Paul Almeida doesn’t care too much about “titles and stuff.” What does he care about? “I like building new opportunities,” Georgetown McDonough’s new deputy dean of executive education and innovation tells Poets&Quants. “I like searching in new spaces.”
Often, Almeida says, that drive has caused his job title and official responsibilities to lag behind his actions.
It makes sense, then, that Almeida’s employer, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, had to create a position specific to him. And that it would have “innovation” in the title, because his broad responsibility is to do just that — innovate.
“The world is a much more flexible place if you see it that way,” Almeida says. “If you see boundaries and definitions, you sort of fold within those. And if you don’t see boundaries and restrictions, and you see opportunities, you expand in nice ways and people can recognize it and benefit from it.”
BUILDING THE FIRST TRULY GLOBAL EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAM
Almeida’s position was officially created last July by former Dean David Thomas, but Almeida has headed up executive education at the McDonough School since August of 2010, and he got involved in the program as a faculty member long before then. He says it was another former dean, George Daly, who asked him to take the post of chief of the executive programs — and the only way he could convince Almeida was to have him try it out for a year.
“I ended up loving it,” Almeida admits.
Launched in 2009, the Global Executive MBA is the jewel of the suite of executive education options at McDonough, and Almeida was one of the major “minds and bodies” behind the creation of the program. While at least a dozen similar global EMBAs have popped up over the years, Almeida maintains that McDonough’s was the first.
The program originally included faculty from McDonough, Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, and ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Costa Rica’s INCAE Business School has since joined the ranks, providing a direct door to Latin America. About 50 students spend a little over a year traveling the world two weeks at a time to six different regions, including Washington, D.C., Spain, Central America, India, and China.
“We realize part of the challenge of globalization is learning to see the world from other perspectives,” Almeida says. “And, in spite of our best intentions, we are not very good at dealing with people with different sensitivities, different cultural understandings, different ways of operating. Through this program, we wanted to create a series of experiences and interactions so that they’re forced to learn from one another.”
A MEMBER OF GEORGETOWN’S FACULTY FOR MORE THAN TWO DECADES
A former electrical engineer from India, Almeida joined the faculty at McDonough in 1996 after earning a Ph.D. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Raised a Catholic, he attended Jesuit schools, a part of his life that led him to choose Georgetown over other offers.
“That really drives me, to tell you the truth,” he says. “Because I believe in the mission.”
McDonough’s executive education options are robust. In addition to the Global Executive MBA, the school offers a top-ranked EMBA program, an executive master’s in leadership, a master’s in international business and policy, an online master’s in finance, and a smattering of custom degree and non-degree options.
In a robust interview, Almeida speaks at length about his personal philosophies of modern higher education, his plans for innovation, and why McDonough’s former dean had to practically beg him to head up the executive education programs.
Please see the transcribed interview below. It has been edited for length and readability.
You took over this role in 2010, but I’ve read you were already deeply involved in executive education before officially taking the role.
Yeah, I was an unpaid and unloved faculty director and lead liaison for the executive MBA program. But also, I was one of the main minds and bodies behind launching the Global Executive MBA — conceptualizing it, designing it, launching it, with no real staff, by the way. And then, I also was one of the main players in our move towards custom executive education. But, all the time, I barely had an official role.
But I could see people were going to retire later and later and that industry was quite dynamic. That the skills, the insights, the mindsets that people were going to have beyond their early 20s and into their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, was going to be important. I could see one of the areas higher education was going to grow was for this demographic between the ages of 30 and 75. We just can’t know everything we need to know in terms of education for life at the age of 25 or 28. This was an opportunity. And I like building opportunities. I like searching in new spaces. We can define much more of what’s going on.
So, I was already involved before taking the role of senior associate dean in charge of executive education in August of 2010. And then in July of 2016, I was named the deputy dean in charge of executive education and innovation.
Was that a role that already existed or was it created for you?
They created it for me. I was always doing things a little beyond my role. And I don’t care too much about titles and stuff. I just like doing good things and making it happen. So, almost always, my titles and my official responsibilities have trailed my actions. The world is a much more flexible place if you see it that way. If you see boundaries and definitions, you sort of fold within those. And if you don’t see boundaries and restrictions, and you see opportunities, you expand in nice ways and people can recognize it and benefit from it.