Lauder Student Profile: Michal Benedykcinski, ’19

Michal Benedykcinski, ’19 is a student in the joint Wharton MBA and Lauder MA programs. At Lauder, he is a member of the Global Program of Concentration. Michal shares a bit about his experience in the Lauder program so far.

What are some key reasons you chose the Lauder joint degree program vs. Wharton-only?

One of the key attractions of the Lauder joint degree program for me was the promise of expanding my horizons and immersing myself in the truly global melting pot. We are just over seventy students hailing from over 20 countries and speaking multiple languages. As a native Pole, speaking Russian, German and working in London finance for over six years I thought I was already accustomed to a cosmopolitan environment. Little did I know that joining the Institute I would discover a portal to the worlds unknown. Every time I come to class, it feels like going on a little adventure whether it’s learning about Buddhism from a former monk or debating the future of the Middle East with a former US ambassador. I always wanted more out of my MBA experience and couldn’t think of a program that could complement my business education better while helping me develop my global mindset further.

What are some highlights of your Lauder experience so far?

My Lauder highlight reel has been full of adventures (big and small) that I have been fortunate to be a part of since starting last May. From the small group expeditions like biking in the lush Vietnamese countryside to hiking and fishing around Lake George while admiring New England Fall at its best. Most recently, together with my wife we, participated in annual Culture Quest challenge which took us from Trinidad, through Suriname to Guyana, Lauder tradition where students “race” in smaller teams across a new part of the world completing a range of challenges. Some of the most memorable lessons came from sharing the journey with my classmates, and I believe the strong bonds we formed are a testament to our family-like culture. I am already looking forward to our upcoming Lauder Intercultural Venture (LIV) this spring in Madagascar where we will learn about everyday challenges of sustainable development while protecting fragile ecosystems. In just one semester I visited over a dozen countries and made countless memories, but for me, it hasn’t been as much about the destinations as it was about excellent companions!

What was your summer immersion like? Where did you go and how was your time spent?

Participating in a Global track summer immersion can feel a bit like being a character in Jules Verne novel “Around the world in 80 days”. Perhaps we don’t spend as much time on steamships or balloons, but in eight weeks we cover eight countries. This past summer we have spent time in  Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Accra, and London. Our summer is full of company and government visits, workshops and interdisciplinary classes which cover a broad spectrum of topics from the global models of entrepreneurship, the role of government in promoting sustainable business to the implementation of emerging technologies. Being able to study these issues in a comparative setting and against the cultural backdrop is priceless. Learning from founders about their entrepreneurial journey of building exceptional businesses but also failing and doing it again became a source of inspiration to try and chart my entrepreneurial course.

Can you describe your typical day as Wharton/Lauder student?

I would typically start around 7 am making coffee for my wife. My class and club activities schedule is hectic, so it’s essential to find some quality time together. This semester most of my Wharton classes meet in the morning with Lauder lectures and global track classes in the afternoon. If you came out of a professional services background the volume of school work would not be very different to what you would typically encounter at work. The main difference, however, is what might feel like a day at school can sometimes pack regular work week equivalent of content. From classes in the morning, lunch and learn talks organized by a variety of campus clubs, to afternoon workshops and sports activities. If you’re working on a venture or dance production, you will have working and practice sessions in the evening. Bottom line, it’s impossible to do it all, and very quickly you realize what makes you tick, and there is plenty of ways to get involved. The beauty of being part of an incredibly supportive Lauder family is that even if you can’t be in two places at the same time chances are someone is and will always share.

What advice would you give to someone considering the Lauder program?

Visit the campus and spend some time in the Lauder lounge. The program wouldn’t be what it is today without the family bonds and unique culture formed by the students. I would recommend getting to know them even briefly over a coffee and good conversation. The ease at which I was able to connect with the students as a prospective candidate was a litmus test of whether I would enjoy their company over the next two years. And if you can’t travel to campus make sure you reach out to us as you will be surprised how eager we are to speak to our experiences and spread the Lauder gospel.

Anything else you would like to add?

The Lauder Institute wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the support of its devoted alumni and Lauder family. I had an opportunity to meet many of them and am continuously impressed with their drive to evolve the programming and provide new opportunities for the current students. I came to school with a goal to work on my venture and found a tremendous amount of support and mentorship at the Lauder Institute and beyond. As a recent recipient of the Jacobson Global Venture Award I will have an opportunity to take my company beyond the proof of concept and hopefully, one day pay it forward by supporting this initiative to promote student entrepreneurship.