“You can’t fake relationships!”

These are the words our guest of honor, Joseph W. Pieri, Senior Director MBA Programs at the University of Pittsburgh, used to describe the graduation and the whole MBA program in Augsburg. As director of the MBA programs his tasks include welcoming our students when they arrive at the University of Pittsburgh and being their contact person during their stay.

How, according to himself, Joe Pieri could understand the speeches

The first time in Augsburg feels very special for Joe Pieri: To him, everything seems to be incredibly authentic and real. He is honored to be part of the graduation ceremony here in Augsburg. This wonderful relation between the two universities has now been existing for almost 20 years and both parties can clearly see the value of it. We asked Joe Pieri what it is like for him to attend the ceremony and to listen to all the speeches even though he probably doesn’t understand most of their comments. “I could not understand what was being said, but I could understand and appreciate the emotions. It is really warm and authentic. And one can see the appreciation from the faculty towards the students. To me it seems very authentic and I am very impressed with the relationships between the faculty and the students.” He tells us that the graduation ceremony is quite different from the one in Pittsburgh. The American MBA program is much bigger, which is one of the reasons why close relationships to MBA students not as common compared to the Augsburg Program. The graduation ceremony at Katz is more formal compared to the one in Augsburg. Therefore, he is amazed to see how our program manager Martin Vogt comes up with a few personal words about each student when he hands out the certificate. In Joe Pieri’s eyes, this is a wonderful gesture transmitting that the team wants MBA students to become aware of their own accomplishments.

A similar form of acknowledgement is given to the students in Pittsburgh, yet another difference is that they are asked to invite someone from the faculty who was instrumental in their success. This is a way of helping people realize how important their effort is for the students.

 

“Life starts at the end of your comfort zone” – student’s life in Pittsburgh

In contrast, Joe Pieri had the opportunity to see how our students reached their goal and successfully finish their MBA. It has almost been a year since he welcomed them at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in Pittsburgh. Today he is very pleased to see everyone again. We ask him if he noticed any changes in the students in the time between their arrival and departure in Pittsburgh. Joe Pieri has a laugh and tells us that in the beginning, they all stayed together in little groups, seeming quite shy and fairly close to one another. But after some time he could observe how new friendships and networks got built and he lavishes praise on the students for adapting that well. Most of the time, he just ran into our students on campus, but nonetheless he noticed how they left their comfort zone and became more confident. An example Joe Pieri gives us is our student Richard Gruner. He had been part of an international student team advising a real company. This was part of a competition between a few teams from the university and in the end, Richard’s team won. During the award ceremony, Richard filled the champagne he was given into the winners’ cup and the whole team drank out of it. This German tradition had been unknown in Pittsburgh and from now on people will keep it in mind. For Joe Pieri, stories like this one show how important the relationship between the two universities is and that everybody can learn something from the other.

 

Joe Pieri’s highlight of the evening

The professor assures that seeing our students again und being part of the graduation ceremony is a pleasure. He says it was great to experience how close relationships between the students, the MBA team and the professors are and to see that families and friends also attended to celebrate. According to Joe Pieri, the latter creates an indescribable feeling of security and pride.

We say thank you to Joe Pieri for this inspiring interview and we would be grateful to welcome him again in Augsburg!