Posted by: Louis Lavelle on September 19, 2011
On Sept. 20, a group of women will set off on an adventure that may be one of the most unique for a business school course: a seven-day trek to the summit of one of the tallest mountains in the world.
The 15 women from 11 countries will attempt to reach the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of a unique course at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management designed to address the challenges faced by women when climbing the corporate ladder.
The group is being led by Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to climb Everest and the world’s seven highest summits. The group hopes to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in the early hours of Sept. 27, and the climbers will be blogging about their experience before and after the climb.
In a Sept. 16 blog post, one of the participants, Kaoru Mikami, a full-time MBA student at RSM from Japan, wrote that the climb “is symbolic of the huge climb to empowerment of all aspiring women in the world.” Others were more focused on the physical challenge of the climb. “Some people think that climbing Kilimanjaro is no big deal,” wrote Helen Yu, a student from China. “I do not think it will be a picnic.”
The course was initiated in 2010 by Dianne Bevelander, associate dean of MBA programs at RSM. "By climbing one of the highest mountains in the world this leadership elective will help the participants break through their own perceptions of their limitations, be it physical or psychological, to realize they do not have a glass ceiling," she says.
While the Kilimanjaro trip is certainly unusual, RSM isn't the only business school to make use of physical ordeals to teach leadership lessons. Wharton, for example, offers MBAs experiential learning opportunities that include ice climbing in the Adirondacks, mountaineering in Alaska, and treks to Antarctica and Mount Everest. One trip offers students a chance to summit Cotopaxi, a 19,347-foot mountain in Ecuador that is one of the highest peaks in the Western Hemisphere.