These EMBA students take to the field—literally—as they complete a team exercise at a local military base. Later, as part of the same residential experience, they attempt to blow their own glass after watching a demonstration by experts.
“It requires them to work as a team,” says Danny Shepherd, associate director, Executive Programs, University of Sydney Business School. “It helps them develop a better understanding of the tools they may employ in terms of their own personal leadership.”
Experiential learning is not just part of the EMBA Program at the University of Sydney, it is the program. This very deliberate program design positions students on the front lines of business and pushes them to grow as leaders.
“We want people to be put in uncomfortable situations and reflect on them,” says Shepherd.
The 18-month program includes five two-week residential periods that take place in different locations throughout the world. While some residential periods include classroom time, for the most part students complete core courses online. The courses offer a foundation for each residential period’s experience, and each residential experience continues to broaden the students’ view.
Their first residential period focuses on reframing leadership and includes the military and glass blowing exercises. Then students tackle Managing Connected Enterprises, where they conduct a live case study, such as developing an in-depth knowledge of the market and supply chain of a beef producer to develop new products.
Students go global and social in the next residential, Thriving in New Markets. They travel to India, where they collaborate with the Indian Institute of Management to identify a social issue and pitch a social enterprise solution to venture capitalists. They continue their travels in the fourth residential, Finding Opportunity in Disruptive Technology, with visits to UCLA and Silicon Valley that in the past have included helping CISCO with strategy for different innovations.
The last residential, Challenging Business Models, brings together all aspects of their past program experiences. Students explore innovative business models as they complete projects, contrasting the business and innovation cultures of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Tel Aviv, Israel.
By program’s end, students finish one more task—an executive report on a project for their own organization. “It’s an incredibly powerful thing to take away from the program,” Shepherd says.
Students also see their projects make a difference. One group’s work to differentiate a dairy product made it to grocery store shelves, and another group’s efforts are helping manage waste and wastewater in India. Along the way, Shepherd says, students grow as a result.
“In the program, you are going through a complete transformation as a leader,” he says. “What you can take from it can last a lifetime.”