30 years of excellence and innovation, the Kellogg School
EMBA program has grown from a scrappy local upstart into an
elite international management phenomenon
GSB's Bud Fackler, every inch the elder statesman in
a three-piece suit and tie, strode forth and greeted Ken
Bardach, his invited guest.
was no social visit. Bardach was the recently announced director
of the new executive
MBA program at Northwestern, an initiative set to launch
that fall. The program would compete directly with the GSB,
which since 1943 had operated the oldest and most highly regarded
EMBA program in the country
the GSB program director, was deeply curious about the young
you really think you have a chance in the executive MBA market?"
Bardach recalls Fackler asking. "You're going up against
the University of Chicago. We own this market. Why do you
think you are going to succeed?"
listed the new program's advantages: "We have a great faculty, location
and curriculum. Of course we are going to succeed."
like your spirit," Fackler said. "At the University
of Chicago, we really believe in competition. I think this
will make both of us better."
squared his shoulders. "Let me make this very clear,
sir," he said. "We're not just going to succeed;
we are going to dominate this market."
love it!" Fackler said. "You're really an entrepreneur.
Tell me," he asked, studying Bardach. "Do you have
any questions for me?"
paused. As a matter of fact, he did have questions, enough
to keep the old gentleman talking for hours. He dove in, quizzing
Fackler on issues great and small. "How do you make sure
your applicants' transcripts are in? How do you keep track
of admissions? How do you get your faculty to coordinate and
chuckled. He led Bardach on a tour around his school's executive
MBA facilities as he shared his knowledge. The two shook hands
as they parted.
rapport didn't dull the sharp spirit of competition between
the two programs. Within seven years, enrollment at the University
of Chicago's executive MBA program had shrunk by half, while
Northwestern's had doubled. As Bardach promised, the new EMBA
program at Northwestern had overtaken its South Side rival,
and was on its way to becoming the most respected EMBA offering
in the world.
the Kellogg School's academic reach is global, including
an EMBA program in Hong Kong. Here, Finance Professor
Vidhan Goyal teaches Kellogg-HKUST students.
story of how the Kellogg School built its executive MBA curriculum
from scratch into the pre-eminent program of its kind is one
of doggedness and chutzpah. It is also a story about listening:
to companies, competitors, and above all, customers.
champion of that process was then-Dean Donald
P. Jacobs, who assumed leadership of Kellogg in 1975.
From the beginning of his tenure, Jacobs made executive education
one of his top priorities.
found a vision," says Bardach, now the associate dean
and the Charles and Joanne Knight Distinguished Director of
Executive Programs at the John M. Olin School of Business
at Washington University.
education wasn't just a program; it was a vision of where
he wanted to take the school. It was built on the idea of
continual improvement and continually listening to the customer,
designing a strategy and tweaking that strategy, and convincing
the faculty of the viability of the vision."
already offered a number of short-term, non-degree programs
for executives. But Jacobs knew there was more for them to
learn. With the economy of the 1970s in a tailspin, many mid-career
professionals were hungry for the credibility and knowledge
an advanced business degree could provide.
faculty, in turn, would gain immensely from the exposure to
current business issues. Executive feedback would help sharpen
their teaching and ensure that lessons were relevant. The
benefits would accrue to students in every Kellogg program.
to compete with the behemoth to the south posed a challenge
Jacobs relished. He had noted that the University of Chicago
taught more or less the same curriculum to executives as it
did to those in the full-time program. Jacobs saw that as
a golden opportunity to re-invent the MBA experience.
were mid-career executives, not students in their twenties,"
Jacobs says. "Because they didn't have an MBA, they needed
to be brought up to snuff in some areas. But in other areas,
we could take them even farther. We could take advantage of
the maturity of these executives who wanted to learn."
solution was to create a modular curriculum, with each course
broken down into five-week segments. After a Live-In Week
at the start of each year, 24 such modules would be taught
on weekends over two years. The system allowed professors
to tailor the core MBA courses to the needs of executives.
was a highly integrated curriculum," Bardach recalls.
"The professors would talk to each other about what their
needs were. The Kellogg faculty has always been very collegial
and willing to work as partners. The EMBA curriculum took
full advantage of that."
the curriculum in place and a faculty that had caught the
fire of Jacobs' vision, the Executive Master's Program, or
EMP, as it was called, was ready to debut. All it needed was
effort to wrest a piece of the market from the University
of Chicago took all the charm, savvy and salesmanship of the
Kellogg team. Word went out to friends and alums that Northwestern
was now offering an EMBA. When Jacobs spoke to corporate boards
in the Chicago area, as he often did as dean, he used the
opportunity to sell the EMBA program. Ads in the Chicago
Tribune and The Wall Street Journal also played
a part in recruiting.
the end, the school assembled an inaugural group of 52 professionals,
who reported for class on the sixth floor of Leverone Hall
in September 1976.
didn't have the Allen Center in those days," Jacobs recalls.
"We didn't have a cafeteria or anything. We'd bring in
food from a deli and call that lunch. At night we'd go out
to restaurants all around Evanston. We kept innovating. We
had a great time."
the early 1980s, it was clear those innovations had wrought
something special. The applicant pool was growing. The school
was offering two EMBA programs simultaneously, geared toward
the needs of local students and those who traveled frequently.
The James L. Allen Center — a state-of-the-art building
dedicated to executive education — had opened in October
1979. Its success was inspiring the construction of similar
facilities at rival schools nationwide. Still, the effort
was always on to improve. "Don Jacobs was remarkable
and very smart in the way he went about this," Bardach
recalls. "He kept asking the students, 'What else can
we do to make this better?' He kept probing and probing and
a discussion about marketing after class, Professor Philip
Kotler talks with two executive students in 1976, the
inaugural year of the Kellogg EMBA program.
was never complacent. He listened to the customer, identified
their spoken and unspoken needs and wants, and responded with
the middle of the decade, the EMBA staff was led by Associate
Wilson, himself a 1984 graduate of the program. Wilson
and his staff refined the EMBA experience, incorporating as
many elements of the collegial "Kellogg culture"
as possible. That included a student government, a partners'
program, a speaker series, and other activities to build camaraderie.
The self-contained quality of the Allen Center enabled students
to continue their conversations and group work at all hours
of the day.
always told ourselves we were admitting one student at a time,"
says Wilson, who directed the program from 1984 until 1999.
"Each student who enrolls honors us with his or her presence.
It's our responsibility to make sure we make their experience
the best it can be."
always, that meant listening.
students would say, 'Ed, you have to build the character and
quality of the EMP experience.' 'Ed, is there a way we can
have a Special K or a GIM program?' They asked if they could
have their graduation in the Millar Chapel with a speaker
of note. I'd say, 'Well, how do we do that? Can you help?'
They would come up with wonderful ideas for how to make this
place better. They were always grateful that we didn't shut
then, the number of executives seeking their MBAs at Kellogg
had risen from about 210 to about 300 per year. The small,
tightly knit Allen Center staff grew ever more adaptable.
you'd see a staff member running from one part of the building
to another," Wilson says. "I would say, 'Stop. When
you run, it looks like you aren't in charge. Walk, never run!'
we reminded each other.
guess we flew by the seat of our pants a little," recalls
Wilson, now retired. "But in time we began to believe
in ourselves, too."
thereafter, a third EMP section per year was introduced. This
one was geared to managers across the country and drew some
overseas students as well. It became known as the North American
Program, and classes met on alternating weekends instead of
alternating Fridays and Saturdays.
The enrollment in EMP now exceeded 400.
the 1990s, the Kellogg EMBA program was firmly established
as the global leader in executive education. In 1991, it had
topped BusinessWeek's list of 35
executive MBA programs, a designation it has retained ever
Allen Center had undergone four renovations, boosting its
initial capacity of 64 rooms to 150, allowing the school to
offer three concurrent EMBA programs each year. Students traveled
from as far away as Asia to obtain the Kellogg EMBA degree.
business world had become increasingly global. Constantly
seeking new horizons, Kellogg announced plans to form joint
programs with several institutions overseas to offer an international
1996, the school established partnerships with the Recanati
Graduate School of Management at Israel's Tel Aviv University;
WHU-Otto Beisheim Graduate School of Management
in Vallendar, Germany; and the School
of Business and Management at the Hong Kong University of
Science and Technology in China. Launching the programs
required the school to put into practice many of its own ideas
about strategic alliances. Concepts about partnership, team
leadership and innovation came into play as the school reached
around the globe to create a new, international learning experience.
Israeli program was the first of the joint ventures to debut.
Wilson remembers it as an "extraordinary" effort
on the part of Kellogg and Recanati.
Kantor, who was EMBA's associate director at the time
and served as director from 1998 until 2003, says, "It
was an attempt to create a place and a classroom where different
groups from all over the Middle East could come together and
have one common goal — to learn about doing business.
Jacobs and Recanati Dean Israel Zang created an environment
that required students to leave their political beliefs at
the door and work together in the classroom. Teamwork took
on a whole new meaning."
strife in the region has not dimmed that concern for the greater
good, adds Kantor, now assistant dean of executive education.
She notes that both Kellogg and Recanati have been "very
protective" of the cooperative spirit in the classroom.
attitude pervades the other joint programs as well.
EMBA student is an EMBA student," Kantor says. "No
matter where they live, they all have the same wants and desires
and they all want to be a part of Kellogg."
listening and still looking forward, Kellogg launched yet
another international EMBA program earlier this year, in Miami.
The program draws students from across Latin America.
as in the beginning, the Kellogg School's leadership continues
to listen closely to its customers, providing the tools for
the force of globalization, it is important for executives
to have a global mindset — and to refine the frameworks
that enable them to compete in this environment," says
Kellogg Dean Dipak
C. Jain. "With our integrated portfolio of offerings,
the Kellogg School makes it convenient for executives on any
continent to develop the skills of world-class leadership."