Alumnus and host Howard Abner '59 (sixth from left) with UB MBA students and their professor, Art McAdams (fourth from left)

What’s the best strategy for embracing opportunity and facing obstacles in an evolving global marketplace? For University of Bridgeport (UB) business majors, a good place to start is by learning from executives with broad experience.

Thanks to a special invitation from UB alumnus Howard Abner ’59, a group of MBA candidates from the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business was able to hear from an especially experienced corporate leader: IBM CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty. The chief of Big Blue was the featured speaker at the Economic Club of New York, where seven students joined Abner as his guest on November 15.

Rometty spoke about her experiences at the helm of IBM, which has faced 21 consecutive quarters of declining revenues and has had several rounds of layoffs in the U.S. The company has been shifting operations to India, where it currently employs 130,000 people.

Yet, Rometty spoke bullishly about the future of IBM and Watson, IBM’s cognitive intelligence platform (Rometty eschews the term “A.I.” or artificial intelligence).

“It was a great learning experience,” said business school Dean Lloyd Gibson. “As one of the most powerful women in business, Ginni Rometty is an interesting case. She talked about her background, and the vision she has for IBM.”

Nada Abdelghani, who is earning an MBA in Finance, agreed. To prepare for the event, she and fellow students conducted strategic and financial analyses of IBM, then presented their reports to Gibson and their colleagues at the Trefz School. So Abdelghani said she was especially interested to hear Rometty talk about IBM’s finances.

It was not to be.

“She didn’t mention anything about them,” said Abdelghani. “But she was so charismatic and so enthusiastic. Her character made you believe in the company.

“She also said, ‘You have to be comfortable with discomfort,'” Abdelghani continued. “I’ve been thinking about that. It was the most valuable thing I learned from the event; you to have strong character to be a good leader.”

This was the second consecutive year that Abner has invited Trefz School students to an Economic Club luncheon—one in a series of conversations with high-profile leaders held since 1907. (Past speakers include Ronald Reagan, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and economist and past Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker.)

The Ernest C. Trefz School of Business curriculum emphasizes real-world experiences through a variety of programs, from internships to extensive support for student-entrepreneurs to a slew of on- and off-campus business events, such as the Innovators Series.

“The Economic Club lunch fits perfectly with what we’re doing, so we’re grateful that Howard buys tickets so that our students may attend and sit at his table,” said Gibson. “In addition to hearing the invited speaker, they also get to speak with him; Howard has run his own highly successful business and takes a great interest in our students.”

Abner said he was similarly “impressed” by the students. “They came prepared and were engaging in our discussions,” he said.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625,lgeary@bridgeport.edu