MBA Alumni asked by world leaders to solve global challenges

Six Business School MBA alumni have been invited to compete at the annual Global Universities Challenge in Dubai, against more than a hundred of the brightest minds from 13 renowned universities.

It really is the stuff of Hollywood fiction – a group of young Australians plucked from their daily routine, asked to travel to the Middle East by a powerful ruler and once there, find a solution to one of the greatest challenges facing world governments. Time allowed, 24 hours.

But no, this is not the plot for what could develop into a halfway decent piece of drama. This scenario is very real and it will unfold in mid-February when the team of six University of Sydney Business School MBA alumni join the annual Global Universities Challenge in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

MBA Director, Professor Guy Ford, says the invitation to compete arrived unexpected in late December from the office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai.

The Global University Challenge is described by organisers as “a unique global initiative designed to bring together more than a hundred of the brightest minds from 13 renowned universities to compete in innovating the future of government”.

The challenge, won last year by Harvard, is timed to coincide with the high powered World Government Summit, which brings together prominent leaders from the public and private sectors for an “inspirational, thought-provoking, and future-focused dialogues” on ways to improve the lives of the world’s citizens.

The summit is supported by the United Nations, the World Bank, the WTO and the World Economic Forum. Attendees this year will include the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi; the CEO of NASDAQ; the President of the World Bank, the Director General of the WTO and the Secretary General of the OECD.

Sydney team members have not yet been given details of the challenge awaiting them in Dubai but advertising consultant, Celia Wallace, believes that the event is “an incredible opportunity to represent the Business School on the world stage”.

Celia sees the challenge as an opportunity to apply the skills acquired through the School’s MBA. “The program taught me to look at complex problems in a creative and innovative way,” she says.

Fellow team member, Suzette Joachim, who is a policy manager with the New South Wales Department of Education, says the MBA gave her an understanding of just how fast the world is changing and the skills needed to effectively manage through those changes.

While she has no idea of the specific challenge to come, Suzette, says that in a digital world it would be naïve to imagine that it will not be linked in some way to digital disruption and advances in technology and its impact on government, particularly in the areas of health and education.

The remaining four team members are Chris Murphy, Adam Brownlee, Willis Gray and Diane Chapman.

All six, says Professor Ford, have some formal qualifications in public policy or international relations. “The MBA has also given them other skills; a broader perspective and creative problem solving abilities.”

“They’ve all worked together before really well, they’ve got these exceptional team building skills. It is also a diverse, lean and very agile group of highly talented people,” Professor Ford added.

Wishing the team well, the Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell, pointed out that the Business School was invited to send a team to Dubai rather than having to compete for a place in the challenge. “This departure from the normal practice clearly reflects our outstanding reputation for management education of the highest standard,” Professor Whitwell said.

“The School’s fundamental mission is to provide a transformative educational experience that prepares students for the jobs and the industries of the future and to nurture leaders who can thrive in a world subject to more change and uncertainty than ever before.”

“This invitation is a clear indication that we are succeeding in that mission,” he said.

The Business School’s MBA was the nation’s number one program of its kind in 2017, according to the biennial MBA ranking published by the Australian Financial Review’s highly respected BOSS magazine.

The Business School’s part-time MBA, launched in 2013, achieved top place on its inaugural appearance in the highly competitive ranking of 15 programs offered by Australia’s leading Universities.