February 15, 2021

You know the old adage. And 2020 delivered a lot of lemons.

For 17 years, the Harvard Business School (HBS) Alumni Club of Charlotte had run a 13-week Management Development Program (MDP) in Charlotte, for Charlotte area mid-level executives. The program offers the chance to study business strategy, ethics, finance, and marketing with a roster of some of the most prominent CEOs, Presidents, and Managing Partners in the Charlotte area. Anne Mayfield, President of Mayfield Consulting and Chairman/President of the Charlotte HBS Alumni Club for 20+ years, founded the program with the overarching objective of donating surplus tuition monies to local non-profits.




Year 18 – 2020 – was to follow the successful programs of previous years. Mayfield and HBS volunteers would mine the HBS Alumni Club membership and other Charlotte Execs to recruit students and to find companies that would sponsor an employee to attend the MDP. A list of 3000 interested parties had been developed over the years for sending targeted emails, but still, much volunteer time and persistence is required. And, of course, targeted public relations would be necessary to help spread the word both before and after the program.

Then, COVID. 

At first, as the COVID-19 pandemic set in, recruiting for the fall 2020 MDP class continued locally as usual. Everyone knew that non-profits would need the additional funds more than ever.

Eventually, the HBS Alumni Club made the decision to go virtual. There would be learning with HBS case study methods, but not the valuable in-person networking for students — with each other or the high-level instructors. Some feared the possible death of the popular program. Mayfield and other Club officers saw the opportunity.

Shifting to a virtual format meant that students and experts outside of Charlotte could participate for the first time ever. A global perspective would only make the MDP stronger. The Mayfield team and the other HBS volunteers were challenged to add students.

The result? In 2020, six of the 28 MDP students joined from India, Scotland, Singapore, and France. Networking occurred easily and strong bonds were formed between students and instructors. Steve Hindman, HBS MDP Chairperson, enthused, “We absolutely plan to build on the international presence in the MDP. The business and cultural perspectives of these students enrich the case discussions. And I am amazed by the energy and enthusiasm that they brought to the table, regardless of the hour of night in their location.”

Remarkably, the support of local non-profits, that long-standing tenant of the HBS MDP, set a record. The HBS Alumni Club of Charlotte – from the tuition of the MDP Class of 2020 – was able to give $89,000 to 17 Charlotte area non-profits in February of this year. This brought the program’s 18-year total donations to nearly $1 million. That’s a lot of lemonade!