Georgetown McDonough Plans Digital Revolution

Georgetown McDonough Plans Digital Revolution main image

When Paul Almeida was a child he attended Jesuit schools which shaped the leader he is today and how he sees the world. So, it is fitting that he has taken the helm of Georgetown McDonough, one of the US’s strongest business schools in a university that was founded in 1789 by priests and entrepreneurs of the Catholic Church congregation.

The challenge will be balancing those cultural and religious traditions with innovation. One thing the newly-appointed dean hopes to achieve during his tenure is ‘flipping’ the physical classroom online for electives in all the school’s programs, MBA included. Combining the two will be “our foundation for success,” he says.

Paul Almeida Georgetown


Leveraging Georgetown’s natural strengths

He plans to leverage the business school’s natural strengths. McDonough is part of the outstanding Georgetown University, whose academics are leaders in foreign service, medicine, law and public policy. The dean envisions further cross-campus collaboration, giving students a multidisciplinary perspective that is needed to tackle pressing global challenges, from climate change to geopolitical crises.

Located in Washington DC, McDonough is uniquely placed at the intersection of business, policy and diplomacy. Students already collaborate on projects with the World Bank and local embassies on international consulting projects; the dean wants to do more such deals.

Donald Trump not a problem, says dean

A stone’s throw away is the White House, where US president Donald Trump is seemingly having a negative impact on the country’s business schools, by deterring international students from studying there through enacting controversial attempted immigration curbs. Almeida does not think Georgetown will suffer, however, although he admits the school has implemented recruitment initiatives to “alleviate uncertainty”. “We will continue to value and support students from around the world,” he says.

Almeida has been a member of the university for more than two decades, serving as deputy dean for executive education and innovation. Prior to that he was senior associate dean for executive programs. He is also a professor of strategy and international business.

What three goals do you hope to achieve during your time as dean?

First, Georgetown McDonough will be exploring ways to more deeply integrate our Jesuit tradition into our curriculum and organization. This is personally important to me. I attended Jesuit schools as a child, and the lessons I learned from the priests shaped who I am today and how I see the world.

Second, we will further explore cross-campus collaboration in our academic offerings, in our academic research, and in our other programming with Georgetown University, where our colleagues are leaders in foreign service, medicine, law, and public policy. The result will provide our students and faculty with the multidisciplinary perspectives and tools to tackle the most pressing issues of our day.

Finally, we will better leverage our location in Washington DC – a global capital city that exists at the intersection of business, policy, and diplomacy. We are uniquely situated to provide our students with experiences that can only happen here. We have MBA students and faculty who have collaborated with the World Bank on research. We have a new MBA certificate in nonmarket strategy that utilizes the DC policy community as a key part of the learning experience. And, we collaborate with local embassies to prepare our students for their international consulting projects each year. This is a great start, but we can do much more.

How specifically do you plan to leverage the school’s location in Washington, D.C?

Earlier this year, our 'Innovation Initiative' asked a taskforce of faculty and staff to explore how to best integrate our Washington DC location into our programs. They explored the many “only-in-DC” experiences that we can and should be providing to our students. Moving forward, we are going to work with our programs on integrating more of the regional environment into the classroom [by] taking students off campus to participate in the work of our city, and better leveraging ways to connect our thought leaders with research and advising opportunities. We are reviewing the specific recommendations of the task force and will have more details soon.

Do you expect Donald Trump to have a negative impact on international student admissions and career prospects?

We are happy to report that this year’s incoming class was not impacted by the state of US politics. Our yield from countries that typically send the most international students, including India and China, was not affected. We also have not seen any changes in sponsorship by employers because of the political environment.

Our MBA team has done an amazing job in being proactive in outreach to international students, offering webinars jointly from the admissions, program, and careers teams, which alleviates uncertainty. Politics will come and go, but Georgetown has been here since 1789 to educate our students to become principled leaders of the world and for the world. We will continue to value and support students from around the world.

You oversaw the business school’s Innovation Initiative. How does the school plan to expand technology-enhanced learning?

Higher education is facing an inflection point – how we collectively have always done things may not be how we must do them in the future. Technology-enhanced learning is a prime example. We launched our master of science in finance program five years ago, our first largely online program. Through its individualized attention to students and small class sizes, highly interactive technology platform, and rigorous curriculum, we have found a way to integrate online learning with the premium experience one expects from Georgetown. And, we have been successful, with admissions standards that rival top MBA programs and positive career outcomes for students seeking promotions or switching jobs.

Now that we have experience in executing a premium online degree program, we are exploring how to apply that knowledge to our MBA evening program, and to how to ‘flip’ the classroom for electives in all our programs. This spring, we had Innovation Initiative taskforces working on both ideas, and we will now work on implementing their findings.

Will your challenge be balancing innovation with Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit roots?

I often look to the Jesuits for inspiration. If you think about the history of the Society of Jesus, they practiced many of the business principles we teach at Georgetown McDonough today. They were innovative and entrepreneurial in establishing a multinational organization that has lasted for 500 years. So, I believe that innovation and our Jesuit roots work hand in hand. Both will be our foundation for success.

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

Click here to Log in or register to share your views on the article.