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Reflecting on the First Leadership Residency in the OMBA: Three Takeaways from a Transformative Experience


By Marissa Bialecki, OMBA ’22

I can’t tell you the exact moment, class discussion, or conversation I first recognized that the Leadership Residency for the Michigan Ross Online MBA program had been a transformative experience. What I can tell you though, is that after three days on campus, I returned home with more than 50 new friends, a Crisis Challenge under my belt, and a slew of positive practices and powerful tools that I will use for the rest of my career to shape myself into a better leader and a better person.

When I sat down to write about the residency, these were the three takeaways that stood out most in my mind:

Bonding with Classmates and Creating Community

Through our synchronous sessions and Slack, we had gotten to know each other a bit before arriving in Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, the first day of the residency felt a little like the first day of school. I was excited, but slightly jittery, hopeful, but unsure of what the next few days would hold. However, the second we saw one another in the lobby of Ross, smiles broke out, hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and there was somehow an instantaneous sense of trust among our group. In addition to meeting our classmates face-to-face, we also had the opportunity to meet the incredible professors and staff who bring our courses and the entire Online MBA program to life. It was so much fun to discuss how we’ve applied what we’ve learned in class to our jobs and to discuss what has surprised us most about the online format. Because of all these rich conversations and authentic connections, I left Ann Arbor feeling like I was now truly part of the Michigan Ross community.

Experiencing the Benefits of Action-Based Learning Firsthand

One of the things that initially drew me to Ross was the emphasis on action-based learning. And boy do you learn through action during the Leadership Crisis Challenge! Over the course of 24 hours, you’re thrown into a very realistic, somewhat stressful situation and it’s up to you and your team to figure out the best way to guide this fictitious company through the choppy waters of a crisis. Getting hands-on experience with creating a strategy and deliverables on deadline, presenting to a board of directors, and even handling a mock press conference as my team took the stage as one of three finalists is something I’ll never forget. The LCC is a prime example of how you’ll learn by doing at Ross.

Discovering the Power of Positive Organizations

Lastly, the Leadership Residency showed me the power of positive organizations and why these practices are not only the right thing to do for your employees and customers, but also why they yield better business outcomes. Learning about my character and impact strengths, as well as my leadership strengths using the Michigan Model of Leadership, provided such incredibly rich insights on who I am and how I can continue to grow. Through the Leadership Residency and both Sanger Leadership Center and the Center for Positive Organizations, I’ve now seen firsthand how Michigan is helping create the next generation of caring, humble, and wise leaders who will transform business for the better.