May 15, 2017 MBA grad earns prestigious international fellowship

Dadrien Barnes

Dadrien Barnes had a lot to look forward to leading up to commencement. His two years of hard work were recently rewarded with an MBA from Fisher College of Business and he’s about to begin a promising career. But in between those two life-changing events Barnes earned a unique opportunity: studying leadership and ethics in Europe as part of a two-week fellowship that will take him to Germany and the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Barnes is the first Fisher student selected to participate in the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE), an innovative program for graduate students and early-career professionals in the fields of business, journalism, law, medicine and seminary that allows them to explore professional ethics through the historical context of Nazi Germany. 

The FASPE Business program offers an approach to ethics and professionalism that differs from the usual classroom experience by providing a holistic curriculum that looks beyond the specifics of formal rules to focus on ethical problems faced by individual leaders in the contemporary corporate setting. Daily seminars are led by specialized faculty who engage Fellows in discussions and critical thinking about both the historical and the contemporary. The business program is strengthened by the diverse perspectives of its participants and the power of place and context.

“By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the Fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships,” said David Goldman, FASPE’s founder and chairman.

Learn more about the FASPE program

The fellowship appealed to Barnes because of the opportunity to take a deeper dive into professional ethics, and the chance to travel to Europe for the first time. As a future business leader, Barnes views character as an important driver of leadership. 

“Ethical leadership is about your morals, your character and what you actually do in the situations when times get tough,” Barnes said. “The FASPE business program really gets at professional ethics and why it’s important as a leader.”

With Fisher’s emphasis on principled leadership, Barnes sees the FASPE program as a tangible experience that will serve as a capstone to his studies in the full-time MBA program. As one of only 12 business students chosen as participants in the 2017 fellowship, he’ll be among peers from other top business schools, including Duke, Harvard, MIT, University of Pennsylvania and Yale. 

Barnes and family

At Fisher, Barnes has been involved with the Black MBA Association, most recently leading the group as its president, and with Fisher Board Fellows, serving as vice president, during the 2016-2017 academic year. The opportunity to network throughout the fellowship and to get to know his peers appealed to Barnes, who’s looking forward to the conversations he anticipates having with his program cohorts. Barnes believes that one of his leadership strengths is his approachability and the ease with which he makes others feel comfortable, which he anticipates will help him quickly make connections with other Fellows. 

“When you think about leadership, you want someone who’s approachable and not afraid to laugh at themselves or who doesn’t take themselves too seriously,” Barnes said. “Approachability is integral to who I am.” 

Prior to the phone call informing him of his selection for the fellowship, Barnes became concerned. The day when he had expected to learn if he’d been selected had passed with what he thought was no correspondence from the FASPE organization. 

“The next day came and I was at work, when my phone rang,” Barnes said. “The caller was from FASPE and wanted to see if I’d received the email with the offer to join the program. I was a nervous wreck the half-week leading up to that moment, because I really wanted it.

“I thought I didn’t get the offer because the email had gone to my spam folder. Words can’t describe how I excited I was after that phone call. I’m pretty sure I called probably all of my friends. The moral of the story is, check your spam folder.” 

Although the trip to Germany and Poland will be Barnes’ first opportunity see Europe, it won’t be his first time traveling abroad. That opportunity occurred during his experience with Fisher’s Global Applied Projects (GAP), an experiential learning program that provides MBA students international consulting experience. Barnes’ travels during summer 2016 led him to Tanzania, an experience that he credits with pushing him out of his comfort zone and teaching him a lot about himself. Ultimately, the GAP experience influenced his decision to apply for FASPE. 

“I’ve tried to adopt a ‘shoot-for-the-moon’ perspective,” Barnes said. “The worst they can say is no, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. At least you’re a little bit closer to the moon than when you started.”   

A proud native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the middle of three children, Barnes earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee. After the fellowship, he will move to Michigan to join Ford Motor Co., where he’ll begin a three-year assignment as part of a team launching a new human resources delivery model. 

“Interacting with people from different cultures and trying to understand different ways of conducting business can make you a better business professional,” Barnes said. “Not only that, I think the experience can also make you a better person all around.”