Today we celebrated the first "LIO Touchdown and Takeoff Event", an event during which we welcome the new cohort of LIO, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster master students and say goodbye to the old one. This first event was special for several reasons.
First of all, the LIO master's programme, whose curriculum entered into force just one year ago in July 2019, can be called a highly innovative experiment because of its radically new course format: a full master's program that can be studied in one year thanks to its cohort principle, strict selection processes and tightly integrated teaching approach. To date, no comparable program exits in Austria. Despite this radically new format - and we know from innovation research that radical novelty is often penalized by the market - we have been able to select a highly motivated and diverse first cohort of 18 students that started studying with their first pre-term courses in July 2019. Several of these students have by now already handed in their master's thesis, thus proving that it is possible to complete a full master's program in two semesters in addition to a summer school. This format was chosen to react to an increasing number of part-time students at JKU's Business School: students that already have a part-time or even full-time job and want to complete a university degree on the side. As an alternative to evening or weekend classes or distance learning approaches that are usually chosen to accommodate these needs, we developed a format that allows young professionals to take a leave of absence for one year, studying intensively during this year and thereby being able to have a full student experience, because we believe that peer-based and experiential learning, on campus and along with other students, is a crucial part of the educational experience a university can offer. The LIO master's program is, of course, not only open to professionals, but to all ambitious students - from around the world and from different disciplinary backgrounds - that want to learn about leadership and entrepreneurship, about building innovative and change-oriented organizations, and about managing creative teams in a digital economy.
Second, this first LIO year was also special because of the coronavirus crisis. We suddenly had to shift all our teaching online in March 2020, which in this master's program which relies to a large part on interactive, experience and discussion-based learning in the classroom was a particular challenge. We have used digital teaching options to the full, created new course formats such as the award-winning "Organizing in Times of Crisis, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster" course or a virtual "entrepreneurial challenge" in which students had to creatively increase a seed money budget of 10€ (no cheating or illegal activity allowed!) and narrate their entrepreneurial story in a Youtube video. Despite these exciting opportunities, the crisis was tough for all of us - students had to spend many hours in front of the screen, some had to balance care duties with their studies, one had to go home - but we still have been able to guide the group towards the finishing line.
Third, despite Covid we have been able to recruit an amazing new cohort of 15 LIO students. Some students, unfortunately, had to cancel their participation on short notice due to uncertainties regarding travel and being in a foreign country in a global pandemic. The two cohorts were introduced to each other during our Touchdown and Takeoff Event, which also took place in virtual form. Still, the students could get to know each other in small breakout rooms discussions - and they can continue building their network virtually or in person, for instance in our LIO LinkedIn Alumni Club. The event was accompanied by speeches from the Program Director Prof.in Elke Schüßler, the CEO of Netural, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster Albert Ortig, one of LIO's practice partners, and two outgoing LIO students who reflected on their learning experience.
Some student messages were: "The biggest impact during my LIO year had my colleagues: working with 18 people with such a versatile academic and professional background helped me not only to gain new viewpoints but constantly challenge myself", or "Leading an organization means much more than striving for performance and regularly checking and responding to key figures. It also means participating in a social ecosystem and continuously rethinking one‘s view of this ecosystem”. It seems that despite Covid, our first cohort of LIO students got the most out of the program. We wish them all the best!