As the current Faculty Director of the MIT Executive MBA (EMBA), Georgia Perakis often thinks about how to maximize the program’s value for both students and faculty alike.
Given the various global backgrounds of the faculty, it’s only natural that their collective experiences impact the members of each cohort, which are increasingly becoming more diverse. Below is a conversation with Perakis about the program’s global impact.
What makes the MIT Executive MBA so globally diverse?
There are many activities in the program that enhance the global experience of our EMBA cohort. We have students from all over the globe: Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Canada, and of course, throughout the United States. I think the beauty of the cohort is that it’s very diverse.
It’s also diverse from every aspect—gender, race, background, country of origin. I think that diversity is a big part of the value proposition for the program. It’s a group of a lot of charismatic people with very different backgrounds who really benefit from each other.
The faculty are also very diverse and come from different countries. I come from Greece, and right now, I’m teaching with three other faculty this spring: Rodrigo Verdi from Brazil, Pierre Azoulay from France, and Scott Stern, who is American. It’s a very international group with experiences growing up in these various countries.
In the last semester of the program, the students travel to different parts of the world for the different Global Lab options offered. There’s Global Organizations Lab (GO-Lab), which students pick an organization—not in the United States—and spend three to four days there. Even with the pandemic, they’ll still travel, and we’re trying to do it in a way that’s safe. But they also get this international experience through classmates, the faculty, and classes.
Has the intention of the MIT EMBA always been to focus on global diversity?
Yes, from the beginning. A big part of the attraction—even for the faculty—is to be a part of a diverse group of students who are senior leaders, have lots of experiences, and can bring a lot to the discussion. The students learn, but I think the faculty learn as well.
Given the diversity of the cohort and faculty alike, is there a formal class that discusses how to interact with a global audience?
Listening to each other and having a mutual respect is something that's emphasized throughout. In the classroom, students take a course on organizational behavior that talks about different cultures during their first fall semester.
In general, diversity, equity, and inclusion are so important for the school, and something the cohort tries to incorporate into their materials. It's not about taking just one course, since all the courses try to have materials to discuss this.
You’ve been a member of the MIT Sloan faculty since July 1998. Even with the consistent global focus at Sloan, how do you think things have changed since you started?
There are more female faculty than when I started, and when I was much younger at Sloan, the school was starting to develop all these global labs. It started with one big one, and now students travel to multiple destinations around the world. The faculty also does research with international companies, and we try to present as much of it as we can in the classroom so our students get to learn from it.
Where do you see things going in the future?
As the MIT EMBA has been growing, we now have more students from Africa than in previous years. It amazes me that we have students coming from all over the world during a pandemic. That’s impressive, and I admire them for that.
What advice do you have for those who might be applying or thinking about applying to the MIT EMBA?
MIT is a very open, flexible place with lots of opportunities for everybody. It’s very open to people from other places, because we are all from other places, and I think a lot of us have a preconceived idea of what MIT might be and not think they would be a fit for the program.
We all have our own imposter syndrome, at different levels—faculty and students alike. But I can tell you, whoever gets admitted to MIT is here because they fully deserve it.
Georgia Perakis is the Faculty Director of the MIT Executive MBA, the William F. Pounds Professor of Management, and a Professor of Operations Research, Statistics and Operations Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has been on the faculty at MIT Sloan since July 1998.