<p>This week marks the beginning of the IE Brown Executive MBA program, which aims to develop informed, globally minded, and innovative leaders.</p>

Pioneers. Innovators. Protagonists.

Leaders of Brown University and Spain’s IE Business School used those words to describe the members of the IE Brown Executive MBA program’s inaugural class during an opening convocation ceremony on Sunday. The event marked the start of the joint program, which combines IE Business School’s strength in management education and Brown University’s excellence in the humanities, social, biological, and physical sciences.

“There’s no program like this,” Dean of IE Business School Santiago Iñiguez told the group. “We are starting something that doesn’t exist in the rest of the business education industry. You are going to be the protagonists in something that marks history, both in our institutions and in management education.”

The cohort of 24 students is now spending two weeks at Brown for their first of five face-to-face learning encounters. Their initial classes, taught by Brown faculty, include “Psychology for Managers,” “Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership,” and “Health, Ethics, and Society.” Throughout the 15-month program, the face-to-face modules will alternate between Brown and IE’s Madrid campus, with the remainder of the learning conducted online. Graduates will hold a degree from IE Business School.

The inaugural class includes 24 students who represent 12 different industries and more than a dozen nationalities. The average participant is 36 years old with 14 years of work experience. Fifty-five percent hold senior management positions; 45 percent are middle managers. The participants work in a variety of industries including banking, construction, cosmetics, education, finance, insurance, legal services, pharmaceuticals, real estate, recruitment, technology, and tourism. Forty percent of the students are women, representing one of the highest percentages among all executive MBA programs. They are currently living Spain, Peru, Holland, Slovenia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

In the convocation’s keynote address, Craig Cogut, 1975 Brown graduate, University trustee, and founder and co-managing partner of Pegasus Capital Advisors, emphasized how the best business leaders are truly multidisciplinary.

“We’re living at a time of intense global change and upheaval, which presents great opportunity and also requires innovation and entrepreneurship for the well being of our global society,” said Cogut. “The advantage of studying liberal arts is the ability to speak and understand different languages, and I don’t just I just don’t mean English, Spanish, or Mandarin. Music, art, and literature are also languages that help you know the world. They teach you to listen, to hear, to see, to be flexible and creative, and most importantly, to learn from one another.”

In addition to Cogut’s address, Sunday’s convocation ceremony was a mix of welcomes and warnings. Brown and IE faculty welcomed the class to Brown, where students are consistently ranked among the “happiest” in the country, and welcomed the class “to hell,” warning students of the academic rigor involved with such an intense curriculum. Most students smiled at the cautionary words, pleased and anxious to get to work.

“While this is an occasion to be excited and thrilled, I also feel that it’s a big responsibility we carry to make sure that the program is successful not only in terms of implementation, but impact,” said Suleman Tejani, an Atlanta-based consultant. “The world will be watching us in 10, 20, or 30 years down the road to see what we — the graduates of IE and Brown — have accomplished and done to make this world a better place.”