Inaugural Residency Program Takes MBA Students Around the NYC Business World
When MBA students from Central European University Business School reached the summit of a 27-floor Manhattan office building where they were learning about real estate management on May 1, they witnessed firsthand what the world saw online: One World Trade Center becoming the tallest building in New York City, and reclaiming the spot left empty in the skyline by the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack.
It was an emblematic scene on the second day of the students’ intensive, three-credit course on running a company in a global city.
Since the towers fell, NYC has faced the 2008 financial meltdown. Its media industry has had to find new paths to financial viability in the digital era. It has made attempts of varying success to become the Silicon Valley of America’s east. And it has joined other cities in taking the threat of climate change more seriously.
All this while vying for talent and financial investment on an increasingly-competitive world stage.
“New York City is home to so many living case studies that exemplify the challenges and opportunities of leading and starting a company in an international megacity,” said Mel Horwitch, Dean of CEU Business School who developed the program, the first of its kind at the school. “We wanted our MBA students to immerse themselves in the environment and interact with all manner of professionals — from serial entrepreneurs to CEOs to subject matter experts.”
Thirty-five current MBA students from the fulltime and executive programs participated in the residency program, which paired a week of study in New York City with group presentations the students gave back in Budapest on key takeaways from their experience.
Students started each day in New York with one or more lectures delivered by a NYC-based expert in the day’s theme. Themes included enterprise management, finance, entrepreneurship, clean technology, and innovation. They spent the second half of the day at a company involved in the same theme.
The Dominance of Entrepreneurship, The Imperative of Innovation
By design, and because of New York City’s currently thriving start-up culture, entrepreneurship weaved its way through nearly every discussion and tour.
In a talk by Ziv Navoth, a media and publishing entrepreneur, students learned quick, inexpensive ways to vet the potential of new business ideas.
Executive MBA student Stewart Harvey, himself a start-up founder from the UK, singled out the value of Mr. Navoth’s talk and his method of validating ideas.
Green Spaces, an incubator and resource network solely for triple-bottom line, or social enterprises, offered a counterpoint to more traditional profit-minded approaches to growing young businesses seen elsewhere during the week.
Verdant Power, a start-up trying to harness energy from water currents, illustrated the unique funding and R&D challenges of nurturing a clean-tech company.
Several venerable New York City institutions and industries that have had to navigate technological, as well as other shifts, figured into the theme of innovation, which, like entrepreneurship, was a reoccurring one.
The R&D arm of the 161-year-old New York Times piqued a number of students’ interest in particular. Members of the group shared highly-guarded projects they work on to help the wider New York Times operation stay ahead of digital trends and capabilities.
Rudin Management, a model of one of the city’s traditionally dominate sectors, real estate, manages the building from where students saw One World Trade Center. Company representatives explained how its buildings now serve 21st century needs. The building the students visited, for example, houses critical data storage and telecommunications hardware.
Students glimpsed into the world of financial services, another of the city’s bedrock industries undergoing significant change, at growth equity firm General Atlantic. Matthew Nimetz, an advisory director at the company who is also a Central European University trustee, remarked that private equity has evolved positively despite dips in the global economy. Mr. Nimetz also commented on how New York City remains an attractive destination for private equity investors.
For Mary Collins, a fulltime MBA student originally from California, the NYC residency program brought entrepreneurship and innovation, topics that underpin the CEU Business School MBA program, “together in a meaningful way.”
“We can adopt the practices that have proven successful there in new markets,” she says.
It wasn’t just the what, but the how of New York City entrepreneurship that students observed.
Zoltán Aszalós, a member of the executive MBA program and Budapest native, noted that he liked “the local entrepreneur spirit” evident in “the vibrant presentation styles with no PowerPoint presentations, only strong communication.”
Written case studies, the core of most MBA curricula, seldom capture the local spirit of a city or region, says Bala Mulloth, who led the on-the-ground program in New York. The assistant professor of entrepreneurship and innovation management emphasized the importance of MBA students spending time in other cities.
“Students may never live or work in that city themselves, but there’s a strong chance that they’ll work for a company, or start their own company, and it will be involved with other businesses or customers there,” he says. “It’s about creating a network as much as it’s about developing a new set of soft skills for the global business world.”
It’s also about transferring lessons learned abroad back home. Dean Horwitch explained that another aim of the residency program is to encourage students to help shape a more sophisticated and robust center of global business, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Budapest and the Central and Eastern European region by applying what they learned in New York City here.
CEU Business School plans to run the New York City residency program again next year, and is considering replicating it in another city in the future, something the students who traveled to New York seem keen to see happen.
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