• What makes September remarkable

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    ROCKY LEE

    The month of September is always remarkable in the Philippines. As Filipinos and settled expats alike well know, this first “Ber” month kicks off the Christmas season with a level of holiday spirit and cheer unequalled elsewhere.

    Here at the Asian Institute of Management, September is time for another new beginning. Each year, we welcome a new batch of Master in Business Administration students.

    Our newest MBA cubs (as we fondly call them) recently started their formal coursework; which means that, for the next 16 months, they have committed themselves full-time to reading, writing, studying, learning, discussing, arguing, eating, sleeping, breathing, and experiencing all things business-related.

    Along the way, they will be asked—by faculty, classmates, loved ones and, perhaps, most infuriatingly of all, by their inner selves—to dig deep and overcome all the obstacles in their path to becoming a full-fledged graduate of AIM’s globally recognized MBA program.

    The short-term result? Getting matched with more desirable, higher paying jobs, of course. In the long term, they get a firsthand understanding of the AIM ethos; three words by which we hope to define the millennial mindset: Lead. Inspire. Transform.

    Does this all sound as interesting to you as it does me? Perhaps, I’m a little biased having recently become School Head for the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business at AIM.

    Also, it helps to meet the new students in person rather than simply reading about them. Their energy, ambition, and sense of mission are palpable once they are within eyesight ― or earshot!

    Don’t just take my word for it. You are welcome to visit the AIM campus any time.

    Remembering What Makes Us Special
    Aside from it being the start of the international school year, I think of September as a time for remembering; an activity usually reserved for school year endings, not beginnings. It is the time when I like to take a step back and remember my organization’s purpose and mission as a leading academic institute in this country and the region.

    Our incoming, full-time MBA students represent the hopes, promises, plans, and expectations of the next generation. With thousands of new MBA programs having sprung up across the world in recent years, it’s easy to understand why more and more news headlines provocatively postulate that there’s nothing special about the dime-a-dozen MBA degree.

    But what if that MBA program is in a foreign country that is the 10th fastest growing economy in the world according to the World Bank, while being ranked 52 out of 80 nations in the “most forward-looking” category according to US News and The Wharton School?

    Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective for insiders to realize what they have.

    So while I’m always delighted to get to know our entire incoming class, I’m especially excited to meet the students who, until coming to AIM, had never before stepped onto one of this nation’s beautiful 7,600-plus islands.

    From my brief conversations with the new international students (both full-time and part-time exchange) starting classes with us this week, I am reminded as well of the three things that make our school special.

    First is the reach and loyalty of our alumni base. Whether domestic or abroad, online or offline, celebrating their first or golden anniversary next year with us, they clearly have the ear of the millennials who are joining us.

    Second is the generosity of our giving partners. These special individuals and organizations share our vision for nation-building (for the Philippines as well as for other nations), and they show it through their funding of student scholarships. Our millennial newcomers are experiencing firsthand the honor and joy of paying it forward!

    Third is the exposure to the wide cultural diversity of Asia, which is at home in an English-speaking Philippines. There are also all the other kinds of diversity showcased in the country, such as bio, eco, culinary, adventure, and so on.

    Above all else, what I find most remarkable is that our current batch of international students can think and appreciate what the Philippines has to offer in many ways ― despite the uncertainties that ostensibly define the Philippines at this restless moment in history.

    It amazes and gladdens the heart when I see how our international millennials value the opportunity of coming to Manila at what is probably the most critical springboard juncture of their personal lives and professional careers.

    Would it not amaze you too that perception does not have to define reality for the “me me me” (as dubbed by Time) generation? It gives me renewed hope (even more than usual!) and inspiration as I work to do my small part in nation-building and leader-building.

    It is indeed a remarkable September in the Philippines and at the Asian Institute of Management!

    Rocky Lee heads the Washington SyCip Graduate School of Business at the Asian Institute of Management. A finance and strategic innovation expert, he earned his PhD and MBA from The Wharton School, and received an AB with honors from Harvard. His market experience spans Australia, Canada, France, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela. E-mail RLeeMT@AIM.edu for more information or visit AIM.edu.

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