What’s this?

Good question my fellows from UBB-EE…well, from my perspective it’s payback time!  I mean making  public, here,  the fact that Andy and Tibi and roughly said the whole Board of UBB-EE decided by  vote during our business meeting on a Friday morning that I  and nobody else, would be the one to express a few thoughts in this blog, UBB-EE side. Not very democratic, indeed!

Well, beyond cooling my ego by having the previous words written down, I find myself  right now in a sort of  deadlock: what could I write and be relevant to the EMBA students of our UBB-HUBS programme or any stakeholder that supposedly are reading this blog? After all I am a Professor of Macroeconomics, not exactly the favourite topic of this class, so I hear…but I was involved for so many years in the higher educational area  that maybe a bit of personal history could be food for thought within the  overall story of this not  only academic endeavour.

Most of you are probably too young to remember how blessed seemed to be the early 1990s for the Romanian society.  Not only because we were  witnessing  of  new dawn for the country, region  and Europe  after almost half a century of communism, but also because of the complete new perspectives for professions like mine – that of economist. Since I always wanted an academic career, I joined the university staff and, guess what, I got my first scholarship abroad, which happened to be a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, USA. There, I  was lucky again to be able to join the team  of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) a place where one could really do formal, but also informal, training as an economist, taxpayer, entrepreneur,  etc.

We were two students coming from “the new Europe”, me and another fellow, Lubos Res from Czechoslovakia, still one country at the time. As Fulbright research scholars we were free to choose more or less what to accomplish during our year in the US. No wonder,  I took the typical academic track, basically re-living my student days and “grasping” capitalism in a 100%   theoretical  way, mostly spending all my time in the 6 million books library.  Lubos, much more aware of how things worked in the real world, was struggling to get enrolled in an MBA programme, which he ultimately succeeded. And to make short a long  story, because that peculiar MBA was split in two groups, which were patterned to compete one against the other, I was invited to join the other group, firstly as an observer, just for the sake of having in mirror another “brand new capitalist” aboard, lately as a full graduate student.

This was evidently my first encounter with such a different  educational approach at a time when I was not even sure what the acronym MBA really meant. Keep in mind that during those days we did not have a master system in place over here. So, Goddess Fortune opened for me a window of opportunity, out of  which I squeezed  quite  a lot in relatively short time: we were learning how the business worked,  also  by doing it effectively, interacting with businesspeople, visiting companies, quarrelling among us, having fun together (which in a crowd  of US students translates by lots of pizza and even more beer!) so one and so forth. Me and Lubos were offered the chance of a free ride through the first year and provided the fact we perform decently, generous scholarships for the second.

Guess what we did? Well, my Czech pal did whatever it took, and I must say it took a lot of effort to complete in two years his MBA and consequently he would be today a successful business consultant, self-employed, located  in Prague. I occasionally chat online with him and share opinions on various issues.  I dropped the programme, not without some regrets, after one semester  and returned to my beloved study of Economics, Macroeconomics and International Economics. I felt this is the right thing to do at the time and all my background pushed me towards this outcome. Now, you probably already guessed there is a sort of moral blueprint here, a lesson to be learned from such a story, and I am trying to balance really well my words in the following lines, to avoid at all costs being pathetic.

Since the early 1990s, lucky as I am, I had the opportunity to move in various environments, in different cultures, in academic and non-academic milieus, and gradually became wiser and why not, I will say it anyway, smarter.  I taught at various levels and interacted with people doing all sorts of jobs for a living, I researched several business domains, briefly I acquired relevant experience along the years. So,   I gradually realized how limitative and bluntly said stupid I acted when turning down the chance to be part of an educational framework representing the nexus of instruction for the business life, namely an MBA programme.  I still regret it occasionally, ever since.

So, changing angles, no wonder that from the early 2000s I became one of the champions of adopting an MBA programme in UBB. Of course, aware of the limitations of the Romanian higher education legislation, and not only that, I could not foresee anything but an internationally established programme which could become a domestic, adapted and UBB branded,  only in a couple of  years, and after absorbing knowledge, skills, procedures, whatever makes a genuine, full  internationally accredited  MBA. At this point, along with several colleagues we started scouting for enthusiastic suitable partners,   partners who would acknowledge our dedication to move towards such a target and meanwhile to find in UBB a competitive place for more comprehensive academic cooperation.

To be honest, we struggled quite a lot but nothing became ripe until we managed to team up with relevant entities of the local business environment, and to convince them we could provide a solid, professionally sound  and dynamic vehicle for an experience that would be an important asset  for the whole business community of Cluj and gradually the region, country and even beyond. Then came the scouting of experienced international MBA providers, followed by really tough negotiations, because such an approach is anything but  a simple business: it is mainly about sharing the same view on business education and business practice but also about human and societal ethical values and ideals. The rest is history.

Whoever is reading these lines must know that just as this history of the UBB-HUBS EMBA programme was presented here exclusively in my personal coordinates, I could also easily recollect those of several people I know that contributed to a larger extent than myself to this project. Nowadays other personal dimensions would and should shape and influence the foreseeable future of this challenging project.  Make sure you are a part of this future!

Prof Mircea Maniu, Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca

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