Amba Student Of The Year Award: Finalists show why 'the nerds don't win'

'I'm looking for the chance to start my own business'

Three months ago, like a good MBA student, Alem Muminovic identified his priorities - and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico. The most important thing in his life, he had decided, was to be with his girlfriend Lorena Gutiérrez in her native Guadalajara.

This month, however, Muminovic was back in Europe, and for the best of reasons. He was chosen as the Association of MBAs' Student of the Year, an annual competition run in association with The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. "This is a great honour for me," he told the assembly of students, faculty and business leaders at the association's gala dinner in London. "People will see me as a role model."

The judges certainly hope so. It was a close contest, but in Muminovic they found the best match for their criteria. They were looking for graduates not only with academic excellence but also with a commitment to their business school, who could enhance the value of the MBA in the marketplace and who had contributed to the internationalism of their course - helping others to integrate, for example.

Lucy Hodges, education features editor of The Independent, who presented the awards, put it succinctly: "The nerds don't win."

The other short-listed candidates - Madhav Bellamkonda, Eunice Lim and Simon Wright - are representative of the internationalism of today's MBA.

Bellamkonda, 36, from Bangalore, was a business development director in India before taking an MBA at Strathclyde Graduate School of Business, where he founded a business forum to forge links between local industries and students. It also helped in team-building.

His belief in an individual's capacity for change springs from personal experience. As a Hindu teenager he was running into trouble, but "a dramatic encounter" led him to the Assemblies of God, he says. An ordained pastor and trained counsellor, he has been helping at advice centres for young people in Strathclyde.

Originally from Singapore, Lim is currently on a work placement as an analyst after finishing her MBA in international business at the ENPC School of International Management in Paris. The citation from her college pointed to her "positive and constructive class spirit".

She has worked in three continents and speaks five languages and two Chinese dialects, so she has been good at helping other international students to integrate into the course and adapt to French life. She also created a non-profit association to help poor Asian women with Parisian bureaucracy.

Finally, Wright, 41, is an Englishman who emigrated to Sydney, Australia. Two years ago, after a career in the media and IT sectors, he became national manager of corporate partnerships for the Smith Family, a social enterprise in Australia. He then won a scholarship to take an MBA in corporate social responsibility at Nottingham University Business School.

As MBA social secretary he has organised social activities including an international food festival, sporting and social events and excursions, and the MBA soccer programme. He has also been mentoring the long-term unemployed.

The AMBA audience heard a forthright defence of the MBA against its various critics from Paul Danos, Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, one of America's top schools. Criticism of the degree, he said, has become fashionable.

"A few years ago applications were down and critics said deficiencies in our programmes were the cause. Today, we know that their reports of our demise were grossly exaggerated."

According to Danos, the detractors said the research was irrelevant, that the material was outdated or that the MBA did not teach students to be managers. Some even said they weren't teaching management and lamented the influence of economic theories on management research.

In reply, Danos pointed out that at the top schools, full-time students were in their late twenties or early thirties, with a wealth of management experience already under their collective belts. Critics of research, he suggested, read too many popular books and not enough peer-reviewed papers.

"Business people know that research published in our top journals is very important. Our researchers deal with real data and real businesses, with very practical topics.

"At Tuck, the average student triples his salary and the average international student has a five-fold increase. So to say that there is no value to the MBA is factually wrong. Many of the critics are just making rhetorical points; just being provocative. The MBA is changing people's lives. I don't think the critics understand that."

Reinforcing the point, Jeanette Purcell, AMBA's chief executive, said the association was going from strength to strength. "We now have 120 accredited business schools and demand for accreditation grows from year to year."

Next year, AMBA will mark its 40th birthday with a special gala in Moscow.

Alem Muminovic, 27, AMBA'S Student of the Year, is anything but a nerd. He completed his MBA this year, graduating with honours from the International University of Monaco. Analytically minded and a strategic thinker, he is an experienced entrepreneur in the medical device industry and worked for Össur HF in Iceland and Holland as global product manager until 2005.

At the age of 13, he left his native Bosnia with his family, settling first in Croatia, then in Sweden. Altogether he has lived in eight countries and speaks English, German, Swedish and Bosnian, to which he can now add Spanish, learnt this year.

"With my background it's difficult to know where home is," he says. "If I've slept one night somewhere, I call it home." But he can now see himself settling in his girlfriend's native Mexico.

He chose Monaco for his MBA because he wanted an international career. He knew the ways of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Britain, but not the Latin culture. The MBA, he says, was hard work but also seemed like a vacation in a safe environment.

Now Muminovic is starting a new life in Mexico. He has been exploring his options. "I'm looking for the chance to start my own business, but I also have two job opportunities - teaching at a university or working for a system integration company," he says.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?