GNAM Week in IE Business School Madrid

ian-rafferty-2Its Monday after the GNAM week and the WhatsApp group is still hopping. Jean Luc from Cameroon says how much he enjoyed meeting everyone, Huseyin from Turkey is still receiving compliments on his salsa dancing on Friday night and the Nigerian girls post a photo of their arrival back in Lagos.

GNAM and GNW are two of the first of many confusing acronyms you hear when you join the Smurfit MBA class. GNAM stands for the Global Network of Advanced Management which was launched by Yale School of Management in 2012. It is a network of 29 leading business schools from diverse regions, cultures, countries and economies in different stages of development. Its goal is to drive innovation and create value by enabling students, staff and alumni of member schools to connect and develop institutional and personal relationships.

The Global Network Weeks are a key tool used by GNAM in achieving this goal. The GNW allows students from member schools pursue a week of intensive study at another school in the network. Each school focuses on a current business issue and organises a mixture of class based lectures, expert speakers, company visits and of course some exposure to local culture to visiting students.

This opportunity to engage with the global network arrives early in the Smurfit MBA calendar and so it was that after just six weeks of study I was sitting in IE Business School in Madrid to begin our week studying the topic of “Europe at a crossroads: complications, implications and the way forward.” The relevance of the subject matter was immediately highlighted as our welcome by Associate Dean, Erik Schlie reminded us that in 28 minutes a deadline would expire for Catalonia to clarify to Madrid if they had in fact declared independence or not the previous week. This was history happening, live. It certainly added a frisson to the class discussions to be in the capital of a country in the middle of its biggest turmoil in decades.

Our academic guide through most of the week was Gayle Allard, a native of California who has lived in Madrid for twenty years. With experience working in JP Morgan and The Economist Intelligence Unit, not to mention a PhD in Economics, and a decade teaching MBA students, Professor Allard presented a history of Europe and the economics of the EU in a fascinating way with real life examples at every turn. Our journey moved through the Impossible Triangle of Hyper-Globalisation, to the benefits of migrants for receiving countries to the issues of debt and aging populations in maintaining growth in European economies. The great recession, Brexit, Catalexit, the Euro and the future of our very own border with Northern Ireland were the hot topics of the week. While a much deeper understanding of these issues was gained, we were reminded that while economists cannot predict the future, change will be the new constant.


These serious topics were balanced with visits to the Bernabeu Stadium where a little football team called Real Madrid play their games, a city tour, a study of wineconomics, followed by a practical application in tasting while enjoying some traditional Flamenco music and dance. An Uber ride in a Tesla was another first, which made quite an impact on our travelling group from Dublin.

As we have found in the opening six weeks in Smurfit Business School, so much of the learning while studying an MBA is through discussion with classmates. My week in IE amplified that learning and opened my mind to the international nature of studying an MBA. I discussed Brexit with a Costa Rican studying in Yale, the history of the troubles on this island with a Georgian living in Berlin and talked rugby with a South African enjoying life in Madrid. This was truly a Global Network Week and an experience I will return to whenever an insular mind-set creeps in.

Ian Rafferty, Full-Time MBA 2017-2018