Paying it Forward: Spotlight on CEIBS MBA Student Committee
By James Kent
Serving the interests of all members of the student body and giving them a unified voice in engaging with the school’s administration is a group of elected MBA students, collectively known as CEIBS MBA Student Committee (SC). Each year, these seven to nine SC members draw inspiration from the work of their predecessors while setting their own ambitious goals. They work tirelessly, and often as an invisible force, to ensure the smooth running of club activities, social events, career development mixers, and a consistently high culture of learning on campus. Along with day-to-day responsibilities to serve their fellow students, each year’s SC has left a unique legacy to further improve the student experience for future generations of CEIBS MBAs. We take a look back at five memorable SC milestones:
Devon Nixon and MBA 2008 SC Open Student Lounge
When President of MBA 2008’s SC Devon Nixon arrived on campus a couple of weeks before starting his MBA, he had the opportunity to chat with the then MBA 2007 SC President “about all things CEIBS” as they watched the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games together. This is how Devon first learned about a five-year-long desire for students to have their own space on campus and somewhere to hang out after class. “In China, nothing is easy but anything is possible,” he says. “This was evident in the demand for a student lounge, but for five years no one could get it off the ground!”
There was a space being used as an unofficial dining room for faculty, housing nothing more than a stack of chairs and an old carpet. With Devon at the helm, the SC took a top down and bottom up approach to win approval from the school. Then they had to overcome the next major challenge: getting funding. “We were encouraged, by the incredibly supportive senior administration at CEIBS, to create a business to make the student lounge sustainable for future generations of MBAs. Luckily we had a great SC team that was able to mobilize resources to get this done,” reflects Devon. “Jeffrey Lin worked with international coffee chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to develop a sales structure that would see a percentage of each coffee sale pumped back into the student lounge to finance future events. Jess Zhang also had a big hand in the creation, bringing in architects and designers to develop a space that both fit in with the campus’ aesthetic and also gave students a place to call their own.”
Still based in Shanghai, Devon takes enormous pleasure in revisiting the student lounge whenever he returns to campus. “We brought it into existence, but it is still here because of the strong leadership of subsequent student committees. In particular, our counterparts from MBA 2017 did a great job renovating the space,” he says.
Denise Pu and MBA 2010 SC Launch Class Yearbook
Denise Pu, who has fond memories of her SC presidency, is convinced that a large part of her team’s success came from their ability to adapt to diverse cultures and foster respect — fast! “The Student Committee was very diverse, which formed the basis for good representation of the student body. In this group of 8 public servants we had two Americans (including one Chinese American), four Chinese (including one who grew up in Italy), one Chinese Dutch and one Korean,” recalls Denise. “The commitment needed to bring together this kind of group required true synergy and trust between the SC and the entire class. That synergy and trust was strengthened with every decision made during our tenure.”
One of the highlights for Denise was establishing a new tradition – publishing the MBA Class Yearbook. “This project not only involved the SC, but it also meant bringing in various student volunteers with photography, graphic design and publishing skills,” she reflects. “It took the entire group to put the yearbook together in one month. We worked around the clock, particularly during times when half of the class was studying abroad. Finally we ended up with a book of memories and a project that has been embraced by subsequent years of MBA students.”
Kyle Baron and MBA 2016 SC Bring Graduate Business Forum to Campus
Kyle Baron approached his presidency of the SC with the motto, ‘Let’s make CEIBS MBA a better programme than the one we inherited’. He recognised, early on, that ‘accountability’ would be a big part of achieving that goal. “We catalogued our accomplishments for the student body on a matrix board that we hung in the student lounge,” Kyle explains.
One highlight of the 2016 batch was its successful bid to host the Graduate Business Forum (GBF) at the school’s Shanghai campus. The forum, established in 1983, brings together current and former student leaders from top global MBA programmes for a series of workshops, networking opportunities and cultural exchange. Hosted by Project Director Alex Kern and his CEIBS MBA 2016 classmates, the five-day conference on ‘The New Normal: China and the World’ started with a treasure hunt in Shanghai and proceeded to give 58 delegates from 31 schools in 15 countries a window into China’s economic rise. The event earned high praise from GBF.
Now the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Hong Kong-based blockchain consultancy BCW, Kyle says his experience as SC president left a lasting impression on his management style. “My belief about MBA programmes is that you gain from them what you put in. So I believe the best decision I made during my MBA was to run for SC president. As I began the MBA, I wanted to develop improved leadership and organizational skills and through the work we did as a team in the SC, I came out of the experience very well prepared for the post-MBA phase of my life,” he said.
Richard Higgs and MBA 2018 SC Launch Student-led Interpreting Service
For Vice President of MBA 2018’s SC Richard Higgs, the purpose of the committee was to create a platform for positive interaction among students within the MBA group. “As an intermediary among all stakeholders, the SC can share ideas, interests and concerns with different groups. In addition, the SC is integral in school-wide initiatives, including areas where students believe the school can improve,” says Richard.
One area that he and his peers flagged for improvement was the inadequate access to Chinese entrepreneurs and executives who only felt comfortable sharing their experiences in Mandarin. Given the frequency of student club events and the busy schedule of CEIBS’ Translation Department, there weren’t always adequate resources available to support every event outside the classroom. “We set up the framework and spoke to numerous stakeholders within the school to eventually establish a student-led real-time interpretation service that enables ALL students at CEIBS to attend events in both English and Mandarin,” explains Richard.
With support from the MBA Office and Career Development Centre, additional facilities have since been upgraded on campus to support real-time interpretation for student-led events. Now about 20 sessions of club activities benefit from this initiative each academic year.
Kyle Lin and MBA 2019 SC Secure Self-service Convenience Store
Picture the scene. It’s late, the canteen is closed and you’ve missed your window to order waimai (takeaway) on your phone. With hours of group work still ahead of you, where do you turn for the fuel needed to give you that last push into the early hours of the morning? The answer — if only there were a self-service convenience store on campus.
This was the challenge facing SC Campus Affairs Director Kyle Lin and his peers. Bringing such a facility to campus required multiple rounds of negotiation both internally among CEIBS departments and externally to find a suitable supplier. “Our promise to the student body was to bring convenience on campus,” reflects Kyle. “But given the size of the school, no vendor wanted to build a supermarket and it was hard to find the perfect location on campus.”
Eventually, with the support of the school’s Logistics Department, the 24-hour unmanned Lohhas convenience store was opened near the school’s Jinke Road entrance in November 2017, giving students, faculty and staff access to refreshments day and night. All they need is a smart phone to scan codes for entry and payment.
With each year bringing something different to the table, it is clear that the undeniable and varied achievements of the SC would not be possible without the support of both the school and the student body. Reflecting on his own tenure, MBA 2008’s Devon says he noticed his very first grey hairs during the first semester of balancing SC responsibilities with a heavy MBA work load. He recommends that future students who are thinking of running for the SC do so for the right reasons. “Do it for the good of your school and your classmates,” says Devon, “and remember that the best thing about a great student committee is that everyone commits.”