On the long bus rides between school and his home in rural Canada, Matthew Gibb liked to read books – a pastime that would help shape his desire to see more of the world and support his love of learning.
“I would read and learn about places throughout the world and want to visit them,” says Gibb. “Essentially that’s what I did.”
Both his passion for education and new places helped lead Gibb to his current role as director of global initiatives at HEC Paris.
Gibb received his bachelor’s degree in political science from McGill University in Canada. “But afterwards I really did want to travel and spend enough time in a foreign country to really know it,” he says.
Timing brought a great opportunity to see what he had studied – development of a democracy – in action. The end of apartheid in South Africa marked a turning point for governance in South Africa. Gibb moved to South Africa in 2000 and quickly immersed himself in understanding a country in significant transition.
He completed graduate studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, a city in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa with a population of nearly 70,000. There, he examined the political and economic changes that were unfolding as the country moved forward. He received two master’s degrees in political science and geography and his PhD in geography and local economic development.
His research and consulting projects increasingly focused on economic development and the impact of global forces on the local economy. Those experiences prepared him well for positions in France with the Aga Khan Development Network and as a volunteer for a microfinance institution. The work built on his global interests and took him to new parts of the world.
Those international pursuits proved more than useful when he received a call about an opening to head the HEC EMBA in Russia and Qatar. “It was a great way to return to higher education while still very much involving an international perspective,” he says.
When he arrived at HEC in 2010, he assumed responsibility for EMBAs based in two very different locations – Qatar in the Middle East and Russia. “We brought different cultures together to make it as beneficial as possible.” Along the way, participants broadened their perspectives and knowledge about the impact of culture on business.
“I really love working with executive education,” Gibb says. “In their mid-30s or 40s, they make that decision to return to school and invest in self-improvement. They have so much to share. It’s been a very rewarding experience.”
In 2013, Gibb assumed responsibility for HEC’s entire EMBA portfolio, including programs in France, Qatar, and China – when he became director of HEC Paris EMBA Programs. He managed an international team of professionals based in four locations, led a redesign of the EMBA Program that added new content and increased blended learning, and introduced new career development opportunities for students.
In fact, his belief in the power of executive education led him to enroll as an EMBA student in the HEC Program. He realized he wanted to expand his skills while gaining new perspectives on the program. “It was a great opportunity to step back while learning at the same time. I am able to say to students, I went through what you went through.” He finished his program in 2019.
Gibb’s role has shifted in the past several years, and currently he focuses on developing strategic international projects for HEC Paris. As director of global initiatives within the school’s International Affairs Offices, he works with executive education colleagues and international offices throughout the world on the creation and/or off-shoring of degree and certificate programs for executives abroad – most recently in China and West Africa.
“Growing from my previous experience as the director of the HEC Paris EMBA, I am now heavily involved in alternative degree programs for working professionals that follow a similar structure and learning objective for senior individuals undertaking an EMBA, but this time in more functional themes such as business unit management, finance, or creation industries,” he says.
The programs do share much common ground, with participants who want to reflect on what they have accomplished in their careers, undertake high-level executive training courses, network with like-minded global colleagues, and ultimately improve their job prospects, often with an entrepreneurial outlook.
“My continued involvement with the Executive MBA Council (EMBAC) now provides a voice for these programs on an international level where best practice sharing and global dialogue have shaped our industry.”
The pandemic has drastically changed the pursuit of international collaboration.
“As somebody who had previously spent a significant time abroad working on global partnerships and off-campus programs, the recent COVID crisis has radically transformed my typical workday,” says Gibb. “Like most people, I have not set foot in an airport for more than a year, and I have spent most of this year working from home.”
To keep partnerships strong and projects moving, Gibb schedules online meetings at various times and in different time zones. With faculty travel restricted as well, the school is tapping hybrid learning scenarios.
“We have developed a system where participants gather at our facilities abroad – allowing a certain level of networking among peers if the health situation permits it – and live-online teaching with our professors providing content from our campus or their homes. Although we are getting better at this form of program delivery, I look forward to getting back on the ground in the hopefully not-too-distant future.”
As the pandemic eases and when budgets allow, Gibb plans to hit the road once again and continue the school’s work to expand educational opportunities for working professionals in their home countries.
“I also look forward to interacting with my colleagues from EMBAC so that we can once again drive initiatives for all our international stakeholders.”
Gibb’s former boss introduced him to EMBAC. “I really fell in love with this body,” says Gibb. “I remember doing the EMBA Toolkit with some great people, and they were all willing to share. We were really trying to learn from each other. Those qualities link so well with my passion for learning and sharing.”
Gibb attended several conferences, served on the conference planning committee for the 2016 conference in New Orleans, and also helped organize a regional meeting. When a member asked if he would consider a board position, he didn’t hesitate. He was elected to the EMBAC Board of Trustees in 2017 and promptly co-chaired the 2018 conference in Madrid, Spain. He is the currently the EMBAC treasurer, sits on the standing membership committee and ad hoc subcommittees including the Inclusion and Diversity Committee, and is involved in the Working Professionals Task Force.
“I thought if I could give back to the council, I would love it. For me, it’s a great opportunity to meet and share with others.”
Gibb also shared the following insights:
- My hobbies include: “Long-distance running and gardening.”
- My favorite city is: “Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. It is such a dynamic place where everybody is an entrepreneur, and the start-up mentality is always present. The scenery is beautiful, the food is fantastic, the people are friendly. I would love to spend more time in this region.”
- I'm most proud of: “Contributing to the global reach of HEC Paris and building such beneficial partnerships for international programming. I am also very proud of completing my own executive degree and learning from this experience.”
- I'm passionate about: “Geraniums. I like their vibrant colors.”
- My next project is: “Developing an online program for working professional with a consortium of global partners.”
- You may not know that: “I am a bee whisperer. It runs in my family. My grandfather had a large apple orchard with beehives, and I would help with the bees.”
- When I think about the Executive MBA Council, I think: Caring, sharing, passion for learning, passion for sharing.”