For the first time: Students share their journey in business education at the 2021 AUC Business Forum

Roundtable I AUC Forum 2021

In an unprecedented event, this year’s virtual edition of the AUC School of Business Forum started with a session featuring the school’s key stakeholders; students. Ten students from AUC and other universities in Egypt and the world came together to share their reflections on how the pandemic affected their business education journey. They also discussed the current and future challenges they face, some lessons learned, and their business education expectations.

The roundtable discussion titled “The Future Transformation of Business and Management Education: A Student Perspective” was moderated by Randa El-Bedawy, associate professor of management at the AUC School of Business.

Lessons learned

The roundtable started with students sharing lessons they learned and insights from the transformative journeys that they have gone through. The students' reflections varied, covering important aspects of life that they came to realize during the pandemic, from exploring oneself, acknowledging opportunities, diversifying skillset, being empathetic with people to recognize the importance of deep communication, and investing your time wisely. The students' answers showed their different perspectives of the challenges they went through.

Ali Labana, chief executive officer of Entrepreneurs’ Society said: “The biggest learned lesson is acknowledging that we need to adopt a positive attitude of understanding that the current situation is offering us many opportunities.”

Ethar Hegazy, co-founder and chief executive officer of TIME AI platform, said: “I view time as an opportunity to educate yourself with skills relevant to your career, academics or wellbeing, whatever helps you evolve to be the person you want to be.”

Challenged by digitalization

The students also acknowledged that they faced unprecedented challenges that required them to think of new and innovative solutions. The common challenges between most of the students included but were not limited to communication issues, team development, problems with digital infrastructure, and the absence of mentorship.

Heba Abu Ahmed, vice president of the Business Association (BA), stated: “The biggest challenge in the past year was underestimating the importance of mentorship and lack of diversity of thoughts.”

Amina Khedr, project director at Mashrou3 Kheir Club, said: “Developing a team online was challenging because our work depended solely on face-to-face interactions. The situation pushed us out of our comfort zone to reach people in a safer way.”

Graduating in the middle of a global pandemic

Another major challenge faced by many graduating or recently graduated students was landing a job or sustaining one during the current circumstances.

Mohamed Bahaa, academic advisory general manager of AUC Student Union: “The biggest challenge is to find a job during the pandemic, with companies limiting their hiring. Also, being unable to travel abroad for my masters.”

Khaled Essam, Business Administration student, AUC School of Business: “Applying for jobs online is difficult as we are not familiar with the job requirements.”

Business schools need a boost.

After voicing their concerns and challenges, the students had recommendations for business schools to help the students more in the new teaching model. Most students’ recommendations revolved around making better use of online learning tools, providing more career opportunities with an emphasis on the importance of the presence of mentorship.

“I recommend democratizing and socializing mentorship for students, and trying to instill flexibility of course selection,” said Heba Abu Ahmed.

“Mentorship is really, really important. If the university can offer quality internship opportunities for students it would be a great addition beyond academics,” emphasized Ethar Hegazy.

“The best way for students to instill their interest in the content is to have as many guest speakers as possible. Professors should take the advantages that we are learning online to connect more with different guest speakers,” stated Ali Labana.

To fellow students: a word of advice

Lastly, the students wrapped up their insightful discussion by providing advice for other students to make the best of their learning journeys.

“I think that participating in competitions is often an overlooked tool that would allow students to get practical experience online,” highlighted Heba Abu Ahmed.

“Job shadowing opportunities related to the course can help students have a better understanding of the subject,” suggested Mohammed Bahaa

This discussion highlighted the crucial importance of experiential learning for career readiness and the importance of monitoring and analyzing the labor market.

As Professor El-Bedawy concluded the discussion: “We need to inform our students earlier about career opportunities by offering more practical, school-based advising. Lastly, we need to note that the power of online learning will have a lasting impact on education.”

Click here to watch the full session of “The Future Transformation of Business and Management Education: A Student Perspective” roundtable discussion.