Back in early August I remember receiving an email laying out the various choices for the GNAM Week and asking for an response “ASAP”. “GNAM”, I thought to myself – “what’s that?” The MBA course wouldn’t start for another 3 weeks and I was already behind! A cursory glance at the email told me that six weeks after starting the course we would have the opportunity to travel abroad to a different university in the Global Network, meeting MBA students from around the world, and attending lectures on various topics with experts in their fields. I checked the options and found that a course in ‘Behavioural Science in Management’ would be given at Yale University no less – ‘sounds fine’ I thought, ‘I’ll do that’ I thought, ‘that’s ages away yet’ I thought.
After what felt like five minutes, we had completed 6 weeks of lectures at Smurfit, with exams and submission deadlines looming large. At that point, I needed a trip to America like I needed a hole in my head. While I hadn’t done much research into the GNAM experience, it was impossible to ignore the allusions to and mentions of GNAM that came with nearly every interaction with MBA Alumni. It wouldn’t take long to see why they talked of it with such enthusiasm. Along with my classmates: Carla, Chris, Ciara, Ger, Hans, Lydia and Luzi I made my way to Yale – a week of educational hedonism lay ahead of us, an experience we won’t ever forget.
On Monday morning we started early with a lecture from Shane Frederick. If you’ve heard of the “Bat and Ball” question – he wrote it! If you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favour and look it up, it’s a great one to share with your WhatsApp groups! Like all the lecturers we would meet that week, Shane is a leader in his field, highly knowledgeable and widely published. He managed to keep us on the edge of our seats for the full three-hour lecture which seemed to last minutes – delivering the punchlines to his theories with energy and conviction.
On Wednesday we took a day trip to New York, where we met with Roland Betts, the owner of the Chelsea Piers Leisure facility, former Chairman of the Board of Yale University, responsible for financing Disneys The Little Mermaid! He treated us to a tour of his premises and engaged in a candid Q&A. He talked us through his decision to buy the piers back in the 90s, at a time when no-one wanted to visit Chelsea, explaining the difficulties he’d faced in staying afloat, particularly after Hurricane Sandy, all the way up to it becoming one of the most visited places in Manhattan. This was real insight into a real success-story, and we all finished the visit feeling energised.
The highlight of the trip came immediately after the visit to Chelsea Piers. Rather than travel back to Yale with rest of the GNAM cohort, we lucky UCD Students put on our glad rags and headed towards Central Park. Having realised that we would be in New York at the same time, the American Chapter of the UCD Alumni Association invited us to their annual Alumni Dinner. Now, I’m a big fan of the Smurfit Campus Restaurant – those pizzas are delicious – but that evening in New York we truly got to see how the other half live! In the illustrious setting of the Metropolitan Club facing Central Park on Fifth Avenue, we were lucky enough to rub shoulders with Smurfit Alumni, Smurfit Staff, Lecturers and the honoured guests of the evening. The food was incredible and the company even better! We were delighted to have been invited and to see how engaged the global UCD Smurfit Alumni network is.
Lectures continued on Thursday in the same vein as they’d started on Monday and Tuesday, with a highly engaging talk by Prof. Zoe Chance. On Friday the kilter changed slightly – rather than sit, listen and be entertained it was now our job to stand, speak and enlighten… We were divided into groups with students from Insead, ESMT, Sauder, IE, Koc and many other top business schools. Each group had to deliver a presentation about a key take away from the week’s lecture series. While we mightn’t have matched what had come before us, I’d like to think that we made a solid contribution.
We Smurfiteers said goodbye to all of our new friends from around the globe and took an evening train back to Manhattan, enjoying our final GNAM dinner as a group that night. We were exhausted – the week had flashed past us and we’d done our best to keep up. It had been a program full to the brim with opportunities to learn and network, and we’d made the most of it. What had felt at the start of the week like an unwelcome distraction from the impending deadlines had morphed into something truly memorable. The books would re-emerge on the flight home, as reality began to set in. We arrived back in Dublin, more tired than when we left, but we were a little bit wiser, more open-minded and most of all – happy we’d replied to that email marked “ASAP”.
Richard Morris, FTMBA 2018/19