business Conference is integrated into the MBA programme as a core component which serves to build on each student’s leadership and professional development. It is a side-event of the Leadership and Professional Development course. Apart from being part of the organising committee, all students in the programme need to present. Students are also expected to provide a written reflective report on their learning and professional development as a result of the experience which is graded.
Tell us about this year’s event
After much thinking, the Greenwich MBA students choose the theme “Shaping business opportunities in a world of uncertainty.” The business conference took place on March 11th 2017 at the University of Greenwich in London. Full and part time Greenwich MBA students as well as guest speakers from industry and academia presented. Keynote speeches were given by Professor Victor Newman – an Industrial Fellow at the University of Greenwich Business School, Chief Innovation Officer at the Milamber Group, and Innovation Adviser to Erisa together with Peter Bonish- Chairman of Kage Strategy.
MBA student presentations topics included: ‘The future of energy markets’, ‘Is there a sustainable future for small charities?’ ‘Is the future sharing?’ and ‘The future of solar energy in Saudi Arabia.’ Most of the MBA students presented a topic that was closely related to their professional career or a business they want to pursue. This gave students an opportunity to put together a professional presentation and present it to academics, professionals, and other students of the business school. Also, during the breaks and the networking event there were opportunities to receive feedback, giving the MBA students different ways of thinking about their business ideas and subjects.
How has the experience been received by the students?
One of the key skills needed by executives is ‘communication’. Together with ‘creativity’ and ‘project management’ the Business conference allows students the opportunity to showcase these abilities in front of a wide audience of business professionals and academics. Layla Mohammad, one of the MBA students reported: “By being a member of the conference committee who organised and co-ordinated the whole event, I watched the MBA students form their ideas, practice weekly and professionally present on the day. It was amazing to see how MBA students that started from thinking they could not put together an interesting topic or present confidently on their own, to delivering some of the most captivating and professionally delivered presentations I have ever experienced.”
Each year students remark on how they have developed as a result of this experience. Often, students remark “I now know what you meant at the induction when you said I would be a different person by the end of the MBA“.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
Start early, hand over the responsibility for success to the students and provide continuous mentoring and support to help them realise their capacity and skills as well as future responsibilities in the ever-changing world of business.
What’s next for the initiative?
The department and programme leader are considering extending the business conference to other post graduate programmes and organising a faculty wide conference with different break-out sessions focusing on a variety of themes.