Looking back

The  2018 class have dispersed to different parts of the world to enjoy their much deserved vacation! Hopefully, one or two of them will share their adventures with us over this month. But in the meantime, below is an entry posted this time 10 years ago. The Stewart Hamilton Scholarship for Women was created in memory of this great professor, who taught our MBAs for many years.

 

Suzy

3rd July 2008 – Half of 2008 has now gone

Today’s guest entry is written by Stewart Hamilton, Professor of Accounting and Finance, and Dean, Finance and Administration

The children have been to Kenya, learnt a lot and thankfully are all safe home (or at least on their way). How can I refer to the 89 carefully selected (some by me), high achievers, in such a way? Perhaps because my youngest daughter, a Registrar paediatrician with a specialisation in tropical medicine, and seven months experience in a Mission hospital in Uganda, is 30 years old. How else would I?

But this is not disparagement or put down.

A great pleasure for a teacher approaching retirement is to look back at all those who have “sat at your feet” and to see how well they have done. I was reminded of this last Saturday at the Biennial International Alumni Event when I met with and heard  from a good number of them who have gone on to do great things and could rejoice in their success. I was, however, alarmed to be told by the new CEO of a manufacturing company with an internationally recognised brand that “all the accounting that he knew, he had learned from me at IMD”. I responded that my fervent hope was that this wasn’t true! Another, a well remembered and likeable “pain in the neck”, was proud of having retired at 45 after making enough (in the hedge fund industry) to do so, and was now looking for ways to contribute to society.

Two very different examples of success, but both resonate with me. Our “product” does well. And why not? The IMD MBA is harder to get into than Harvard: the group is much more diverse; the experience that is brought to class is prodigious, often obtained in very difficult conditions. Of course our MBAs are demanding. The cost of funding the year often requires great sacrifice; it may place strains on personal and family relationships; and it certainly necessitates a great deal of effort.

That said, MBA candidates are not “customers” – they are students. IMD is not a “cheque book” school. The faculty have a duty to protect the brand for the good of those who will graduate this year and of those who have gone before. And, if at times, the class feels unduly pressured or pushed, that is because the faculty are trying to make sure that the students maximise their undoubted potential.

This month marks the end of my 27th year of teaching at IMD, and I think I must be half way through my 23rd MBA class (it isn’t over for you yet!). When I first came, I had to explain to the outside world what IMEDE (as it was then named) was. It is hugely satisfying that it is much less necessary to explain what IMD is. Indeed, when, a few weeks ago, I attended the annual conference of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), a gathering of business school teachers from around the world, to run a workshop on governance and corruption, I was both proud and humbled to realise just how many of the participants were in awe of IMD and our status.

This nostalgic retrospective has a purpose: almost every class at some point will ask me how their class compares with previous years.

My answer is consistent: “all classes are the same, and all are different”. Each class has its own chemistry. Some are more collegiate than others; some are more “party animals” than others; some are more serious and studious than others. But, at the end of the day, all share the same characteristics of a group of highly talented and motivated young people wanting to, and believing they can, make a difference in this world. That is why I wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.

Now, I too, need a break. In a typical first half of the year, I have conducted 14 MBA sessions, participated in two Integrative Exercises, graded (in part) two MBA exams, 65 EMBA assignments twice, taught in eight in-co programs, written three cases and two articles, made one webcast, given lectures in Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Oslo, and talked to two Alumni clubs.

Tomorrow I head back to God’s country, Scotland, for a month to wind down and refresh.

The MBAs deserve their break and so do the faculty!

Have a great summer.

Stewart Hamilton

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