Bill Grace is the author-in-residence for the launch of the Collaborative MBA program sponsored by Bluffton University in Ohio, Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, and Goshen College in Indiana. Grace, author of "Sharing the Rock: Shaping Our Future through Leadership for the Common Good," will be speaking to the first CMBA cohort on Aug. 11-15. (Images courtesy of Bill Grace)

New Collaborative MBA program opens with intellectually provocative author

A one-week residency featuring a nationally-known author-speaker will kick off the new Collaborative Master of Business Administration program started by three Mennonite colleges.

The first cohort of about a dozen students will gather for their start-of-the-semester residency at Bluffton University in Ohio, Aug. 11-15, 2014. They will participate in an orientation to the program and take a class on “Leadership for the Common Good” with George Lehman, PhD, of Bluffton. He is the Howard Reid professor of business, chair of the business studies division and director of graduate programs in business.

Joining the class for one day will be Bill Grace, author of Sharing the Rock: Shaping Our Future through Leadership for the Common Good. Published in 2011, the book sums up 25 years of study on how businesses and other organizations develop leaders.

“We want the residency at the beginning of each semester to be intellectually provocative,” said Jim Smucker, PhD, director of the Collaborative MBA and dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. “We also want to build a strong sense of community.”

Grace’s wife panned his first book draft as too theoretical. “Talk about your personal experiences and tell more stories,” she said. So he did. “The rock” in the title refers to a place near Jerusalem that Grace encountered as a backpacking student from the United States. It is supposedly the spot where Abraham almost sacrificed his son. The rock is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, and they have fought over it for centuries.

Sharing the Rock introduces seven practices focused on advancing the common good through business, politics, government, education, health care and community service organizations. “The book teaches aspiring leaders how to choose their personal values, embrace the wisdom of the margins, craft a vision, create gracious space, claim their voice, receive hope and act with courage,” said Grace.

Grace worked for 15 years in higher education before launching the Center for Ethical Leadership in 1991. Later he founded Common Good Works, which takes him throughout the United States for seminars on leadership development.

The Collaborative MBA offers most of its courses through interactive video conferencing and projects in which students talk with their professors, either via technology or in person. The curriculum is based on the concept of “leadership for the common good,” emphasizing six values – spirituality, community, leading as service, justice, sustainability and global citizenship.

The three sponsoring schools are Bluffton, EMU and Goshen College in Indiana.