The Pfeiffer University Graduate School and its business programs hosted a global conference from September 11-16 for 49 European executives, all of whom are current and former students of the BMI Executive Institute.
Since Charlotte currently rivals New York as the financial capital of the United States, BMI wanted its students to experience Charlotte’s economic ecosystem. Pfeiffer’s Business Programs provided this education, offering them everything from workshops to tours of Charlotte-area businesses.
“The Graduate School of Business here at Pfeiffer showed students this ecosystem through our eyes,” said Dr. Susan Luck, Program Director of the Pfeiffer Graduate School of Business. “We wanted them to understand the unique people and cultures that make up businesses in the Greater Charlotte area.”
BMI, which primarily serves students based in the European Union, is headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania, with a satellite campus in Brussels, Belgium. It is one of the leading providers of Executive MBA programs in Europe; their students are all upper-level or C-suite executives.
Dr. Christopher Boe, dean of the Pfeiffer Graduate School, said Charlotte had become a city offering examples of “transformative development” in banking, sports management, international business and philanthropy.
“Pfeiffer’s partners in all of these sectors helped welcome BMI Executive Institute students to the Queen City and provided experiences to augment the learning they did in their EMBA program,” it said. -he declares.
Roger L. Dick, a Pfeiffer director who serves as president and CEO of Uwharrie Capital Corporation, reinforced another conference intent in his keynote address, which he delivered Sept. 11 at the Speedway Club in Charlotte. . This was to explore “virtuous capitalism” – the notion that business “cannot be just about money and profit; it has to be about people and about meeting the needs of the public.
To that end, Pfeiffer engaged Gretchen Carson of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance to speak about the region’s growth and its many constituents.
Liz Babson, a Pfeiffer MBA graduate and assistant city manager of Charlotte, described how Queen City’s transportation decisions differed from those in Europe.
For example, cycle paths to combat climate change are much more often a priority in Europe; in Charlotte, on the other hand, the development of sidewalks and traffic lights is a priority for citizens whose only access to grocery stores is on foot.
A panel helped BMI students understand the role of corporate philanthropy in the Charlotte area. Guests were Jerri Haigler, head of philanthropy at the Charlotte Rescue Mission; Denise G. Cubbedge, CEO of Ronald McDonald Houses of Greater Charlotte; and Autumn Keck, owner of Scribe LLC, which provides grant-writing services to nonprofit organizations.
Pfeiffer professors have led workshops on topics such as business agility (luck) and global leadership (Dr. Jimmy Atkins, associate professor of organizational development at Pfeiffer).
To understand why business works the way it does in Charlotte, Pfeiffer wanted BMI students to be immersed in the Greater Charlotte community. Thus, the conference provided students with numerous company tours, giving them what Boe called “an opportunity to compare their business practices and standards to those of organizations in the United States.”
Boe said the tours showcase companies that are “both doing great work and good for the communities they’re in.” These included Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co., Grant Thornton, Fifth Third Bank, TIAA and SCOR in Charlotte; the BMW GROUP plant in Spartanburg (SC); and Culp Lumber Co. in Stanly County.
Atkins led BMI students on a visit to TIAA. During their time with the company, they met with senior leaders and TIAA executives to discuss how the company is advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in their business. This included learning about TIAA’s early talent program, which seeks to attract diverse talent from underrepresented groups by partnering with HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
Stephanie Hinrichs, a 2005 Pfeiffer MBA graduate, organized the Grant Thornton site visit, which took place at Grant Thornton’s new offices in Charlotte’s Upper South End. With views of Bank of America Stadium and most of downtown, this office space uses a hotel-like approach, designed for a post-pandemic hybrid work experience.
Mike Burgess, Grant Thornton’s managing director of the Charlotte office, spoke to students about the changing needs of business in a post-pandemic world.
Sharon Whittle, Grant Thornton’s Vice President for Human Capital, highlighted the need for strong business skills among recent college graduates in almost any field; even those in health care and nursing, she said, need a solid education in accounting and finance. This statement was reinforced by Grant Thornton, General Counsel for Transportation and Supply Chain, Hayden Little, who said that while the number of accounting majors has declined significantly over the past 10 years, their need is more than quadruple.
Charlotte Pipe and Foundry’s cast division was a favorite site for BMI students, as they were able to don hard hats and orange vests and experience what working in the factory was like. Charlotte Pipe’s senior vice president, Mike Hall, walked them through all phases of production, giving them insight into working practices in the United States.
The visit to Culp Lumber also made quite a favorable impression on the BMI students. Culp’s culture of multiple generations working for the company was something that many Europeans noted was not happening in their country. They were also very impressed with the company’s technology. A BMI student, who works in the European timber industry, said he had been to the best factories in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, but Culp Lumber had the best machines and the best efficiency he has ever seen.
Nicole Baird, Pfeiffer graduate in 2003 and SCOR’s Vice President of Human Resources, and Natasha Ashe-Suber, Pfeiffer Board Member and Vice President, Head of Global Marketing, Life and Health at SCOR, hosted the SCOR visit to the conference.
JC Brueckner, CEO and President – Americas of SCOR Global Life, spoke about his evolution as a servant-leader, and SCOR leaders gave students an overview of the reinsurance industry. SCOR, headquartered in Paris, France, offers its clients a diverse and innovative range of reinsurance and insurance solutions and services to control and manage risk.
SCOR leaders revealed how they are applying current knowledge about leadership teams to improve morale. For example, Al Mele, SVP, Global Agile Coach at SCOR, presented Amy Edmondson’s work on the importance of feeling “psychologically safe” at work.
Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, suggests that individuals who feel free to share a dissenting opinion, or even share a personal challenge they encounter in other areas of their lives, should be more productive team members to work with. For her, “psychological safety” is the number one predictor of a productive team.
Pfeiffer’s President, Dr. Scott Bullard, visited SCOR with the BMI students. He described the experience as a great opportunity for students, many of whom work at big companies while completing their MBAs.
“I am personally grateful to SCOR’s leadership and all of the speakers for taking the time to be transparent, to discuss with us how they have grown individually and as a team, and to give us concrete examples of the practices of the best flight teams,” he said.
Luck said hosting global conferences has a lot of value for Pfeiffer.
“They help establish our MBA program as the one of choice in Charlotte’s international business community,” she said.