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Executive MBA program offerings promote corporate advancement

Not many would argue that a candidate with an MBA has a leg up on the job hunt. A master of business administration graduate has honed skills in areas including finance, human resources, information technology and economics.

Put an “E” in front of the MBA and that degree becomes increasingly distinctive. When St. Louis-based Washington University moved into the Denver market this year, it brought the number of universities offering accredited executive MBA options up to four in Colorado. The University of Colorado, Colorado State University and the University of Denver have long-established programs in the state.

And they’ve soldiered on even during the recession, when the number of companies that fully or partially supported their managers earning such degrees dropped off. One of the unique aspects of EMBA programs, say university leaders, is that companies often support the students – financially and by offering flexible work time as they earn their degrees.

Many of those earning EMBAs are fitting in classes, often held during evenings or on weekends, while they hold down jobs.

“The people who want an executive MBA have had many years of corporate experience,” says Panos Kouvelis, senior associate dean and director of executive programs at Washington University. “These programs are not intended to encourage people to jump out of companies, but to help people advance in those companies.”

Kouvelis says that while 15 years ago, around 80 percent of tuition was company-funded, the number has dropped. Today, about 40 percent of students at the Washington University EMBA program, run through the Olin School, are fully funded, 30 percent are partially funded, and another 30 percent are paid for out of pocket.

That’s up slightly in the past five years, a trend that’s reflected at the other universities in the state, and one that bodes well as an economic indicator, he says.

What’s common to all the programs in the state, say university leaders, is that students are integral to the success of the class. Depending on the school, those enrolled in the program must have between 10 and 20 years of experience in managing people or projects, and the average age of students in these programs is roughly 40. Sharing this deep pool of knowledge is essential to the programs, both to those working to advance in their company, and to those entrepreneurial students who plan to launch their own businesses.

Barbara J. Kreisman, with the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, says it’s critical that the EMBA program at DU fosters a sense of community.

“These are people who learn from each other,” says the associate dean of executive education and working professionals MBA programs. “This sense of community is so important; students come together to learn from each other, as well as from the faculty.”

Unlike students in other MBA programs, executive MBA candidates must already be invested in their careers, say the directors of the four schools. And because the EMBA is structured in such a way that students learn from each other in a group setting, online degrees are not suitable, leaders of all the universities agree.

While new technology has moved into other higher educational fields, it’s unlikely that people will be able to earn an executive MBA degree of any merit online, Kouvelis says.

“Being in the same class with other people who have a lot of experience is part of the value,” he says. “It’s about networking, and that’s not something you can do well online.”

Training on international business is also part of the group dynamic, say leaders at the universities.

An executive MBA class from CSU recently returned from Africa, where team members distributed medical supplies and learned about global enterprise. At the University of Denver, students can visit exotic locations like Africa, Israel or Hong Kong. At CU, international business trips involve measuring such issues as the economic impacts of performing arts organizations.


While all the accredited schools offering EMBAs in Colorado have similar goals and philosophies, each school has unique qualities that draw from a rich pool of business leaders in the state.


Washington University’s Denver EMBA program




First Denver class begins fall of 2013


First class 20;
future classes 30-35

When asked why the venerable EMBA program at Washington University moved into the Denver market, Meg Shuff has a simple answer.

“There’s so much talent in Denver, we think there’s plenty of room for us,” says the assistant dean of executive MBA admissions.


The program, run out of Washington University’s Olin Business School, is globally recognized, ranking No. 2 worldwide by The Wall Street Journal and No. 9 in the Financial Times Global EMBA Rankings in 2012. This gives the St. Louis-based program – which also offers classes in Kansas City – an edge for applicants looking for a school with a national reputation.

The school’s status comes from experienced teachers and a rigorous, 20-month program, Shuff says.

Professors who are leaders in their fields help boost the program’s reputation, says Shuff, a graduate of the program.

She was inspired to enroll after starting her own consulting business in 2010, after years working in the communications field.

“When I left the company I worked for, I lost my security blanket of people who could help me,” she explained. “I had to learn different aspects of the business, and learn the language on my own. I was able to take the lessons I learned and apply them when I went to work. It really taught me leadership skills.”








Glancing at the alums of the University of Colorado executive MBA program is like viewing a Who’s Who of America’s most important business leaders.

Among the many who rose the ranks: Dave Taylor, recently retired president and CEO of Ball Aerospace and Technology; Katherine Meddles, director of finance at CenturyLink; and J. David Wisenteiner, director of worldwide sales strategy at Microsoft.

Kathleen Bollard, vice president for academic affairs, says CU’s executive MBA program draws its strength from its pool of talent tapped from the three schools in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.

“This year, we’re excited to have a new director, Nicholas Hamilton-Archer, who will be involved in outreach to firms, so we anticipate more company partnership,” Bollard says. “We’re also partnering with the Center for Creative Leadership, which will let us focus even more on the leadership aspect of the program.”

CU also offers an executive MBA in health administration, and it fills up quickly, Bollard said.

“Our intention is to make sure we’re completely relative.”









John Hoxmeier agrees with other university professionals that executive MBA programs gain strength from the interaction in the classroom.

With that said, the associate dean of enterprise programs believes it’s important to draw from all available tools for today’s tech-savvy workers.

“In our Denver classrooms, we record all of our lectures and make them available as study aids and to help students who can’t be in the classroom,” Hoxmeier says. “We’re one of the leaders in the online MBA marketplace.”

Mobile learning is the key to the future, says Hoxmeier, adding that courses are offered during the week instead of weekends, a perk that appeals to many. CSU’s executive MBA students skew a bit younger than those in other Denver classrooms, with an average age of 36.

The program also attracts people who are looking for value, he says, noting the low price tag of CSU’s program.

“Our students tend to be very value conscious. They shop, they compare and they figure out the return on investment.”









The executive MBA program at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business has the distinction of being one of the nation’s oldest. It started in 1973 in response to a need for strong leadership from the business community.

“Our programs are about using business skills to make a difference in the world,” says Kreisman, associate dean. “Social responsibility comes from the original Bill Daniels theme of philanthropy, and making a difference for others.”

To that end, small teams from the class focus on a social project, delivering outcomes on the final day of class. Many graduates go on to be board members of the nonprofit groups they worked with, Kreisman says. “Some of these people have lived the corporate life, but they know there’s something more than just making cash.”

Good candidates for the program are open-minded and eager to learn.

“If someone isn’t about changing, or only wants an academic experience, they should look elsewhere,” Kreisman says. “Our program will change the way you view things.”

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Maria Martin

Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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