MBA Students to Serve as Crisis Consultants to Greek and Rhode Island Businesses

U.S. Department of Education grant funds unique new learning abroad opportunity in Greece for 2023 and 2024 MBA cohorts.

By Jill Rodrigues '05
Gabelli School of Business building

ATHENS, GREECE – For months following the 2008 global economic crisis, Greece made international headlines about its financial meltdown. One of the worst affected countries, how did businesses in Greece navigate that crisis and what did they learn about how to better respond not only to the next emergency but also to the global pandemic facing the world today?  

Through a new international experiential learning opportunity, two cohorts of Master of Business Administration students will participate in a nine-day program over the next two academic years, acting as consultants exploring crisis management and business strategies developed across a variety of industries in Greece. RWU’s Mario J. Gabelli School of Business has partnered with the American College of Greece (ACG) to develop the program, a connection facilitated by President Ioannis Miaoulis, a native of Greece. The program won a federal competition of the U.S. Department of Education, providing $184,094 (50 percent of the total project cost, with a matching amount provided from non-federal sources) from its Business and International Education Program. This funding will support the MBA student cohorts in spring of 2023 and 2024 to travel to Greece during their programs.  

“A particularly exciting dimension of the project is the study of how organizations successfully respond to crises such as the world economic challenges of 2008 or the Covid pandemic,” says Susan McTiernan, Dean of the Gabelli School of Business and Principal Investigator/Director for the project. “This reflects the proactive stance of GSB to enable our students to engage in important learning outside of the classroom that is highly relevant to organizational success worldwide."

With its focus on crisis management – strategies to manage a crisis and pivot during unexpected challenges – the MBA students will connect online with Greek business owners and then meet in person to evaluate their responses to the 2008 and Covid crises. RWU students will then offer recommendations on what did and did not work well. During their nine days in Athens, they will also participate in lectures on crisis management led by faculty from ACG’s Alba Graduate Business School.     

“This program will be diving into the nuances of crisis management, an issue that isn’t covered enough in mainstream business but is becoming increasingly urgent for organizations to understand and prepare for,” says Jason Oliver, director of RWU’s MBA program. “This is the kind of opportunity that will demonstrate the uniqueness of our students’ education and the fact that they gained real-world experience working with actual clients on an issue that impacts every industry.”  

According to an IBM Institute for Business Value survey of executives in 20 countries and across 22 industries, conducted April through August 2020, more companies now prioritize crisis management as critically important to their businesses than they did two years ago. The Institute reported in “Covid-19 and the Future of Business”: “Adaptability is now a mandatory business competency, and an accelerated pace of change has become normal.” 

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for RWU’s MBA students to work in a real-world consultancy role and hearing firsthand how different Greek organizations have guided their businesses through crises. And, after returning from their international experience, in a distinctive engaged-learning component for both students and local communities, the MBA students will be sharing the lessons learned from Greece in a crisis management symposium for business owners back in Rhode Island.