‘Meeting of minds’

Group of EMBA alumni, students take kinship offline

Peter Sturm and Mahmud Khamis were strangers before enrolling in the University of Fredericton’s EMBA program. Now, the pair meet every six to eight weeks, along with a few other students and alumni.

Feb. 29, 2016, was Mahmud’s first day at UFred. He was placed in a group with four other men for one of his classes, which led to the first meet-up event.

“The focus of this group was the demands of the course requirements, but even at this point, personal bonds began to form,” he said.

(l-r) Markus Raves, Mahmud Khamis, Peter Sturm, and Harley Esguerra have formed connections that extend beyond the classroom

As the bonds strengthened and the conversations grew beyond the teachings to social and personal conversations with other members, the group began to grow. By the third class, the original five expanded their circle to include like-minded students from other courses and arranged the off-site get togethers that continue to this day.

The group meets around 6 p.m. on an agreed upon date. The meeting lasts around three hours, says Peter.

“It gets interesting when waitresses say ‘I remember you guys,’ and they know that this will be a meeting of the minds, so to speak,” Peter said.

Peter met Mahmud in a class in which they worked together on a project. It was Spring 2018 when he was invited to join the get togethers.

According to Peter, discussions usually start with everyone providing their thoughts on the course just completed, the professor, and the flow of the course. They share feedback on what worked, how the class progressed, and the takeaways of everyone in the class.

“We discuss the up and coming courses, what to prepare, what are the interesting elements and the specifics of the instructor’s approach, and how to maximize our learning experience,” he said.

Students and alumni take advantage of UFred’s networking opportunities and meet offline every six to eight weeks

No one in the group shares the same occupational field. Their only common tie is the UFred EMBA program. While the group’s members are all in different program streams, the same 10 required courses must be completed by everyone, and there is overlap in the specialty topics.

Two group members – Markus Raves and Mahmud – have completed and received their degrees, while Harley Esguerra, Paul Porteous and Peter are preparing to complete their Capstone in the fall 2019 offering.

Peter says the meetings promote a “network” and sharing approach to their learning.

“Everyone in this group are senior business leaders in operations, procurement, health care, software client services and occupational health and safety.  Diverse backgrounds and occupations sit around the table, and our discussions are around how does strategy, leadership, systems thinking, marketing, etc., fit into our work? And how do we take our learnings to address our daily problems, opportunities and solutions at work?” He added.

Now, Mahmud says the group members lean on each other’s professional expertise and offer advice and solutions.

“For myself, Harley has been instrumental in my son landing a job at his firm, and Peter has taken my older son under his wing, guiding his career. There are also interactions between other group members supporting not only the members but also friends and family,” he said.

Mahmud says the group is open to new members and has some transient members, as well as some who express interest but never show up. However, he says the core group has stabilized and seem to be committed to group meetings, hardly missing an event.

“As more of the students finish the program, the dynamics of the group will change and so will the discussions. But I feel that each of the core members is proud to be part of the group and committed to the other core team members,” he said.

From that fateful Feb. 29 to present day, Mahmud says the group member’s lives, viewpoints, and commitment to improving themselves and those close to them continues.

“This team is one of the ways we use to gain knowledge, get verification of our assumptions and get advice. And do our bit to make sense of our wonderfully changing world,” said Mahmud.