We speak to The Lisbon MBA’s Executive Director about the importance of rankings, the future of business education and why interaction is key.
What does a typical day look like? Is there such a thing?
There isn’t a typical day, but the common thread is interacting with people. I meet with the students for coffee and a chat whenever I can. I have conversations with the marketing and admissions team about the student profile we’re trying to attract. I speak to alumni and invite them over to campus. I also run the career management centre and speak to lots of companies to see what sort of challenges they’re facing and what they expect of an MBA student – this helps us make sure our programmes are relevant to the market.
What are the main challenges you face as Executive Director?
One of our big challenges is to attract the right profile of candidates. Our MBA is a boutique concept: it’s taught in a small class with direct access to faculty and staff. We need to ensure we’re admitting exactly the sort of people who will benefit from the programme. Another key challenge is to understand what’s next and how to develop our programme. Applicants are changing year to year: the profile of people applying in 2016 is completely different to what it was in 2013.
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
To follow the student’s path of development from starting to finishing the programme. I always get very emotional at graduations. It’s a very challenging programme: we have the academic side, the development side and the Friday Forum [an interdisciplinary class which forces students out of their comfort zone; activities may include painting a portrait, performing a Shakespeare play or writing a novel in 24 hours]. Seeing the students go through the development process and succeeding is the best part of the job.
What have been your most rewarding achievements at The Lisbon MBA?
We now have our two programmes listed in the Financial Times rankings – this stands out as a key achievement. [The full-time programme is #40 in the 2016 Global MBA rankings while the Executive programme is #99 in the 2015 Executive MBA 2015 rankings]. For such a young programme, it’s very good we’re achieving that.
I’m also proud that we have almost 50% international students this year. The Lisbon MBA is turning from a Portuguese programme with some international students to a truly international one.
What do you think were the key factors in gaining the strong Financial Times rankings?
It comes down to the quality of our alumni and the fact that our training is making it possible for them to attain such good salaries after three years. We believe we’re giving them very good theoretical knowledge, but also helping them develop their interpersonal skills. Nowadays it’s very easy to access knowledge, but what’s more important is how you interact with the people you work with.
Admissions is also very important. I do lots of interviews myself, which allows me to understand the quality of the people we’re getting in the pipeline. I get to understand what their concerns are and what they’re looking for in the programme.
The Lisbon MBA is a partnership between CATÓLICA-LISBON and Nova SBE. This is very innovative in the HE sector. How does the partnership work?
The schools are strong and fierce competitors in everything else other than The Lisbon MBA. I work with the deans of both schools and part of my job is to make the partnership work. In Portugal, they are the two best schools – but I don’t think either school would be able to offer a programme like this by itself. We benefit from the best faculty of both schools and we’re creating something that’s really unique. The result is much greater than the sum of its parts.
How do you see business education changing in the next five years?
There’s a growing move towards blended learning and online materials. I think the challenge we’ll face is to make sure we don’t lose the value of interaction. We have to ensure the programme motivates students to come to the campus: I personally think you’d lose a lot in the experience if you have an MBA completely online. Having said that, we need to make the life of our students as easy as possible.
We also need to think about how students can learn with one another. When I took my MBA, what I learnt from my colleagues had real impact. They were working in different companies in different industries and all had different backgrounds. If you offer blended and online learning, you need to ensure students are still interacting and learning from each other.
This is the second in our series of higher ed interviews. See the full series here.
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