Only the cream of the crop

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm

An executive master’s in business administration (EMBA) program takes a group of about
30 experienced and ambitious professionals and trains them to become the decision-
makers, chief executive officers and presidents of their companies.
"It hones the skills necessary to become a general manager," said Guy Johnson, director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s EMBA program.
About 130 EMBA programs operate in the United States, including three in the Milwaukee area.
While the short-term financial costs of such a program are high, with Wisconsin programs ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, they enable working professionals to earn a master’s degree in two years or less.
At Marquette University, half of the students sign up for the program because they already are in a decision-making position, but feel they lack the right skill set. The other half are climbing toward a higher position, said Jeanne Simmons, Marquette’s EMBA director.
One such climber is Patrick Le Denmat. He is project manager of Poclain Hydraulics in Sturtevant and aspires to be plant manager or corporate vice president, in addition to eventually owning his own business.
"The time to complete the program is short in duration," Le Denmat said. "I work for a company that does civil engineering, and there always is a possibility I will be transferred."
Through Marquette’s 18-month EMBA program, he can earn his degree quickly, unlike the three, four or even five years it can take to complete a regular MBA.
"It is a cohort program," Johnson said. "Everyone takes the same courses and must have prior knowledge."
Students entering the program already are in significant management positions, Simmons said.
"The students we are choosing tend to be the stars in an organization," she said. "They have energy, they have strong goals."
And usually, students are able to move up after earning their degree. Simmons said 100 percent of the class of 1997 students have had a job change since graduating from the program.
Such programs enable students to work and talk with other experienced professionals.
"I perform as much for the students as for the professors," Le Denmat said.
Most programs require students to have a certain amount of managerial experience. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee program requires eight years, and the Marquette program requires five years.
"The experience level of your fellow classmates determines the richness of the program," Johnson said.
While the Loyola University program at Carthage College in Kenosha doesn’t require a specific number of years in managerial positions, it does expect a level of experience from its participants.
"Acceptance is based on maturity and what they can contribute to the program," said Thomas Zeller, Loyola’s EMBA program director. EMBA students are experienced in a large variety of fields, ranging from engineering to social services and construction.
In fact, at UWM, only about one-third of students have an undergraduate degree in business. Many of the remaining two-thirds must rely on workshops that refresh their basic math and economic skills before classes begin.
Some EMBA programs, such as the Marquette program, meet on Fridays and Saturdays on alternating weekends. Marquette’s EMBA program director said that time frame is ideal for many of the students in the program.
"[Students] can spend more time with their families," Simmons said. "You can take your kids up to the Dells and take your books with you."
However, Simmons admitted that students in the program must sacrifice a great deal of their personal and extracurricular lives while they’re working toward their EMBAs.
"It’s for the person who says ‘I can do anything for a short period of time,’" Simmons said.
The UWM program meets each week, alternating Fridays and Saturdays. Johnson said UWM’s set-up lends itself to a better learning experience.
All three Milwaukee area EMBA programs include an international trip in the costs of the program. For the Loyola program, Zeller said, students vote on the location of their visit.
"We like to go to places where it is unknown exactly how to do business," he said.
The class of 2004 went to Chile and Argentina, and the class of 2005 will visit Japan and China. Marquette, the only EMBA program with a specifically stated international focus, goes each year to Belgium and visits European Union institutions.
"The international trip helped me understand at a deeper level the global issues regarding business through courses, company visits and discussions," Le Denmat said.
UWM alternates the location of its voyage, having gone to Italy, France and China.
"Essentially, you can’t find a medium-sized business that doesn’t have an international competitor," said Jamshid Hosseini, associate professor and director of international business studies at Marquette. "We prepare our students to fit today’s economy."
Applicable theory is the key to EMBA programs, as full-time students often go back to their full-time jobs and utilize theories they’ve learned in class.
"We develop values-based leaders and link theory to practice," Zeller said.
EMBA programs are important for Milwaukee, said Johnson, a graduate of UWM’s program.
"This is another tool for organizations to develop top managers," he said.
August 20, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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Christine McMahon helps leaders develop strategies and improve speed of execution by developing leadership talent, creating alignment between business functions and improving communications and accountability up, down and across a business. She is co-founder of the Leadership Institute and is in partnership with the WMEP. For keynote presentations, executive coaching, sales and leadership training, she can be reached at:

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