The grand challenges

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I’m a strong believer that a good, life-altering education is much more than just university prestige. Academic ranking is important, and Manchester is working to be among the best of them, however, just as important are the opportunities that exist outside of impressive publications and the best IQs.

I’ve already talked about the wonderful people I’ve met in Manchester, the amazing diversity in my program, and the helpful career centre at the University. Relationships you form at university can prove just as important to your academic and career success as the institution you attend. Thus far, Manchester has offered me a wonderful education with intellectual-building resources along with chances to grow outside the classroom.

Two things that often comes up in our International Business and Management program are what we call “Big Questions” and “Grand Challenges.” Since international business is such a broad topic, it can be easy for researchers and students to wander to the edges of what international business really is. There needs to be something that directs us back and helps us stay on track. Striving to answer one big question or solve one grand challenge is that something that often keeps us in line.

Over the years this question or challenge has been challenged and changed from time to time. I suspect this is true for whatever course you are pursuing or thinking of pursuing. Over time we discover that the question is no longer relevant, needs updating, or has been sufficiently answered. The point is, we tend to work toward one or two problems until someone or some organisation starts to think a bit outside the box, and realises this challenge isn’t grand enough or this question isn’t the one that we should be striving to answer.

I encourage you to think bigger and to think outside the box. One thing I love about the professors in my program is the flexibility they give us as students. They often tell us that there isn’t one right answer, that if we have the arguments and the logic to back up our writing, we can write about anything. This has been invaluable to me, and something that I haven’t heard much of in my education before coming to Manchester.

The truth is, no grand challenge has been solved by trying to stay within the lines and guess what a professor or a senior manager wants from us. It is important to build a collection of tools that are effective, efficient, or even standard, but after that you don’t need to build a townhouse that looks just like the one next to it. Why do that when you can build the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Sphinx, or the Temple of Kukulcan?

Manchester is a hub for diverse thought and creativity. I recently bought a small notebook that I take with me wherever I go and write down problems I see potential solutions and other general ideas. I’m amazed at all the things I see and hear; I highly recommend it. People here have so many different ways of thinking of things and if you don’t speak with them you may never get the inspiration you need to solve your own grand challenges.

So, go explore, question, ask, ponder, and think outside the box. This university and city is a wonderful place to do it, and before you know it, you’ll be building your own wonder of the world.

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Jacob Roberts

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