Ten graduate students, including five Canadian Mennonite University students, gathered on the campus of Bluffton University for a week in August for the fourth annual Collaborative MBA (master of business administration) residency. While the students began as strangers from vastly different backgrounds, they left with newfound ideas on leadership and lasting bonds.
“It’s a big commitment, but I like learning, and I think it’s going to be worth it,” said Jim Cheng, who works at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg.
The residency is one of the unique aspects of the collaboration between Bluffton University, CMU, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and Goshen (Ind.) College. Because of the partnership, students have access to a large group of professors with diverse backgrounds from the partner schools.
“The fact that people are together for a whole week—taking classes, learning about the program, eating meals together, housing together—they become a very close-knit group. You can see the spirit in the group becomes very strong,” said George Lehman, director of the Collaborative MBA and Howard Raid professor of business at Bluffton. “The residency creates a very supportive environment and it carries them through the whole next year when they’ll be learning and working together through videoconference.”
During the residency, students begin their first course on leadership and management for the common good that is taught by Lehman. The class is part of the Collaborative MBA’s focus that revolves around personal formation and competency, building relationships, and making a profit without harm to people or the environment.
“My undergraduate [degree] was in a pretty conservative business setting, so I think this definitely takes a more holistic approach to business and is much more in line with what I feel personally,” said Adara Kaita, who works in the area of Indigenous relations for the Province of Manitoba.
The group will meet in person again in the summer of 2018 for an international residency in Costa Rica, which will highlight how a particular country has been able to address issues of sustainability while serving the common good.
For the remainder of the 21-month program, participants will meet for class once a week through videoconferencing and will advance as a cohort.