Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2006Kellogg School of Management
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Thirty years of Executive MBA experience
Putting their heads together

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Putting their heads together  
Executives and professors collaborate on knowledge creation that benefits them both — and enriches learning throughout the school's MBA programs

Teamwork has been a Kellogg School hallmark for decades, so it's only natural that students and professors in the Executive MBA Program also collaborate on knowledge creation, each bringing expertise to bear on today's most important leadership challenges.

This two-way dynamic creates extraordinary learning opportunities, says Ranjay Gulati, the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Organizations.

"The themes we discuss are really win-win for all of us," Gulati says.

The executives' professional connections also create valuable academic synergies that influence all programs at Kellogg, since Kellogg faculty teach full- and part-time students too.

"I wrote a case on Best Buy and I would have never accessed the contacts without my student's help," says Gulati, who worked with Michelle Azar '06, a Best Buy director, for the research.

  Professor Lakshman Krishnamurthi
  Professor Lakshman Krishnamurthi is one of the Kellogg faculty working closely with EMBA students.  Photo © Nathan Mandell

Also attesting to the team-driven academic culture at Kellogg, Olivier Visa '05 says he studied corporate governance and strategic alliance with Ed Zajac, the James F. Beré Distinguished Professor of Management and Organizations. Now the experience is making an impact on his role as senior marketing director at Baxter.

"I landed a great opportunity last year to lead a strategic alliance [for Baxter] with a small biotech company, Halozyme Therapeutics," Visa says. "During my studies in Professor Zajac's class, I applied knowledge from the course to start the alliance."

Beyond the classroom, says Visa, he and Zajac created a program for Halozyme and Baxter to strengthen the quality of the alliance Visa was building.

"People from each company, including the Halozyme CEO, went through a full day of discussions, designed to increase understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of different alliances," says Visa. He and Zajac are planning further sessions given the tremendous value achieved in the initial forum.

In Zajac's class students' papers are often based on alliances that are about to be created by their companies," he says. 

Collaborations among students and faculty also shape what happens in class, says David Messick, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management. Messick found that when asking students to share ethical challenges, many refrained from discussing these in class, due to embarrassment or because of confidentiality concerns.

"One student suggested having each study group discuss cases written by its members and selecting one of these for class presentation," Messick says. "If needed, the author could be concealed, but the gist of the case could be discussed."

The method was "amazingly successful," Messick says.

Now, Messick's role is more of a facilitator as the executives spend nearly the entire three hours discussing their cases. He helps frame the experience and offers summaries to close the sessions. His primary goal, he says, is to "challenge the executives to seriously teach their compatriots."

For Lakshman Krishnamurthi, the A. Montgomery Ward Professor of Marketing, the wealth of experience that EMBA students bring is the most rewarding aspect of teaching in the program. 

"I have taught a case on a company called FreeMarkets, which operates reverse auctions for buyers, and have learned a lot about this company's operations from the students, some of whom have been buyers using FreeMarkets, and others who have been sellers," Krishnamurthi says. "Bringing these practical insights into the full-time classroom enriches the interaction with those students as well." — Romi Herron

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University