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Thirty years of Executive MBA experience
Putting their heads together

From local to global

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James Fyffe '76
Leland C. Pillsbury '82
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Thirty years of Executive MBA experience: A world of difference

Through strategic partnerships and a visionary curriculum, the Kellogg School's top-ranked Executive MBA Program offers an integrated global leadership experience

By Rebecca Lindell

Welcome to the global classroom.

It's a Friday morning in Evanston, and students in the Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program settle into their seats at the James L. Allen Center. Half a world away, in Hong Kong, Kellogg EMBA students engage in a late-night study group discussion.

In Miami, Kellogg students from across Latin America are immersed in a debate inspired by that morning's lecture. And in Israel and Germany, students are sharing their thoughts over dinner before returning to their evening classes.         

Around the world, Kellogg EMBA students are studying, forming teams, negotiating and building their international business skills. It is a learning environment without boundaries, as students interact across cultures and time zones.

The scenario bears little resemblance to the small group of mid-career managers who constituted the school's first EMBA class in 1976. But for all its sophistication, it is the fulfillment of a vision set forth by Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs when he conceived of the program more than three decades ago.

Jacobs foresaw a rich academic culture, one in which executives would learn from the Kellogg faculty as well as their peers. The give-and-take would allow the executives' knowledge to filter into the classroom, and the faculty's discoveries to permeate the business world.

EMBA Students  
Read the related story, "Kellogg-Miami EMBA program: value for Latin American executives"

As the program evolved, it kept pace with changes in technology and globalization. Through the efforts of professors, administrators and students, the Kellogg School EMBA program would come to reflect today's borderless business world.

"What's exciting is that we're seeing the realization of a long-term vision," says Julie Cisek Jones, assistant dean and director of the Executive MBA Program, which has repeatedly been ranked No. 1 in surveys such as those conducted by BusinessWeek. and U.S. News and World Report.

"Our students are no longer based solely in North America. They're doing coursework on several continents. They're interacting with each other and taking those Kellogg skills and relationships into the world."

Those opportunities are the fruits of strategic partnerships Kellogg has forged over the last decade as it established joint executive MBA programs with schools in Germany, Hong Kong, Israel and Canada. This global campus formally convenes each fall, when students in their second year travel from partner schools to attend an international Live-In Week in Evanston. There, they study cross-cultural negotiations and strategic crisis management. "It's very rigorous and highly interactive," Jones says. Students may also pursue elective courses during a Live-In Week at one of the Kellogg partner schools.      

In addition, EMBA students, whose average age is 37, can interact during Global Initiatives in Management courses that explore the business environment of a selected country. International EMBA students and alumni have helped ensure the success of those visits by arranging corporate meetings and providing valuable cultural insights.

These opportunities let students build a global network of personal and business relationships, as Stuart Abelson '05 can attest.

Abelson, director of corporate development for Amphenol Corp., attended a Live-In Week at the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Management at Israel's Tel Aviv University during his second year in the EMBA program. Through that experience, he formed bonds with students from Hong Kong, Israel and other Kellogg programs.

"It's an intense experience and you share a lot, professionally and personally," he says. "You develop relationships that last a long time.

"I didn't think you could make those kinds of lifelong friendships after high school," he adds. "Some of these people I talk to every week. I have a good group of Kellogg friends that I'll stay in touch with forever."

That's a key goal of the program, Jones says.                  

"We try to think of all the students in our EMBA program as one large group, as opposed to 16 different groups," she says. "This is one community of faculty and students, and they all have a great deal to learn from each other."

  EMBA Students

For students based in the United States, Kellogg now offers several options to obtain the EMBA degree, including three programs on the Evanston campus: the Regional Program, which meets once a week on alternating Fridays and Saturdays; and two sections of the North American Program, designed for long-distance students and those who travel frequently. The program meets on alternating weekends; one section begins in September and the other in January.

Bernadette Birt, director of domestic executive MBA programs, says Kellogg is unique in offering such a variety of choices, each targeted to a specific customer segment.

 "We offer a lot of options for fitting an MBA education into your life," Birt says. "It's important to find the one that works for you, so that you can enjoy the program's full benefits."

In January, Kellogg created another avenue for degree-seeking executives: the Kellogg-Miami Executive MBA Program, designed to attract students throughout Latin America as well as those in the southeastern United States.

For all its growth, the foundations of the Kellogg EMBA program remain constant. Professors continue to infuse classes with intellectual rigor. Collaborative learning and innovation remain guiding principles. And the faculty shares a deep respect for the knowledge and experience these executives bring to the classroom.

"In each class, there's usually at least one student with significant expertise in the subject at hand," Jones says. "During class discussions it's not uncommon for a student to say, 'I was there when they did this. I was in the CEO's office and here's what was going on in the background.' The faculty is adept at incorporating that into the discussion and making it all the richer."

Perhaps the program's most abiding element is the James L. Allen Center. Opened in 1979, Kellogg has enhanced the building over the years to include amenities such as a 250-seat amphitheater, wireless Internet connection and a small gym.

Jones believes the center's self-contained quality intensifies the learning experience.

"Everything is under one roof," she says. "Our meals are all here; so are the study-group rooms and classrooms. The conversations are organic and constant, and they start the minute the students walk through the door."

The staff, of course, interacts with students, too, continually seeking their views on how to augment the program. The result is an atmosphere of perpetual innovation.

During the Miami program's opening celebration in January, for example, Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain told Jones he wanted to meet with her that Saturday to begin planning EMBA's next undertaking.

"The next project is always right around the corner," Jones says. "That's as it should be. Our success depends on staying ahead of everyone else."

In fact, Jones is looking ahead to a number of new EMBA initiatives. They include the development of "knowledge creation centers" around the globe — bases from which faculty will conduct the research and consulting that keep the Kellogg curriculum fresh. The first of those will open in Frankfurt.

"Regardless of an organization's size, the global economy affects everyone," Jones says. "Kellogg is committed to opening the global classroom and creating new learning opportunities for our students. It will be exciting to see what they do next, and to see what we will do to raise the bar on the executive MBA experience."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University