Nine Full-time and Evening MBA students took part in a new hands-on leadership experience, the Rocky Mountain Leadership Trek, this August. The eight-day, 40-mile journey through Wyoming’s Wind River mountain range was run through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to develop resilient, confident leaders who can excel on teams.
Anne Peick, a NOLS guide who went on the trek, said that the educational goal of the trip was to integrate the students’ MBA curriculum at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business with NOLS’ own leadership training.
“The ever-changing and challenging conditions on a NOLS course mirror the fast-paced world of business,” she said. “The purpose [of the trip] is to give participants an authentic, hands-on leadership experience in novel situations with learning that is transferable to their lives in the front country.”
One way the trip provides this leadership experience is by handing over control to the students as soon as possible. Peick and another NOLS guide led the group on the first day, but after that teams of two students per day would lead the group by deciding on the route and when to take breaks. Leaders would end the day by critiquing their own work and receiving feedback from the others.
“Throughout the course, there is a strong focus on being an adaptable team member and the ability to distinguish between the roles of a team member and a team leader,” Peick said.
Jayme Cloninger (MBA’20) said that the leadership training was valuable for incorporating real-life experience into the training MBA students receive in class. “It took our leadership education to another level because it was no longer a simulation,” she said. She added the trip helped her improve on working with study teams, how she understands her leadership style, and how to articulate and pursue her career goals.
“I was on a high every day,” said Cloninger, who is in the Evening MBA program. “It was like playtime for me. I loved it.”
The process of self-critiquing and providing feedback was especially useful for Max Wilson (MBA/MSFS’19), another MBA student on the trip. “The main thing I learned is how to be more reflective about my leadership in groups,” said Wilson, who is in the Full-time MBA program.
Cloninger and Wilson both emphasized the value of being fully immersed in the trip, all the more so because all cellphones and electronics were banned. According to Wilson, during the five to six hours a day spent hiking, talking to one another was the best way to pass the time. “I definitely have a bond with this group of people more than most people at the business school,” he said.
The students came to Wyoming with diverse backgrounds in hiking, ranging from extensive backcountry experience to almost no camping experience. The NOLS guides were crucial in pushing the students to challenge themselves during the journey, reassuring them that they were capable of handling the hike while also teaching classes on leadership and providing information about the local environment.
The students were grateful to have gone on the trip and to have had real-world experience applying lessons in leadership that they had previously only been exposed to in the classroom.
“I feel really lucky that I got to do the trek,” Wilson said. “NOLS is something that I’ve always wanted to do — having that intensive experience is awesome and can be pretty hard to get.”