You need more from an MBA program.
What makes an SBE Executive MBA great? Are you the right fit for it? Let Dr. William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics, and Dr. Robert Eyler, chair of the Economics Department, explain.
Q. Dean Silver, you transformed an Executive MBA (EMBA) program in Colorado from a premier regional program into one ranked among the best in the world by The Financial Times. What makes an EMBA program excellent?
A. From my experience, there are three things that make an EMBA program excellent.
First, the curriculum needs to focus on business tools and strategies that are immediately applicable to the challenges and opportunities that business leaders face. We strive for a program where students leave the classroom each weekend with tools they can use on Monday. Our goal is an immediate return on their investment.
Second, the cohort should be a combination of the best and brightest from a diverse set of organizations to create a dynamic and exciting learning environment. In the best EMBA programs, students gain as much from each other as they learn from their professors.
Third, the faculty must be well grounded in the real world of business to teach and challenge students who are already successful business leaders, and who are looking for the next competitive edge. SSU's School of Business and Economics has long had just such professors in our ranks.
Q. Dr. Eyler, you've been a fixture in the North Bay economic and business community for quite some time. Why does the North Bay need an EMBA program?
A. The North Bay needs an EMBA program because there are companies here that must add leaders to their ranks. The latest economic downturn has seen unemployment rise and the North Bay economy is evolving. There are smaller firms who need to be more capable and flexible. The point is that today - in particular in small firms - almost everyone is in a leadership position. Leaders need an education, training, and network of colleagues to help them meet that challenge.
This is especially true for small local manufacturing firms that have many employees with scientific know-how, but who need training in order to lead engineers and scientists. As we go into the next economic boom, where new technologies will lead the way, organizations in the North Bay that have a bullpen of leaders ready to drive a business forward will thrive. Those that don't, won't.
Q. Dean Silver, your area of expertise is leadership. What kind of leader does the business world need today, and how will this program address that need?
A. The world needs leaders who make a difference - not just a difference in the organizations for which they work, but for the communities in which they live. I teach my students that the results-oriented leader has three critical skill sets: a core foundation of financial, operational, and strategic business acumen; the emotional intelligence to effectively engage people; and the execution discipline to deliver results and get things done.
Our EMBA program develops these skill sets in three ways:
- Through a rigorous learning environment of action learning (This isn't just a lecture-based program: you'll be doing),
- By benchmarking the most successful businesses (You've seen business in action, and we'll broaden your real-world view), and
- With hands-on leadership development experiences (You've managed people, so we don't have to tell you that leadership doesn't happen in books).
Q. Dr. Eyler, your area of expertise is economics. What is the short and long-term future of the North Bay economy, and how will this program equip business professionals to adjust to those changes?
A. As I see it, the long-term future is one of regionalism where the North Bay sees itself as one economy regardless of county lines. The short term is one of finding ways to take advantage of the economic boom to come and how we can balance the temptation to grow too rapidly with a need to develop jobs for a vibrant economy.
We have a highly skilled workforce in the North Bay and a wide variety of industries. We must take advantage of that by transforming this talent into leaders that have larger visions plus the ability to lead in a new economic reality. Our EMBA program provides an academic background for budding leaders to both rise up in their current companies or to become entrepreneurs and run their own firms.
Entrepreneurism--be it within existing organizations or the creation of new ventures--is the key to long-term economic success. This program can help instill a sense of leadership, not only in local businesses, but also in the entire community through our graduates' vested interest in the North Bay's development.
Q. Dean Silver, the SBE Executive MBA program is challenging. How can a prospective student best prepare for the time commitment required?
A. I hope our program is the most challenging and most rewarding experience in which students have ever participated.
There is a metaphor from rock climbing that I think best illustrates how people can prepare for the rigors of an EMBA. In climbing, before you head up the rock, you make sure your belayer is ready. The belayer is the person who holds the rope at the ready in case you fall, and gives you support and advice from a vantage point that you don't have while you're focused on the business of working and struggling to reach the top.
I tell EMBA applicants to make sure their belayers are ready. Tell everyone you know (family, friends, bosses, employees) that you are going to embark on this incredible learning journey, and ask for their support and commitment to your success.
I've found that this kind of honest outreach to those close to you is something that actually develops deeper relationships in EMBA students' lives as well.
Q. You've launched your first cohort, and it's going well. But what is the vision of this program? What will a graduate feel like when they graduate?
A. Dr. Eyler: Our vision is that the North Bay sees this program as a first choice among the other programs out there. As time goes on, I envision partnerships with foreign educational institutions or an expansion into markets around the world.
We intend to equip our graduates with the education they need to rise in their own companies or become entrepreneurs. They should feel a strong sense of accomplishment because the program is an intensive experience and one that requires sacrifices. EMBA graduates will be special alumni, deeply connected to SSU and their cohort, because it was the largest project of which they were a part. That feeling will provide confidence in any endeavor in their lives.
A. Dean Silver: The vision for Sonoma State University's School of Business and Economics is to be the educational nucleus for a collaborative, thriving North Bay. The EMBA program is a centerpiece of that vision. I expect the graduates of this program to be the leaders of the North Bay who will build our new regional economy. They should feel like they have the tools, knowledge, and skills to deliver business results and to be the catalysts for creating a vibrant and sustainable North Bay.