In 1727, Benjamin Franklin and 12 friends convened the first Junto dedicated to mutual improvement. Meeting once a week for over forty years, the junto formed the basis of the American Philosophical Society. Befitting The College of William & Mary’s storied roots in American learning, the Global Issues Juntos takes its cue from Benjamin Franklin. Designed to enrich and enhance the Mason School of Business MBA Program, the first-year MBA Cohort at the Mason School of Business began the second year of the Global Issues Juntos on November 27, 2012, concluding February 19, 2013.
The program is designed to increase students’ active participation in their learning process, apply core lessons and methods to contemporary business conditions and events, allowing for a more personalized program, integrating meaningful leadership opportunities and providing a forum for an exchange of ideas. Each junto is comprised of 10 to 12 students and a faculty advisor acting as a resource for each junto. Importantly, the successful junto encourages participants to hold members accountable, while developing and sharing the course content through a detailed weekly blog monitored by the faculty supervisor and an end of program summary presentation for the Mason School of Business community.
Commenting on the appeal of this program, MBA Program Coordinator Julie Hummel remarked that, “the students seem to really appreciate the chance to work in new, small groups that are defined by their mutual interests. Since the juntos are self-directed, they can take them as far as they want to go!”
Topics for juntos are developed by the first year cohort. The 2012-2013 first-year cohort developed eleven exciting juntos examining cutting-edge international issues. The topics included in this year’s juntos are corporate responsibility, energy, health, the fiscal cliff, and China, among others.
MBA Program Coordinator Julie Hummel noted that, “we had over 56 junto suggestions that were narrowed down to 18 topics, and then 10 were chosen.”
Guillermo Sacriste, first year MBA student and point of contact for the Global Economic Systems Junto, described how his interest in the deepening financial crisis served as inspiration for his junto. Sacriste remarked that since 2008 he has “been watching closely as events play out around the world, noticing a pattern” of responses by individuals throughout the world. Based on his observations, Sarciste developed the Global Economic Systems Junto to investigate the “need for a new economics that takes into account current changes in society and future constraints of natural resources.”
Although the juntos are student-designed and directed, each junto is assigned a faculty advisor. Designed and executed by the MBA students for themselves, faculty advisors are resources for the students, not lecturing in front of the class.
Associate Professor Jeanne Wilson describes her role as a faculty advisor thusly: “my major role is support—connecting the group to resources or evidence-based material if they need help.” However, Wilson also acknowledged that her faculty advisor role goes beyond simple support, recognizing her “secondary function as a provocateur—to ask thought provoking questions to help the students think about the topic in different or deeper ways.”
Expanding on the benefits of the Global Issues Juntos module for the Mason School of Business and William & Mary, Professor Wilson affirmed “it is a great experience for self-directed learning. And since it is a collective experience it has other important dimensions like leading and coordinating a group of people without strong external incentives.”
In addition to developing interpersonal leadership skills, The Global Issues Juntos are important because of the increasing demands of global knowledge necessary to successful navigate today’s business environment. According to Wilson, the Global Juntos program is “indispensable for most MBA’s career success, in both for-profit roles and also not-for-profit organizations.”
Sacriste agrees with Professor Wilson’s belief in the benefit of the Global Juntos program. Describing the importance of the module, Sacriste said, “just looking inside the classroom or my own junto group—we have individuals representing China, Taiwan, India, Nigeria, Venezuela and different parts of the United States—you can see the impact globalization is already having on education.”
The success of the Global Issues Juntos module is ultimately measured by the experiences of the first-year MBAs. Not only does the module promote active roles in crafting their own education, but also helps contextualize first-year MBAs’ education and futures as business leaders in a world-minded business environment.
First-year MBA student and Global Junto participant Luke Oberjuerge connects the importance of the Global Issues Juntos and his W&M education, “global education is so important, because so many of us are going to be working in the international sphere. This is especially true of MBAs who will be making far-reaching investment and trade decisions that can dramatically change people’s lives.”
Excitedly, Obejuerge concludes that “the junto is an opportunity for us to explore how our actions affect others and how we can bring about positive change.”