McDonough School of Business
Student runs up the stairs in Hariri during the awards ceremony for the MBA Executive Challenge
News Story

AACSB Innovations That Inspire Initiative Recognizes Georgetown MBA Executive Challenge

AACSB International honored Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business among 26 schools in its Innovations That Inspire member spotlight program for the MBA Executive Challenge – an immersive, day-long role-play case competition that serves as the final exam for the required Leadership Communications course. 

The annual Innovations That Inspire program recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in business education. In 2024, the highlights feature unique ways that business schools are leveraging innovation to drive new value for the communities they serve. 

MBA students work on their case assignments during the day-long Executive Challenge.

“The Executive Challenge is a wonderful example of how we breathe life into business coursework, demonstrate concepts through real-world context, and create lasting and transformative experiences for our students,” said Paul Almeida, dean and William R. Berkley Chair at Georgetown McDonough. “We are proud to be recognized for this innovative course, which is made possible by our entire community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are committed to supporting our students as they learn and grow into impactful leaders in business.”

The Executive Challenge was launched in spring 2017 for all first-year, Full-time MBA students as a way to provide real-world perspectives on how to deliver effective leadership communications. Each year, over 100 alumni and senior executives return to the Hilltop to simulate a variety of communication challenges that students will face in the boardroom – from meeting disruptions to executive disagreements to handling tough negotiations – while students try to persuade, motivate, and build relationships with alumni in the process. After each case, the alumni judges provide feedback on students’ performance, which contributes to their final grade in the course. 

Over 100 alumni return to campus every year to connect with students and serve as judges during the competition.

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.

“Effective business communication is not something you can truly learn in a classroom – you need to experience uncertain situations, deliver tough conversations, influence outcomes, and manage relationships in real-time,” said Evelyn Williams, founder of the Executive Challenge and teaching professor of management at Georgetown McDonough. “With the support of over 100 alumni, who each bring years of experience, advice, and perspectives in leadership roles, we offer unparalleled exposure to the nuances of the professional world and give students the tools and confidence to know they can handle tough situations throughout their careers.”

Leadership Fellows provide support and mentorship to first-year MBAs throughout the Leadership Communications course. Pictured: Kevin Toland (MBA’23), Alessandro Maglione (MBA’23), Joey Gonzales (MBA’23), Michelle Zayed (MBA’23), Arielle Hynes (MBA’23), Khadijah Brydson Van (MBA’23), and Evelyn Williams.

Throughout the course, student teams are paired with second-year MBAs who serve as Leadership Fellows for ongoing mentorship, guidance, and feedback on communications delivery and performance. Leadership Fellows guide students throughout the day-long competition to provide support while also gaining their own experience as leaders of high-performance teams. 

“In a world facing social, economic, and technological challenges, business schools are innovating to develop powerful solutions, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business exemplifies the unique ways that business schools create value and impact for their stakeholders,” said Lily Bi, AACSB president and CEO. “Through bold leadership and innovation, Georgetown McDonough is contributing to a better world, demonstrating the important role business schools play in our society.”

Now in its ninth year, the Innovations That Inspire initiative has highlighted 240 business school efforts that exemplify forward-looking approaches to education, research, community engagement, entrepreneurship, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. This is the second time Georgetown McDonough has received an award, previously being recognized for its Pivot Program.

The Executive Challenge is made possible by a team of faculty, staff, and student leaders across the school, including: Sudipta Dasmohapatra, senior associate dean of MBA Programs; Elie Farhat, associate dean and chief of external affairs; Evan Fossen, director of events and brand experience; Katherine Gunter, associate dean and director of academic operations; Prashant Malaviya, vice dean of programs; Juliana Olm, assistant dean of strategy and operations, MBA Program Office; and Evelyn Williams.

Learn more about the MBA Executive Challenge at Georgetown McDonough