During the first week of March, more than 30 MBA students from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business ascended Dubai’s skyscrapers, zipped back and forth to Abu Dhabi, and mingled with the movers and shakers of the UAE business community as part of the school’s hallmark Global Experience. For each it was their first visit to the Middle East; in a matter of days they achieved the productivity typical of the Emirates, while grasping onto cultural lessons and sociopolitical understandings.
Central to the Dubai Global Experience program are the short-term consulting projects formulated by local clients and fulfilled by teams of students, under the stewardship of Georgetown faculty Jean-Francois Seznec and Brian Gill. Project scopes spanned a range of sectors, from Islamic banking and real estate financing to telecommunications and insurance markets. Geographically, students worked with companies in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, while exploring markets from Jeddah to Mongolia. Following two months of online exchanges, the students finally met their clients in person to present their findings.
Emirates-based Georgetown alumni facilitated these client contracts, in addition to company visits during the Global Experience. Emal, DIFC, Sorouh, and Jafza all hosted the group, exposing them to their operations and engaging in frank discussions about their respective industries. Among the students, expressions of awe prevailed during these tours. Yet inquisitiveness and healthy doses of skepticism also punctured through the immensity of various undertakings.
While Dubai is a place for business and finance, human transactions pay out precious dividends. These were accrued in relations with the clients, who as Emiratis, Asians, Westerners, and Arabs together represented the global diversity unique to the UAE. While there, I met with an old friend with whom I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and another friend from Syria, both building their careers in Dubai. I attended a nadwa at a local cultural center featuring Georgetown Emeritus Professor Michael C. Hudson, who was passing through from Riyadh to Singapore. I was inspired by Georgetown alumnus Paul Bagatelas who spoke at our gala dinner of his journey from a small town in Iowa to a career in banking in Dubai, the place his children consider home now.
-Rana B. Khoury
Rana B. Khoury was the Dubai Coordinate assisting Georgetown McDonough MBA students on the Global Experience and is a candidate for a Master of Arts in Arab Studies from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.