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100+ Alumni Put MBA Communications Skills to the Test during Executive Challenge

Business leaders are asked to flex their communications skills every day, whether it’s to ask a board to change the direction of an organization, add investors to a new business, or to manage a difficult labor relations situation. That’s why Georgetown McDonough MBA students are asked to do the same as part of their Leadership Communications final exam.

To make the cases as real as possible, Georgetown McDonough invites alumni back to role-play the scenarios with the entire first-year Full-time MBA class during the Executive Challenge. This year, 109 senior-level alumni from across Georgetown McDonough’s programs participated virtually with the student teams. 

“Our school has a wonderful sense of community, which is manifested in the willingness of so many executive-level alumni being willing to take a day to enhance the academic experience of our students,” said Prashant Malaviya, senior associate dean for the MBA program. “Having so many alumni participate across industry sectors and from around the world also makes the day a meaningful networking experience for both the students and alumni.”

Student teams receive their cases early in the morning and quickly divide up to take on three different and challenging boardroom scenarios where they can apply the skills they learned throughout the core course. They benefit from the experiential nature of the day, as well as coaching from second-year Leadership Fellows and the feedback provided by the alumni judges.

“The Executive Challenge is an impactful teaching and learning tool for our students, as it simulates real-life in a way that a classroom will never be able to,” said Evelyn Williams, teaching professor of management and founder of the Executive Challenge. “Our students end the day with newfound skills and confidence that they carry with them into their careers.”

The Leadership Communications course explores five communications challenges: influence, assertiveness, re-setting expectations, conflict, and decision making. During the final exam, the judges rate students on their ability to execute task management, process communication, and manage relationships productively.

“Leadership Communications has thus far been the most applicable and practical course I’ve taken at McDonough,” said Mackenzie Loy (MBA’22). “As part of my summer internship at JPMorgan Chase, I will be giving an in-person presentation summarizing what I worked on, lessons learned, and recommendations. Leadership Communications was a great warm-up for this culminating presentation.” 

Throughout the course, students work within their teams to address the lessons learned each week. Loy said that the relationships she built among her teammates were important to their success in the virtual boardroom.

“My squad, Audrey Vitalo, Casey Ling, Andres Bravo, and Prem Patel, helped me improve each week, and I genuinely enjoyed learning more about them as individuals. The class would not have been as positive or productive without them,” she said. “Prem and I were partners for the Executive Challenge, and while we prepared for several hours, our plan and talk track were derailed within the first two minutes of our session. The relationship we’d built over the past semester and the strategy we had crafted carried us through the rapid-fire curve balls, enabling us to pivot with grace, confidence, and good humor.”

At the end of the day, students received individual, team, and cohort awards for their performance.

2021 Executive Challenge Winners:

Overall Winner: Squad Gray 7: Mackenzie Loy, Audrey Vitalo, Casey Ling, Prem Patel, Andres Bravo (Leadership Fellow: Christian Marotta)

Overall Cohort Winner: Gray 

Case Winners:

Case A Winner (Ecarg): Squad Blue 3: Derek Cunningham, Cody Corrington (Leadership Fellow: Danny Traeger)

Case B Winner (Nova Mentis): Squad Saxa 8: Larry Li, Nicholas Bell (Leadership Fellow: Arianne Price)

Case C Winner (Santel): Squad Blue 6: Andrew Mulia, Div Goel (Leadership Fellow: Daniel Hill)

Cohort Winners:

Blue Cohort Winner: Squad Blue 6: Maya McWhorter, Carol Allen, Bruce Burton, Div Goel, Andrew Mulia (Leadership Fellow: Dan Hill)

Gray Cohort Winner: Squad Gray 7: Mackenzie Loy, Audrey Vitalo, Casey Ling, Prem Patel, Andres Bravo (Leadership Fellow: Christian Marotta)  

Hoya Cohort Winner: Squad Hoya 1: Marthaline Cooper, Megan Armlin, Koudy Desiraju Sarad, Will Huskisson, Isaac Carp, Umang Arora (Leadership Fellow: Stephanie Mitchell)

Saxa Cohort Winner: Squad Saxa 6: Mirabel Nkenke, Alex Akerly, Sebastien Delatour, Mike Silverman, Matt Abelson, Charles Jung (Leadership Fellow: Mike Biarnes)