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[Alumni Spotlight] Two GEMBA Alumni Share Their GEMBA Journeys on That's Shanghai

March 2015

USC-SJTU Global Executive MBA Program

Two alumni share their GEMBA journeys

By Zoey Zha from That's Shanghai Magazine
The Global Executive MBA in Shanghai (GEMBA) is a part-time program offered by the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which aims to nurture global leaders.
Embracing candidates from multi-cultural backgrounds, the GEMBA program features classrooms both within and outside of China. Sessions are held every 6 weeks over a period of 20 months, and the program features two USC EMBA faculty leading every module. The program includes all of the content found in a traditional EMBA - only it’s more engaging. 
Gianpietro Belotti (Italian)
What motivated you to join GEMBA?
After several years of studying and working in Europe and a good numbers of years in Asia, I was missing what I considered to be the most effective and pragmatic approach to study: the case study.
This program is interesting and successful. It was originally designed and delivered in the States, and the structure condenses interconnected topics into modules, which particularly attracted my attention. 
What do you think of GEMBA’s curriculum?
GEMBA is designed to give a comprehensive overview of core management topics and prepare holistic executives. The faculty and classes allowed everyone to become incredible “divers” able to explore any particular point of interest in detail.
I loved our trip to India. I experienced an exotic safari adventure where the trophy was not an elephant tusk, but a free flow of alternative perspectives, new horizons and a lot of constructive fun.
What do you think of the atmosphere in GEMBA classrooms?  
Almost every student in the program has a unique passion or hobby. They become icons of the perfect EMBA candidates: humble, down-to-earth, always sharing successes and being supportive during the hard times. Most importantly, they were all believers in the principles of real friendship. 
How did you like the overseas sessions? 
There was great enthusiasm and comradery among students and faculty. We had ultramodern facilities and supplies, which helped on the wearying nights of intense study groups. There was some stress over exams or quizzes, but also plenty of excursions and, of course, parties and clubs. It was a truly complete learning experience. I still miss the deep sense of community, which I discovered is difficult to replicate after leaving this program.
Susie Kuhn (American)
What motivated you to join GEMBA?
USC’s Marshall School of Business is a world-class school with incredible connections and alumni groups across Asia. Access to the school’s network, tenured professors and curriculum were major factors in my decision. I also found the course schedule and flow to be the most flexible and logical of all the programs. The themes were scheduled every six weeks into 5-day intensive and theme-oriented programs. It allowed me to manage my academic workload but keep my career a priority, and keep the rigorous travel requirements of my job in focus.
Which session did you like most?
My favorite course was definitely corporate strategy. Dr. Bhambri is an expert in his field and used a variety of frameworks that I still use regularly as I develop strategies to support growth in my company. He had a way of compartmentalizing issues and breaking down questions in order to develop sound and defendable strategies.
How did you like the overseas sessions?
The export trip was definitely a highlight. GEMBA IX went to Bangkok and Jakarta. While I had been to both cities many times for work, this was a totally different experience. The trip USC built allowed incredible access to businessmen, politicians and well-known figures in each country. Having the chance to interact and question these impressive groups of people gave us a much better understanding of the history and culture of business in each place. 
How has this program impacted your career?
I think the program had an instant impact on my career and has been transformative for me as a leader. Though swamped during the program, that level of work and stress propelled me to get smarter about how I led my team and my personal efficiency on the job. It helped me get better at prioritizing what truly needs to get done, and gave me an entirely new set of tools and vocabulary that I’ve used consistently to connect with and influence senior leaders in my company. Since graduation, I have been promoted and my company moved me to our global headquarters in the US. 
What’s your suggestion to future candidates of this program?
Find your balance between career, school and friends/family as early into the program as possible. Take the time to get to know your classmates and be open to the new styles and ideas they all have to offer. And definitely get to know the faculty. I had some fantastic conversations and still maintain good relationships with a few of the professors. Overall, just be consistent and thoughtful with your time!