Monday, February 20, 2012

New wave of STAR EMBA students

The new wave of STAR EMBA students has arrived on campus, and they started classes last Friday. I have written about this program in previous posts. This is an Executive Master in Business Administration (EMBA) at the George Washington University School of Business for Special Talent, Access and Responsibility (STAR) students, targeted to athletes, celebrities, and others. In addition to active and retired football players, the current class includes PGA golfers, Olympians, a TV personality, a music mogul manager, and a filmmaker. It is impossible not to spot them in the hallways of the business school, not only because on the first days they are wearing business suits and moving in groups, but also because of their “size,” in particular the football players.

As the School mentioned in the description of the program, “we continue to strive toward our mission of creating a powerful, informed and educated group of athletes and entertainers who are starting businesses, building media platforms, and getting recognized as national change makers and philanthropists.” It is exciting to have such a group of students, and I look forward to teaching them next week.

There are a few characteristics of this program and these students that are especially noteworthy. First, most of these individuals are very active in the community; they are involved in charitable organizations or have or plan to start their own foundations. The majority of these foundations are devoted to helping underprivileged children. Second, the program is open to spouses, as well. As with the first wave of students, in the second wave we have three spouses participating in the program. Finally, women are a growing group in this program. Let’s not forget, there are a lot of STAR women!

A group of faculty had dinner with this class last Friday both to welcome them to campus and to have them meet with Washington, DC-based students from the previous class. It was good to witness their enthusiasm for the program, passion for their work and activities, and curiosity to meet the other students. We had a guest speaker for dinner—an entrepreneur who spoke about his new firm, from how the idea originated to what it took to create and launch it. He spoke for a long time (and since dinner was not served until he finished, for me it felt very long), and so many hands went up after his talk that he kept answering questions for another hour (yep, and the dinner was delayed even further). I sat between two football players, one of whom was from the New York Giants. Of course we talked about the Super Bowl game but I refrained from asking him about the last five minutes of the game. Now that I know a lot more about football, I can have some good conversations with this group of students, and it is a lot of fun. Naturally, they are very conscious about their healthy eating. Since no one ate their bread, I could stuff myself with my and their bread while waiting for dinner to be served. The dinner—when it finally arrived—was very good, but the company was even better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

After the Super Bowl

I have watched most of the football games this season and now that the season is over, I wonder how I will spend my Sundays. Since I am new to this sport, I have sometimes watched the games while reading “Football for Dummies,” a book that turned out to be much better than I expected and does not deserve the smirks that my colleagues have offered (but perhaps they are smirking at the fact that I am such a football nerd). With football in mind, I want to discuss three topics in this post: fun, skill, and inspiration.

The games were very fun to watch and I enjoyed what comes with them as well. For Super Bowl, we had a pre-game party at my place, with all of my football fan friends. We ended up in an interesting discussion about strategies; I may have eaten too many nachos, but I did not understand the last five minutes of the Super Bowl game. We also enjoyed the commercials of course; I could not take my eyes off the TV screen.

Throughout the season, I saw great skill displayed on the field, the capacity to make critical decisions in a split second, the strenuous defense that some teams were able to put up, the ability to be so very precise, and the capacity to stay calm in a crisis. I have watched so many reversals of fortune just minutes before the end of a game that I have learned that one often cannot predict the winner until the second before a game is over. It is a tough game.

In addition to the games, I enjoy listening to player interviews. The players are articulate and succinct (a rare quality, believe me), and they are aware that many of their fans are watching. Like many, I like Tim Tebow a lot. He is unusual, but like other players, he is using his power and growing fame to make a difference in the lives of young people. Because of their enormous fame, football players have the capacity to influence so many people, to inspire them, to be role models.

And speaking of role models, when I talk about football players to young students, I point out that all of the players have college degrees and many of them from very good schools. I listened carefully to all of these schools at the Super Bowl when the players were running onto the field. Hey, Tom Brady is from the University of Michigan, and Eli Manning is from the University of Mississippi, and guess what, Eli majored in Business—how about that!

Another inspiring talent that players have is the capacity to inspire and motivate their team. I watched the video of Ray Lewis talking to his team after the loss against the Patriots. That was a very tough game and Ray offered both comfort and motivation to never give up and to do better the next time. The video ended with Ray greeting a very young fan and one of the players of the Ravens holding a little curly haired girl. Priceless! I, too, am a fan, and I can’t wait until next season.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Financial Literacy Program Wins “Business Gives Back” Award

Last weekend I attended an event organized by George Washington School of Business (GWSB) called “Business Gives Back.” Funds raised from these events are given to student-selected organizations and initiatives. At this particular event, a student who led a high impact initiative in the DC or global community was going to be given an award.

I am very happy to report that Amir Abdallah, who founded the Financial Literacy Program at GWSB, won the award. Amir founded the GWSB Financial Literacy Program (FLP) last spring in response to the growing need for increased engagement in the community around the issue of financial literacy. The FLP is a student-run volunteer placement program that sources financial literacy volunteering opportunities in the DC area. It is open to all GW graduate students, faculty, and alumni, regardless of program or professional background, and equips volunteers with the training and support-base to learn and spread financial literacy throughout our community. The mission is to provide opportunities that are mutually beneficial, meaningful, and challenging and that utilize the talents of the GW community to spread financial empowerment on and off campus. As their website, which is listed at the end of this post, says: “As responsible professionals and recipients of higher education, we are particularly well positioned to serve as ambassadors of financial education.”

Amir emailed me last year asking if we could meet to discuss financial literacy. I hadn’t met him and was curious to hear about his interest in financial literacy. The person who came to my office that day was a very soft-spoken Global MBA student, who sat down with a notebook and took many notes while we talked. He told me about his program, the way it is organized, and what it aims to achieve. He spoke with simplicity but with the pragmatism of a person who understands that things need to get done and implemented. There was passion in his voice and in his words for this topic—something I am always paying attention to.

Perhaps because he is slim and so articulate, that day Amir reminded me of a young President Obama; a young person who has thought to use his knowledge and skills to lead initiatives that can benefit society. And on Saturday, we celebrated the Financial Literacy Program that, from its inception, has reached 340 individuals (many of whom are students in poor schools). Amir was there on center stage. He described the program yet again using the combination of passion and pragmatism he had displayed when we first talked. He was irresistible and won by a wide margin. This blog is to celebrate a young leader.
You can see Amir’s big smile in the Washington Post article about the event: (