Written by Danner Doud-Martin and David Richardson

Participants of the LEPE Conference
LEPE Conference participants

Recently Danner Doud-Martin had the privilege of representing the IBD program and Berkeley Haas at the annual Leaders of Experiential Project-Based Education (LEPE) conference, hosted this year by the MIT Sloan School of Management.  The LEPE conference, held virtually for the second year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, is an opportunity to connect and converse with colleagues from peer universities who operate experiential and action based learning courses and programs.  This year the LEPE conference planners and MIT Sloan put together an inspiring group of speakers and presentations, some of which we have highlighted below in  takeaways from the conference:

Learning during a global pandemic

As the world shut down due to COVID-19, the Berkeley Haas IBD program, as well as our peer universities, rethought how to teach an international action based course without the in-person hands-on work that previous students experienced in pre-pandemic years.  Faculty and staff built virtual spaces for IBD student teams to form relationships with their colleagues and clients.  Many university programs utilized technology as well to create an interactive classroom space.  Like IBD, some programs used online learning platforms to encourage student conversations around cultural awareness.  Other programs leaned heavily on virtual team building activities such as cultural cooking demonstrations and guest presentations to spotlight the cultural aspects of global host organizations and settings.

The value of emotional maturity

A number of the LEPE conference presenters talked about the power of emotion and emotional maturity as important learning goals.  Conference participants discussed how emotional maturity serves as an essential skill for tomorrow’s business leaders.  Some at the conference reported that during these challenging times they made more concerted efforts to connect with students, talking about emotion as it relates to the pandemic as well as to issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  For more thoughts from LEPE members about the role of emotion in the delivery of project based learning, check out the December 2020 BizEd article, “Experiential Learning in a COVID World.”

What is the future of student travel?

The shifting state of student travel during the global pandemic was on the minds of all LEPE conference participants.  How can students obtain on-the-ground experience safely with their project clients, either internationally or domestically?  In answering this question, some experiential learning programs turned to focus on domestic only projects, while other programs worked more closely with their campus risk departments to plan for and manage select international travel.  Some programs remained entirely virtual, capitalizing on their recent remote project delivery successes; others decided to plan for student travel, but to shorten the in-person and on-the-ground project time in order to mitigate risks.


While there is no crystal ball for any of us, the overall sentiment expressed at the LEPE conference was that experiential/action based learning is the future of higher education.  In addition, an expression that was overheard several times during the conference was, “learning must be faster than the rate of change.”

With that in mind…as faculty and staff of experiential learning courses and programs, we can strive to take up the same skills that we teach our students.  Here in the IBD program, we can work through the ambiguity and uncertainty of planning future student travel for our long running project based course.  We can certainly remind ourselves to embrace emotion as an essential quality of effective business leaders.  And we can continue to collaborate with our peers at other universities and programs, because together we make us all stronger.

We are grateful to MIT Sloan and the participants at the LEPE 2021 Conference for sharing this past year’s challenges, learnings and successes.  All of us in IBD look forward to meeting our peer universities again in 2022 at the next LEPE Conference.


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