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This guest blog entry comes from a Duke Fuqua alumnus

Phil Thomas

About The Author

Phil Thomas

Global Executive MBA | Class of 2017

As part of the residency for our fourth term, my Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) classmates and I were in Shanghai. I wanted to provide insights on life in the program, so here are some moments from a typical day in our residency!

11:00 a.m.

Here we are quizzing Chauncey Shey, one of China’s most prominent and successful venture capitalists and high tech entrepreneurs on how traditional businesses are being transformed by cutting-edge technology. GEMBA residencies balance the academic rigor of Duke’s world-class faculty with activities designed to immerse the class in the national business culture. This includes speaker sessions with industry experts like Chauncey to provide insights on industries, trends, and opportunities.

a student asking a question of the speaker, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

12:00 p.m.

My classmates Lauretta (who works at Ingredion), Trent (Medtronic), Greg (Xylem), Julie (Eli Lilly) are ready for class. Our desks are always a mess by the end of a residency! One of the greatest strengths of the GEMBA cohort is our diversity—no one industry or function dominates and around 20 nationalities are represented. This diversity combined with robust work experience and a high strength of opinion leads to every class being challenging, insightful, and stimulating in equal measure.

students at their desks, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

1:15 p.m.

Class is done, so I”m getting ready to head out to discover Shanghai with TeSha—rocking the Duke shirts of course! Experiencing the local culture is a key part of the GEMBA residency experience.

Phil and TeSha ready to roll, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

2:00 p.m.

We’re visiting a local community in Caoyang, an area that’s changed beyond any other in Shanghai. International residencies provide numerous opportunities to be immersed in the local culture and gain a different perspective on the host society beyond what you would get from regular business travel! Nothing illustrates modern Shanghai like the 75-year-old owner of the center checking her FitBit steps and finding she’d done more than us!

checking her FitBit, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

3:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, Scott, Greg, and Adam have elected to be “lost in Shanghai”—dropped off at an unknown location with about two words of Mandarin between them and three hours to get back to the hotel. Teamwork is being truly put to the test here!

Students getting ready to bike the city, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

3:30 p.m.

A third GEMBA group got under the skin of contemporary Chinese art this afternoon—and Cesar, Bridget and Jenn took the opportunity to perfect their Running Man!

students at the art museum, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

4:30 p.m.

I already mentioned that diversity is one of the greatest strengths of the GEMBA cohort. Every day your preconceptions are challenged, your mind is opened and you develop new perspectives on business, society and the world around us from being in a class with successful professionals from across the globe. You also get many opportunities for the “how many nationalities can you fit into a photo” game. Here, we have four: U.S. (Mike S), Ghana (Lauretta), India (Sandeep) and U.K. (yours truly). Five if you count the bemused Chinese shoppers in the background!

classmates pose in the market, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

7:30 p.m.

One of the main motivations for undertaking a Global Executive MBA is to build a cross-industry network with successful executives from across the globe. The GEMBA program facilitates this with superb Global Leader Keynote sessions and dinners—here with Bill Johnson, Managing Director China, KONE.

round table discussion at dinner, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

10:00 p.m.

We end the evening with friends, drinks, and random Chinese snacks, combined with one of the best views I’ve ever seen. Moments like this emphasize why Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA has been so transformational for me. You’re surrounded by the smartest people you’ll ever be in a room with and every day is challenging and invigorating in equal measure. With all that said, the Team Fuqua collaborative ethos permeates far more deeply than the professional network you originally sign up for and has made the time we’ve shared across different countries so memorable and so informative to our future development as executives and leaders of consequence.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this snapshot into GEMBA life as much as I have in sharing it. It’s been an honor and a privilege. Cheers!

classmates toasting and a nighttime view of the river in Shanghai, during a day in the life of a Global Executive MBA student

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Jonathan Deforge

Jonathan has 8 years of work experience in Education Management. Since 2013, Jonathan has helped applicants get into top 15 MBA programs and has an immaculate track record with INSEAD (both full-time MBA and EMBA programs). His applicants received offers from the Magnificent 7 (HBS, Stanford, MIT, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, Wharton) and from other leading business schools such as INSEAD, LBS, NYU Stern, Yale, Tepper or UCLA.