The Importance of Experiential Learning in the Education and Development of Responsible Leaders

Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, Business School Lausanne, Lausanne Switzerland
Katrin Muff, Business School Lausanne, Lausanne Switzerland

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In a 2013 organizational outreach research study aimed at advancing our understanding of how we
could work better with our stakeholders and educate future leaders, Business School Lausanne (BSL)
conducted 27 interviews within 25 multinational corporations, international organizations, and
government and non-government organizations located in Switzerland. For this study, we interviewed
CEOs (26%), Senior Executives (18%), Human Resource Directors (26%), and Management Executives
(30%) and asked them their views on internships and experiential learning. They were specifically asked,
“Do you have an internship program in your company?” This article reviews the insights provided by the
above stakeholders and highlights the need and potential for guided internship programs for both
organizations and student interns.

Internships form an integral part of experiential learning and can play an important role in shaping
future managers and leaders. This article looks at the practices of 25 international organizations across
six different industries all located in Switzerland. It evaluates strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in
making internships more relevant and powerful for organizations and students. In particular, it suggests
an experiential learning model that has been tested and implemented in such an international
organization, highlighting the need and opportunity for business schools to frame, accompany and
administer structures that enable both students and organizations to maximize their benefits.