Teaching Executive MBAs


I've taught over 2000 of our EMBA students in our programs on all 3 continents, for over a dozen years. What is it like teaching our students? It is hard work.

All of our students, in all of our programs, are smart and have high expectations of their classes. That's no different in EMBA; students expect high quality, rigorous academic material. However, these students are already successful and have high-level jobs. They have even stronger expectations than typical MBA students for material that is timely, relevant, and that they can apply. Teaching cutting-edge research on a topic is straightforward for most professors. Teaching current practice and application is straightforward for practitioners who teach. Doing both together, however, requires proficiency at both, and the ability to integrate them with each other.

Teaching these students is even more difficult because of the high level, and in-depth knowledge, that is sitting in the classroom. There is always someone who knows more than me about a specific topic, because of their extensive career experience. If I get a fact wrong, someone will correct me. Someone is always ready with personal examples. One must be prepared for a deep dive into the topic - but at the same time, to discuss it at a high level for senior managers. Professors in our program have to find ways to add value for both general students and experts at the same time.

Finally, the class is highly diverse. We have students from over 50 countries at any given time. Students work in almost any conceivable industry and occupation. I've had the usual types of students - bankers, consultants, engineers, venture capitalists, general managers. But I've also had a former KGB agent, 2 priests who'd worked at the Vatican, senior members of foreign governments, PhDs in physics, journalists, lobbyists ... and much more. They hail from Vietnam, Mauritius, Egypt, Kazakhstan, and pretty much everywhere else except Antarctica. It is quite a challenge to deliver a relevant and interesting class to such a diverse group, and to guide their in-class discussions.

Yes, it is hard work indeed to teach our EMBA students. Despite that, I choose to do almost all of my teaching in this program. It is stressful, but incredibly challenging and rewarding. I constantly learn from my students. Their expectations force me to stretch and grow intellectually in ways that would not be necessary if I didn't teach them. My thinking, research, teaching and writing improve as a result.

One of the greatest things about being a teacher is that students keep you young and always thinking. Our EMBA students do that on steroids, and I am grateful to them for the opportunity to share their classroom.

Mike Gibbs