McDonough School of Business
News Story

The Executive Challenge: MBAs Challenged by Alumni for Final Exam

Why would someone want to be led by you? That is the key question asked of all Georgetown McDonough MBA students in the required Leadership Communications course.

To help students find out the answer, nearly 100 alumni returned to campus to role play as executives in three cases that were graded as the final exam of all first-year Full-time MBA students on Friday, April 28.

“You can’t teach business communications in a lecture hall,” said Evelyn Williams, teaching professor of management. “The Executive Challenge brings real experience into the classroom and asks students to face uncertainty in situations that simulate what executives deal with every day.”

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

“The Executive Challenge is the perfect blending of classroom instruction and simulated role playing to prepare our students to be principled leaders after they graduate,” said Prashant Malaviya, senior associate dean for MBA programs. “Plus, our alumni continuously seek out new and innovative ways to contribute to the school. The Executive Challenge is an amazing opportunity for our high-level alumni to return to campus and engage with our students in a fun, new way.”

At the end of the day, student teams were honored who had the highest scores. 

The Case Winners include:

  • Case One – Saxa 4: Nicole Vives and Jayesh Virkar
  • Case Two – Hoya 3: Angela Thornburgh and Rimong Pangguluh
  • Case Three – Saxa 11: Calvin Cortes and Katharine Tymcio

The Cohort winners include:

  • Saxa Cohort (overall first place) – Team 11: Calvin Cortes, Alvaro De la Isla, J.D. Englehart, Anjali Shahani Moreno, Katharine Tymico, and Yola Yu.
  • Saxa Cohort (overall second place) – Team 2: Gabriel Bermudez, Chen Chen, Paul LaCorte, Gabe Nelson, Erika Studt, and Diane Teng.
  • Hoya Cohort – Team 12: Camila Baron, Ian Collins, Reshma Neelaraddi, Andrew Jensen, Jae Kim, and Ilya Rozhkov.
  • Blue Cohort – Team 7: Greg Bowman, Juan Chen, Alfred Chua, and Sirena Lagunana.
  • Gray Cohort – Team 5: Patrick Chien, Jake Denney, Chris Fishe, Tanay Rajpurohit, Meena Sareen, and Youqi Wang.

All students welcomed the opportunity to practice their presentation and case simulation skills in front of alumni with solid business experience.

“The Executive Challenge gave my fellow McDonough classmates and I the opportunity to practice communication skills under the pressure of a near real-life experience,” said “Katharine Tymcio (MBA ’18). “Thinking on your feet, deescalating conflict, and developing creative solutions are to me what the Executive Challenge was all about. However, what stood out to me during the day was the commitment and advice of the alumni who came out to participate.  Hearing the feedback from our alumni judges was an invaluable experience.”

Nearly 100 McDonough alumni, who currently serve as senior-level executives within their organizations, traveled from across the globe to serve as judges.  They provided students with helpful feedback, including how to develop executive presence and own the board room:

“In the real world, it is about relationships.  It is about connecting with people, especially when you want to get someone’s vote,” said Andy Blocker (EMBA’02), executive vice president of public policy and advocacy, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Alumni also believe this experience was very impactful for students and their professional development.

“Students who are going through the MBA program need to recognize the importance of leadership management and conflict management within an organization in a real-time basis,” said Maximo Blandon (MBA’88), managing director of Stephens Inc. and chair of the Georgetown McDonough Global Business Initiative. “The Executive Challenge gave them a chance to see what it is like to be involved in a real-time situation.”

Williams, who created the Executive Challenge when she was teaching at Chicago Booth and later launched it at Stanford Business School, said that the best part of the day is watching the evolution of students learning, adapting, and thriving in difficult situations.

“It’s that a-ha moment that never gets old for me,” she said. “And, at the Executive Challenge, our alumni and staff get to witness first-hand what the faculty see every day — our students being transformed by their education.”