I’m in London teaching our EXP19 students during their last week in the program. The culmination will be closing ceremonies on Saturday, though formal graduation is in Chicago a few weeks later.
Yesterday evening I was chatting with a student and he said - “You need to make the program shorter. It is hard.” (I think he was kidding; see below.)
Will we shorten the program or make it easier? No. We won’t.
We can’t, and we don’t want to. Chicago Booth operates 4 MBA programs including the Executive MBA. The faculty decided long ago that all of the programs should have the same degree requirements. Two years ago they voted again, unanimously, to maintain that principal. Thus, our Executive MBA students have to take the same Foundations classes, the same number of classes in Functional areas, have the same requirements for Leadership classes, etc. Moreover, faculty are expected to use the same texts, course content, and exams as in our other programs. The culture of the University of Chicago is serious and rigorous, and that extends throughout Booth. We are confident that our Executive MBA program is the most rigorous and academically challenging in the world.
This isn’t an easy road to take, for us or our students. How do we implement this?
First, quality control of faculty and courses. We don’t partner with other schools. We fly our professors to London and Hong Kong to teach. That’s costly and impossible to scale. We use seasoned faculty, as our students are highly diverse in experience and geography, and have extensive experience.
Second, we provide extensive academic support so that students can absorb the material. At the beginning of the program they take a course in Analytical Methods to refresh their understanding of quantitative methods and basic statistics so that they have the right foundation. Each course has one or two PhD students who are teaching assistants for the professors. We fly them to London and Hong Kong, too, so that they are personally available to students during class weeks. Finally, Adjunct Assistant Professor Kathleen Fitzgerald serves as Director of Academic Support. She provides support, online review sessions, and advice to all students and faculty from the beginning to the end of the program. She, the faculty and TAs are available via email, phone, Skype etc. to help students with questions between class weeks.
Third, we use continuous improvement. Faculty and TAs are evaluated by students, and use the feedback to improve their courses. We use a variety of other surveys and focus groups to get student and faculty input about the program. We experiment with new methods to improve student recruiting.
Finally, the students work very hard, and they think very hard.
We won’t shorten the program or make it easier. If you are considering our Executive MBA program, please know what to expect. It is a considerable investment on your part. You will work hard. It will be intense. But you will also be transformed.
I think the student was kidding; he made the comment with a smirk. As he graduates I expect that he is glad we don’t water down the program. He will be proud of his accomplishment, and know that he received the best Executive MBA education available.