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February 15, 2014

An Interview with IMD's Lisa Piguet on Changes to Curriculum & Application Essays

This post is an interview with IMD's Lisa Piguet, Associate Director MBA Admissions and Marketing. You can find my previous interview with Lisa here.  In addition, she was kind enough to give me a tour of the IMD campus in 2012.  Please see IMD MBA Admissions Essays for January 2015 Admission (R2-R5) for my full analysis of IMD MBA application.

In this post, Lisa and I first discuss the changes to the MBA curriculum introduced for the Class of 2014, which are specifically designed to enhance the job opportunities for students by "making IMD MBA's a product."  We then discuss the MBA admissions essays that will be used for Rounds 2-5 (April 1, June 1, August 1 and September 1) for the Class of 2015.

This interview was conducted by phone on 2/7 and subsequently revised by both Lisa and me prior to posting.

ADAM: Could you explain the changes that have been made to the curriculum for the Class of 2014?

LISA:  IMD has always been known for leadership, which runs throughout the program. While the program is still roughly the same, our new MBA Program Director, Professor Ralf Boscheck, has conceptualized the program as built on three pillars:

Technical competence: Students will take Business Fundamentals, which runs for the first six months and is a return to the way the program was structured prior to the Class of 2012.  Our MBA Program Director, Professor Ralf Boscheck, wants the students to be as prepared as possible for the projects that occur in the second half of the year.

Self-Awareness:  Throughout the program, from the first day to last day, building leadership through personal development is critical. To that end, 95% of students take an elective, which includes 20 sessions with a licensed psychoanalyst to maximize their self-awareness and leadership development throughout the program.

Moral Values: By setting up situations in the program, mostly electives at the end of the program, MBAs can focus on morals and different values orientations.

Building on these pillars, Professor Boscheck, a longstanding and popular member of the faculty, has altered the overall structure of the program to give our students enhanced opportunities to gain exposure to potential employers.

ADAM: Both in terms of students' experience during the program and in terms of post-MBA outcomes, what kind of impact does IMD expect from these changes?

LISA:  We anticipate the students will be better prepared for ICP and the other projects by taking all the courses up front and therefore better exposed to key international job markets.  The objective is that our MBAs have an even better network. We want to make the IMD MBA a product that will be even more attractive to future employers.

The following changes should especially give students an opportunity to demonstrate their competence and enhance their visibility to future employers:
- Our Discovery Trip this year will be to three key thriving markets for employment and consist of a mini-internship with different companies including consulting firms. Our 90 students will be divided into three groups, going to Singapore, Sao Paulo, or New York City.
- A completely new addition to the curriculum is the opportunity for our students to not just attend, but actively participate at our major executive training program, Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP), which is held on-campus in June.  Our MBAs will present and teach executives enrolled in the program. The objective is to more actively expose students to executives in order to showcase them and give students additional networking and enhanced job opportunities.
-They will also participate in an executive conference to be held on the IMD Lausanne campus in November called "Navigating the Future". They will be asked to present and showcase themselves an additional time.

ADAM: Does IMD plan further changes to the curriculum for 2015?

LISA: No, not for now. Ralf will continue to build on the changes he has implemented in 2014.

ADAM: Regarding the changes to the application essay questions, what is the overall intention of changing them so extensively?

LISA: We wanted greater concision in our essay set. Due to our interview process we can ask much more intensively and extensively about the applicant's background.  What we want from the essays is to know who the person really is.  The essays should bring us closer to understanding the applicant.

ADAM: Should this be interpreted as a change in what IMD is looking for from applicants?

LISA: No, the same basic criteria apply.

ADAM: Do the changes in questions relate to other changes to the MBA program?

LISA: No, we just really wanted to revise our essay set.

ADAM: Regarding Essay Question 2, which I frankly love because it really requires a genuine response, it strikes me that beyond any considerations about an applicant's ability to respond to total failure (A possible way of responding to the question), IMD is really asking about the resilience of the applicant.  Would you care to comment on my opinion?

LISA: What we are testing is resilience, coping skills, attitude and self-awareness.

The extent of the failure need not be catastrophic.  Above all, it has to be honest.

We want to know how the applicant overcame the situation.  What did they do about it?   How did they think about it?  How did they respond to it?

ADAM: Regarding Question 3, I was struck by the fact that IMD was now asking applicants to consider themselves in the long-term.  The long-term has long been absent from IMD's written application process, though certainly common at most MBA programs.  Care to comment?

LISA: What we are looking for is how you project yourself into the future.  I would suggest considering the following when writing this:

-What mark do you want to leave on the planet?

-What would you tell your children/grand kids?

-What kind of person would you like to be?

-What kind of accomplishments would you like to make in the future?

- What do you want out of your life?

-Where are you going?

While surely focused on long-term vision, it is an achievement question in a way because it is testing drive, passion, and possibly altruism.

I want to thank Lisa for taking the time to answer my questions. 

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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