This year’s Full-Time MBA students are taking on ambitious goals.
The Imperial MBA is about developing inspirational leaders, people who have the resilience to lead in times of great change. This year, the theme of Resilient Leadership was introduced during the MBA induction in early September, where the keynote speech was given by Olympic medal-winning rower Cath Bishop. After giving up professional sport Cath became a diplomat for the UK government in London; Sarajevo in Bosnia; and Basra in Iraq.
Cath’s inspiring keynote focused on the lessons she’s learnt from her experiences and how these relate to high performance and leadership. Drawing on her time as a diplomat in Iraq, she shared her thoughts on being calm under pressure and efficient in a hostile environment, as well as the necessity for collaboration and innovation to be a successful Olympian.
She also described her experience of preparing for the Atlanta Olympic Games, dealing with stress and making small adjustments that resulted in medal-winning performance. This challenged the MBAs to think about how they might apply Cath’s learnt wisdom to their own goals. MBA student Nathalie Choi said, “My main take away from Cath’s talk is that I should never be afraid of setbacks. Stay positive and always seek room for improvement.”
Suzy McClintock has already been employing Cath’s advice in her MBA studies, “Cath emphasised that a holistic approach is the best way to achieve success, which is easier said than done, but I’m trying hard to keep it in the back of my mind when working on our MBA projects.”
Setting a class goal
In their second week on campus, the MBA class took part in an active workshop run by Sport Imperial on nutrition and posture. Since health and wellbeing is important to building resilience, this year’s Full-Time MBA class have been set a challenge to run, walk or otherwise exercise their way through 11,468 miles – the same distance as it is from London to Hanoi, Vietnam and back, where the class will go for their Global Experience Week next April.
As part of the challenge, each of our 67 Full-Time MBA students have been given a Fitbit activity tracker which allows them to monitor their own progress on a daily basis and contribute to a class tracker of their combined activity.
After being inspired by Cath’s talk, the students have been diving straight into the challenge. Suzy explains that the challenge, “encourages everyone in our cohort to consider taking care of their health and wellbeing as an integral part of their leadership journey during the course. Being competitive by nature, having the Fitbit has definitely encouraged me to get out in the morning or evening for a run to improve my step count!”
Inspiration for the challenge came from the programme team, who have noticed a pattern in MBA students. Senior Programme Coordinator Laura Collingridge explains, “Because of the intensity of the MBA, sometimes students’ efforts to maintain their health and wellbeing can drop off over the year.
“We know that maintaining student health and wellbeing makes each student more efficient and perform better. Just as Imperial trains its elite athletes for match day success, we are taking some of these lessons and applying them to the MBA.
“It’s also a way to introduce some fun for the cohort, and as a small tight-knit cohort the MBAs can both compete with and support each other. During an MBA programme there can be quite a lot of pressure, but something a bit fun allows students some relief. At Imperial, we see each student as a whole person and this challenge reflects that.”
Just as innovation is a thread that runs through the MBA teaching at Imperial, the programme team are always looking for new ways to improve the programme.
The Global Experience Week in April is one of the highlights of the programme and far enough through the year for the challenge to be a realistic goal. Laura explains that an important sense of camaraderie builds with the trip away. “Part of the joy of the week is that the students go away and apply their learnings together, so it seemed like a great chance to create that sense of class community, of journey together, throughout the year as well.”
The MBAs have appointed challenge champions to lead the class to success. Charged with finding new opportunities and activities for the cohort, as well as leading the class motivation and fundraising, the five challenge champions are building important leadership skills – a key element of the Imperial MBA.
Nathalie has enjoyed taking on the leadership role. “My favourite thing so far has been brainstorming activities, such as a walking tour, for our classmates to promote healthy lifestyles. Personally, I enjoy walking so the distance challenge actually encourages me to walk and explore different cities in the UK. It pushes us to go beyond our limits and, most importantly, stay healthy and have fun.”
Fellow champion Suzy has noticed that the healthy competition the challenge promotes is on everyone’s mind. “Now we have the leader board things are definitely picking up – I’ve heard several people saying they’re fitting in extra exercise.”
During the challenge, the class will also be fundraising to match each mile they travel, which they will donate to charities of the cohort’s choice.
There’s no shortage of opportunities for the students to take part in sports while they are at Imperial. Some of the ways they can build their activity include the Impetus programme at Ethos, the Imperial sports centre, which hosts gym classes and other sports sessions and where students can train alongside elite athletes. The MBAs also plan to enter a basketball team into the intra-mural sports sessions, where they will take on other teams from around the College.
The class are also setting up their own sports sessions, running and cycling together. In the spring, they will have the chance to take on MBA teams from other business schools at MBAT in Paris, which brings together 1,500 MBAs to compete across a range of sports.