This summer, Father Sean Carroll, S.J., KBI Executive Director, will complete a comprehensive, international MBA program. The program has taken him to locations around the world, where he has acquired skills, knowledge, and experience that will benefit the KBI here at home.
One year ago, with board members and staff behind him, Father Sean Carroll, S.J., who has helmed the bi-national KBI since its founding eight years ago, went back to school. The main motivation behind the decision was to bring more formal business education and expertise to the KBI as its work and outreach grow in both the U.S. and Mexico. As Father Sean describes his past year in the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) program, his studies have definitely delivered in all areas, particularly finance and strategy.
Father Sean’s enrollment in GEMBA is also consistent with an aim of former Society of Jesus Superior General Adolfo Nicolás—to train more Jesuits in business so as to better support and manage their works around the world. In fact, GEMBA is jointly administered by two prestigious Jesuit institutions and a Central American school that has earned the nickname “Harvard South”: Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business and Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.; ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain; and INCAE Business School in San José, Costa Rica.
The 14-month program takes students around the globe in two-week international residencies (or modules), with classes covering a wide range of business management and international relations topics; the content, readings and cases are usually related to the particular location. For this ninth GEMBA class, the six modules start and end in Washington, D.C., where a graduation ceremony in July will mark the completion of this challenging, multi-disciplinary program for the 26 students enrolled. The other destinations on the roster have been Barcelona and Madrid, Spain; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bangalore, India Doha, Qatar; Beijing and Shanghai, China; and New York City (in July before graduation).
In between their on-site classes around the world, students complete readings, individual assignments, and take-home finals as well as participate in group projects involving online meetings, ongoing correspondence, and real-world results. Father Sean participated in a group consulting project, developing and presenting a strategic plan for an IT company in India to address marketing challenges arising from a competitor’s merger. In this hemisphere, his group Master’s project was a construction and implementation plan to build “smart” rooms—easily moved, solar-powered classrooms with internet access—in rural Columbia where children returning to the country after the recent peace accords can go to school closer to home. Working with Columbia’s Ministry of Education, their group outlined a proposal which would rely on a local coordinator to facilitate online curricula and programming to students in multiple grades, and presented it to Chinese investors with the expectation that it will become a reality later this year.
In addition to comprehensive classes (four per module) focused on business strategy, organizational structure, policymaking, innovation, and finance, the GEMBA9 students—drawn from 13 countries and an array of international business disciplines and fields, including some non-profits—learn from each other. (Father Sean is the only Jesuit in the program.) They live, commute, and study together, and share presentations about their organizations in peer forums, which offer opportunities for discussion and new ideas. The role of creativity and collaboration is already a common practice at the KBI where hands-on advocacy work and urgency drives innovative solutions like organizational partnerships to assist migrants, the new legal fellow collaboration with the Florence Project, and the art cooperative established by the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist who staff the comedor and shelter, which allows women to earn money during their KBI stay by making bracelets and earrings.
Even during his studies, GEMBA has been valuable to Father Sean’s approach to his work, in evaluating financial statements, considering bi-national strategies, managing communications, and balancing structural and innovation issues with an eye to the KBI’s mission. “The program has broadened my perspective, and opened me to new and useful business methods,” he explains. When he graduates in July, Father Sean will receive two MBA degrees—one from Georgetown University and one from ESADE Business School.
After 16 years away from academia, Father Sean admits it was an adjustment to dive into such an all-encompassing international business program and juggle director duties with multiple trips, assignments, and exams. The key, he says, has been the amazing support he’s received from KBI colleagues and board members, which has given him the latitude to take on this commitment. “I’m so grateful to them,” he says. “I’ve learned so much from being part of the KBI and working together to make it a reality…but being in the [GEMBA] program has given me additional tools and insights that will be helpful as the KBI moves into the future.”