New frontiers in management education

In a city founded by gold prospectors, 14 professionals staked their claim to global business knowledge provided by Washington University’s Olin Business School. For 20 months, these professionals—the inaugural class of Olin’s Executive MBA program in Denver—explored new management territory and engaged in self-discovery to lead their people and organizations more effectively.

The Denver class graduated in May with its peers from the St. Louis campus, celebrating commencement with faculty, family, and friends. Together, the cohort included individuals from across the country and represented 46 companies and the US military.

“There was a pioneering aspect to being a member of the class that fit the atmosphere of Denver,” says Nick Lane, senior vice president of Colorado Business Bank. “We were involved in an exciting venture—a start-up of sorts—that we helped shape. Now, as Olin alumni, all of us feel compelled to tell our story and to share how phenomenal our EMBA experience was.”

Becoming “hard to copy in a market full of lookalikes”

Olin brought its Executive MBA program to the “Mile High City” in 2013. 

Olin’s director of discernment says the program turns career aspirations into qualifications that “make students hard to copy in a market full of lookalikes,” a professional-development process the EMBA team calls “Olinization.” Professor and peer assessments; 360-degree feedback; in-depth, one-on-one executive coaching; and a weeklong Leadership Residency build each participant’s personal brand.

“I acquired a strategic outlook on decision making that allowed me to stretch beyond relationship and portfolio management,” Lane says. “In fact, many of our senior executives told me they were amazed by how much I grew during the course of the program. It was a textbook scenario; I received a promotion to run our Cherry Creek office midway through the EMBA program.”

Growing up in Missouri, Jason English coveted Washington University’s “best-and-brightest” reputation. “So a light went on” when the Colorado transplant discovered WashU was offering a degree program in Denver. “I jumped at the chance to earn an MBA from a school I respected.” 

Without a doubt, his return on investment was strong. English currently serves as general manager of Bluewolf’s North American operation. 

In addition to “top-shelf faculty,” English was impressed by the caliber of his entire cohort and by the camaraderie of his Denver classmates.

“I can’t think of 13 better people to have gone through the program with, and I’m extremely grateful to know each one of them. Close friendships were takeaways I didn’t expect, the cherry on the top of the EMBA cake.” 

The program also prepared participants to give back to the Denver community.

According to Miriam Peña, director of the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships, “study after study indicates that nonprofits benefit from management expertise—and that interactions with philanthropic organizations make companies more mission-driven. As liaison to the city’s nonprofit sector, I work with thousands of agencies. Improving their business performance improves the lives—and the livelihoods—of so many Denver residents.

“I enrolled in Olin’s Executive MBA program because of my love for my city and my desire to make it the best it can be. Post-program, I have the leadership skills, financial knowledge, and discipline to take on anything.”  

An expanded footprint

Olin’s EMBA program offerings have grown in the past 30-plus years. The Washington University in St. Louis-Fudan University Executive MBA program was established in 2002, China’s first joint venture in management education. U.S. students participate in a required residency at Fudan University’s Shanghai campus.

Olin added its EMBA campus in Kansas City in 2010 and the Denver campus three years later. (Note: All second-year, theme-based courses are taught in St. Louis.)

The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay-Washington University in St. Louis Executive MBA program launched in April and became the first program in the world to confer an Executive MBA degree from both an Indian and an American university.

Making a great program even better

In fall 2015, Olin’s St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver EMBA students will be introduced to curriculum enhancements designed to make a great program even better. 

“We’ll deliver a more integrated, responsive management education centered on venture creation, strategy implementation, team development, and stakeholder relationships,” says Meg Shuff, assistant dean of Executive MBA Admissions. “The enhancements will further differentiate Olin and the competencies of our students.”

Highlights include the following:

The Business of Policy: DC Immersion—the only EMBA residency in the world offered in partnership with the Brookings Institution, an internationally respected think tank—will be added to the curriculum. Influential leaders will provide an insider’s view of policymaking and the relationships businesses form with government and society. 

Electives on subjects such as customer analytics, reputation management, business law, diversity and inclusion, and coaching and talent management will augment the second-year curriculum.

An innovation project will enable teams of second-year students to turn a new-business idea into a business plan. Potential investors, business leaders, and Olin professors will judge team ideas during a capstone pitch competition that synthesizes teachings and tools from all program areas.

In addition, a critical-thinking module will be added to orientation, a creative-thinking component will be added to the Leadership Residency, and the topic of valuation will be added to the Growth theme.

Curriculum improvements address the complex, constantly changing needs of business. Feedback from WashU students, faculty, and alumni was solicited, and interviews were conducted with company executives and HR directors. 

Newly minted Olin alumni Lane, English, and Peña say the changes will be additional selling points for an already successful program.

The Denver EMBA program format is designed to fit executive schedules. Classes meet monthly for three-day sessions (except for the residencies). First-year courses are held at RubinBrown’s offices at 1900 16th St. in Denver.

(This sponsored content was provided by Washington University’s Olin Business School.)