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Kellogg School joint Executive MBA program marks decade in Hong Kong

Pioneering global partnership celebrates anniversary with conference

By any measure, the executive MBA program offered jointly by the Kellogg School and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has been among the world's most successful.

Since launching 10 years ago, it consistently has been named one of the world's top EMBA programs. In 2006, Financial Times ranked the program No. 3 in its global survey.

The huge alumni turnout at the partnership's 10th anniversary celebration May 25-26 provided further evidence of the program's success. About 55 percent of the program's 461 alumni returned to the Hong Kong campus to mark the milestone.

"There's a lot of pride in this program," said Steve DeKrey '85, program director and HKUST associate dean. "Our alumni feel very good about completing this degree and about the bonds they have built with classmates. This was a reunion for them and a chance to celebrate the program's success." 

The gathering's centerpiece was a daylong conference featuring 18 renowned speakers, including Henry Tang, financial secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Daniel Pink, author of the international best-seller A Whole New Mind, and David Li, chairman of The Bank of East Asia.

The event provided an opportunity for many to reflect on the program's remarkable development.

"During the first months, it was sort of like selling air," DeKrey said. "People were wondering: 'Is Kellogg really a partner in this? Is this really a joint degree?' The Kellogg name enabled us to launch strongly. But we still had to prove ourselves."

Since welcoming its first class, the Kellogg-HKUST program has refined its curriculum, adding courses on topics such as Asian investment, family business and corporate governance to its core offerings. The class size has grown from 33 in the first graduating class to 55 in the current one.

The student body has grown more international too. When the program began, about 80 percent of the students were based locally. Now, 55 percent travel from other countries to attend the twice-monthly weekend classes at HKUST. Some come from as far away as Chicago and New York. According to DeKrey, these far-flung students often plan to relocate to Hong Kong eventually, and find participation in the program a good way to build their network and learn about business in Asia.

"We wondered in the beginning if people would get on a plane to fly to a class in Hong Kong," DeKrey said. "Clearly, for a high-quality program such as this, they will. Within a five-hour plane ride is probably half the world's market. It's a very large base, especially when you think about the cities we are drawing from: Manila, Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai."

The program continues to grow and innovate. In 2011, HKUST will open a new building with space dedicated to executive programs, with lecture rooms, bedrooms and group-meeting rooms. And there is talk of opening a satellite program in one of the many major business centers in Asia.

"The decision to partner with the Kellogg School in 1997 was one of the most significant that the HKUST Business School has ever made," HKUST Dean KC Chan said. "Within a decade, the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA has grown from an innovative idea to a global success."

– Rebecca Lindell

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