Global alliance commits to welfare of "bewildered and anxious" students

31 March 2020
The Chair of the CEMS Global Alliance in Management Education, Professor Greg Whitwell, says the international network of business schools will do its best to safeguard students and help them to graduate in what he describes as "dark times".

Professor Whitwell made the commitment and praised the leadership shown by Alliance management, in a letter to CEMS students and academics at 33 member schools across five continents, which are accredited to deliver the exclusive CEMS Master’s in International Management program.  

Professor Whitwell, who is also Dean of the University of Sydney Business School, said that while governments have responded to the COVID 19 pandemic on a country-by-country basis, the crisis for CEMS is a global one.

“I think I can safely say that ours is the most complex, connected and sophisticated study program in the world when you take into account the size and cultural diversity of the student cohort, the sheer number of institutions in the alliance and its extraordinary geographical spread,” he said.

Professor Greg Whitwell, Chair of CEMS and Dean of the University of Sydney Business School.

“This situation has meant that the impact on our students has been highly varied. Negotiating these different and ever-changing circumstances has been an enormous challenge.”

“The goal throughout has been to safeguard the welfare of our students and to do our best to allow them to graduate,” Professor Whitwell said.

He went on to describe the pandemic as “a crisis of humanity” which demands “effective leadership and effective communication”.

“In the current world environment of great uncertainty, fear and anxiety can easily emerge and eventually give way to panic,” he said. “Leaders need to be empathetic with an ability to show genuine concern for those who are bewildered, anxious and frightened.”

Despite our shuttered existence, my hope is that a generosity of spirit prevails.
Professor Greg Whitwell

Professor Whitwell also said that leaders needed to “demonstrate some sense of control by being able to say, truthfully, that you have a plan, a map, an idea of what you anticipate to be the most likely outcomes”.

“In addition, you must look to the future and galvanise others around you by driving the notion that we will get through this crisis and that we will, eventually, emerge stronger, more informed, more enlightened, and more resilient than ever.”

“It is my absolute conviction that these leadership traits have been on display across the CEMS alliance,” he said.

Moving to practical issues, Professor Whitwell said that members of the Alliance had started to explore ways of helping each other in concrete terms, “such as by offering a webinar on online teaching and examination practices”.

“I cannot emphasise enough the importance of being supportive of one another.”

“We need to manage this crisis together,” Professor Whitwell concluded. “Despite our shuttered existence, my hope is that a generosity of spirit prevails, that we do not extinguish a sense of warmth, that helpfulness and positivity emerge triumphant.”

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