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Case Study : Excelia Business School 

What happens when a top-ranked traditional Business University puts humanity at the core of its curriculum? In the spring of 2022 we were approached by Excelia business School in La Rochelle, France, to help them to create a new inclusive, innovative and impactful human centred experience for the students.


Context : About Excelia Business School 

Excelia has 5,000 students on campus and 40,000 graduates in 150 countries. Excelia is consistently recognised in national and international rankings (top 95 of the best European Business Schools, The Financial Times with 15 places gained in 3 years). 


In a context of post-health crisis, societal, social and economic crisis, Excelia Business School wished to commit to a pioneering experience centred on the Human. Excelia's Master Grande Ecole program expressed its intention to organise an inspiring, impactful, innovative and inclusive  induction week for their 250 new master students.It would focus on a bold, unique and personalised experience. With this in mind, Arlette Marechal, Director of the Learner Experience and Caroline Director of the Master Grande Ecole and MSc / Excelia Business School, asked Asei-Salehi  to design an educational offer.



Amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic where physical distancing and remote education have become necessary,  higher education students are experiencing more anxiety, stress, anger, fear and depressive symptoms (Torales, O’Higgins, CastaldelliMaia, & Ventriglio, 2020). 

“These students do not know each other, they come from all over the world with very diverse profiles. These young people are invariably driven by these  concerns : will I succeed in integrating? Will I thrive in this new environment? Could I bring my dreams to life? Will I find my way? Etc. " - Arlette Marechal


Online learning has had an impact on student life, and therefore on the overall experience. During this period, it has been more difficult for students to socialise and connect with like-minded people through virtual classes. -

Today, students have been struggling to prepare for their future since spring 2020, and reported a drop in learning critical skills like "preparing for my future career", "working well in a team" and “expanding my comfort zone”.

Therefore social connection and spaces for dialogue & reflection are more important than ever..


Designing the Learning Experience.


It was important for us to perfectly understand the exact nature of the challenges faced by the school. So the first month consisted of a series of interviews and on-site observations with different members of the school community (students, admin, teachers… etc..)  In this Immersion phase, we really wanted to understand the school’s human ecosystem to better  address the design challenges. 

We observed how people behaved and interacted. We talked to people about what they do, ask questions and reflect on what is seen. Our goal was to develop empathy and insight into the school`s challenges. 


Once we gained understanding and were able to empathise, the next step was to define what the needs of the students and the learning ecosystem were. Being aware of their need allowed us to explore and develop new perspectives for the challenge of designing a new human experience that would have a positive impact. The following definition came out : 


“The Master-U Week is  aimed at helping students understand the richness of their stories in order to better write their common history. It is also an opportunity to celebrate oneself and the other. It offers participants an invitation to cultivate self-confidence, recognition and a spirit of wonder.”



At this stage it was time to create and brainstorm. We organised a brainstorming session with the first facilitating experts who were Barara Asei-Dantoni,  Safiyeh Salehi Mobarakeh & Steven Asei-Dantoni Nkoué. The purpose of this brainstorming was for each one of us to design experience around the definition based on the respective areas of expertise.


Test & Prototype

We agree with the school leadership to first test the concept. This happened in the form of the #MyHeroCV workshop which would be facilitated by Steven during the reception of eligible candidates during the admission period (12 days). The workshop was part of an iterative process that provided us with feedback. It allowed us to learn what works and what does not work, then repeat. 

















The findings of the prototype week lead us to design an unique week around the pillars and principles of our respective areas of expertise:

  • Identity empowerment

  • Ubuntu philosophy

  • Corporate anthropology

  • Feminine leadership

  • Ancestral wisdom

  • Origin storytelling

  • Value-based leadership


Why ? Purpose?

This MASTER U WEEK is the affirmation in action of the responsible values, humanism, audacity, sharing and commitment of the school. Each workshop aims to improve self-leadership, team spirit, development, individual and collective well-being of participants.



  • Inspiring

    • It is an invitation to cultivate self-confidence, recognition and the spirit of wonder.

    • It is an African “village” of cooperation, interdependence, trust and pride in humanity, in each other.

  • Innovative

    • It is an invitation to see the larger perspective, to decide to explore the big picture of what is happening in our life and/or in the world around us.

  • Inclusive

    • It is an invitation to celebrate our diversity, our singularities and the values that we represent as human beings. It is the discovery of “We” through the “I”.

  • Impactful

    • It is an invitation to discovery, individual and collective transformation

  • This experience gives participants the opportunity to develop:

    • Solid foundations to start / continue the year on good personal and collective bases

    • Getting up and moving dynamically

    • Take stock of their lives, professional hopes and goals

    • Explore their motivations and aspirations

    • Find their comrades and renew social ties

    • Understand the richness of their stories in order to better write their common history.

    • Celebrate yourself and celebrate each other. Improve group cohesion


  • Through this experience participants:

    • Are able to live an inspiring, impactful, innovative and inclusive experience centred on the Human

    • Leave with a strong, unique and incomparable memory


Learning outcomes

This experience enables candidates to:

  • Put forward in a positive way their singularities, their stories, their cultures and intrinsic motivations

  • Improve their knowledge and listening to others while linking deep connections

  • Leave having cultivated their self-confidence, their recognition, their spirit of wonder as well as their “self-leadership”

  • Positively highlight their uniqueness, their stories, their cultures and intrinsic motivations

““For our annual induction week for the new cohort of 250 master students, we aspired to introduce a new experience for the students. An experience that would allow the new students to connect on a human level, setting them up for a successful master track at Excelia Business School. We asked ASEI-SALEHI to design the week, the schedule, and compose the team of experts. The result of the design was the Master-U week; an unprecedented experience combining human innovation, identity empowerment,ubuntu philosophy, corporate anthropology, feminine leadership, ancestral wisdom, origin storytelling and value-based leadership. A week of comprehensive workshops, lectures and activities led to students connecting on a deep human level, barriers were broken down and space for vulnerability and true personal connection was created. As a program director, the process and the outcome of the approach by Safiyeh & Steven have been instrumental in the student wellbeing and student experience. The team of experts brought a unique set of skills and perspectives, resonating with the students on a multitude of levels. The collaboration with ASEI-SALEHI has been incredibly rewarding and I would recommend their services to any school or organisation who wishes to create a culture where all members feel a true sense of belonging and are set up for success, both on a personal and professional/academic level. “”

Caroline Hermet,Director of the Master Grande Ecole and MSc / Excelia Business School

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