On A Campus Near You

Dec. 21, 2004
Customer closeness distinguishes these E-M.B.A. programs.

Not only does Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business teach its executive M.B.A. students the much-touted management principles of being close to customers, it practices them, as well. In response to pleas from alumni in the thriving Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex for a graduate-business-degree program closer to where they work and live, Baylor since 1993 has offered an E-M.B.A. (Executive M.B.A.) degree program in Dallas, 100 miles from the university's main campus in Waco, Tex. Like most other E-M.B.A. programs, Baylor's Dallas program takes fewer months to complete than conventional M.B.A. programs and provides experienced managers and executives an opportunity to continue their educations while they work full-time. Although they liked the look and feel of Baylor's existing, on-campus E-M.B.A. program, managers employed by companies in the Dallas area dismissed the prospect of long weekly drives to Waco to attend class. They asked Baylor to create a close-to-the customer program, and "that's exactly what we did," states Linda Frink, director of the Dallas E-M.B.A. program. Focusing on high-potential managers, requiring a minimum of eight years' experience, and meeting on alternate Fridays and Saturdays, the 21-month program limits classes to 35 in an attempt to increase dialogue among students and faculty. Had the Baylor program not been available locally, "I wouldn't have done it," states Brian C. Francis, an area industry principal for manufacturing and distribution industries at IBM Global Services in Dallas. "I already travel quite a bit -- and most of the people in the class do," explains Francis, who expects to complete his degree in June. The travel requirements of her job were among the constraints that ruled out traditional M.B.A. programs at area universities for Kay Cosper, a member of the Dallas E-M.B.A.'s first program in 1993 and currently director of program support for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Tactical Aircraft Systems in Ft. Worth. Frink, a 1995 graduate of the Dallas E-M.B.A. program, recalls that the demands of her global marketing support job at Texas Instruments Inc. wouldn't have allowed her to dash off to class a couple days during the week. "I couldn't have said, 'Hey, sorry, I've got school.'" By no means is Baylor the only U.S. business school that's working on giving managers a particularly customer-convenient E-M.B.A.. The University of Delaware's E-M.B.A. program, which began in 1993, is located 15 miles off campus in Wilmington, closer to such companies as Du Pont & Co., Zeneca Group PLC, and Imperial Chemical Industries PLC. Minimizing travel time for the experienced, upwardly mobile people the program wanted to attract was judged to be "an important competitive advantage," relates Scott Jones, associate dean of Delaware's College of Business & Economics in Newark. That initial judgment remains sound. Last year, students were asked whether they'd like the program to continue in Wilmington or be moved to a brand new state-of-the-art facility on campus. "The overwhelming opinion was . . . they wanted to stay" in Wilmington, Jones reports. "I'm interested in customer satisfaction. And I go out and talk to my customers, the businesses that are sending people here," states Arnold Ludwig, assistant dean and director of executive education at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. And businesses told him they didn't want their people gone any more than necessary from their jobs. Ludwig's solution: make Notre Dame's E-M.B.A. program available to students in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Toledo, Ohio, through an advanced videoconferencing system that allows off-campus students to attend class in real time on alternate Fridays and Saturdays. The video technology -- which includes tracking cameras, microphones, and monitors -- allows interaction among students at four off-campus sites and the professors and students in the classrooms at Notre Dame. "We are saving [the students at the off-campus sites] 40 hours a semester [of] drive time to and from the campus -- plus about $4,000 in driving expense that their companies would have been paying," figures Ludwig, an entrepreneur who has been at Notre Dame for 15 years and who continues to consult one day per week. In Toledo, the off-campus classroom is at Owens-Illinois Inc.'s world headquarters, in Chicago at Ameritech Corp.'s headquarters, and in Indianapolis at Ameritech and the Carrier Corp. division of United Technologies Corp. The host companies get first dibs on sending people to the program. The two off-campus sites for the E-M.B.A. program of the University of Rochester's William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration are even farther away from Rochester than Indianapolis and Toledo are from Notre Dame. One is in the Netherlands, the other in Bern, Switzerland. "We had a lot of people who were coming to the school from Europe. And we had a lot of people teaching here from Europe as well," notes Rick Popovic, associate dean for executive M.B.A. programs at the Simon School. "We knew there was a market in Europe and in 1986 started the first class in Holland." In 1994, in response to high demand in Europe, the program in Bern was begun. "We looked to expand; we were having people fly into Holland from all over Europe," Popovic says. Customer convenience, again, was the reason for siting the second program, actually about 20 miles south of Bern in Thun. "We drew circles around Bern and looked for facilities, and we were able to get this" facility in Thun, 100 ft from the water. Milan and Munich, for example, are within four hours by train. "It's so easy to get to." Popovic has looked at Asia and Latin America as additional off-campus E-M.B.A. locations. For example, "We could start in Brazil tomorrow. The need is there. Our reputation is very sound there," he says. But there's a problem, at least in the short term, with expanding to Asia and Latin America: The Simon school doesn't have enough faculty to staff more locations. "The one thing you can't afford to sacrifice is the quality of the teaching," Popovic emphasizes. Awaiting launch is an innovative E-M.B.A. program that Wake Forest University's Babcock Graduate School of Management hopes to be offering beginning next year in Charlotte, about 80 miles from the main campus in Winston-Salem, N.C. Aimed at fast-track executives, it will feature a cross-functional approach to practical problem-solving, explains R. Charles Moyer, Babcock's dean. Students, who will maintain their responsibilities at work, will use their companies as "research labs" for the program's three major required projects. And to meet the needs of students who work in Manhattan and are turned off by the prospect of commuting, St. John's University, Jamaica, N.Y., is considering creating an off-campus E-M.B.A. "We're spending a couple of months going through a strategic plan for the College of Business Administration," says Peter Tobin, the college's dean and until recently the CFO at Chase Manhattan Corp. When finished, "I think we will have identified exactly what programs we will be implementing over the next three years or so. And I'm sure it will be part of the overall planning process."

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