The Bosses’ MBA
Key Executive MBA Program
By Leigh Brown Perkins
As a busy executive, Shelley Katz didn’t have the time for a traditional MBA program. Katz is vice president of operations for the Children’s Home Society of Florida, so showing up every weekend for Saturday school wouldn’t suit her schedule. She travels for work, so night classes wouldn’t cut it. And there’s no way she’s leaving a job she loves to go back to school full-time.
All of which made Shelley Katz the perfect candidate for the new Key Executive MBA (KEMBA) program at Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business.
• Number of students enrolled: 16
• Average age: 45
• Average work experience: 21 years
• Time to complete KEMBA degree: 20 months
Introduced last fall, KEMBA was designed exclusively for senior-level executives like Katz, coming at the suggestion of Crummer alumni who saw the need for more scheduling flexibility and distance options for busy executives. It delivers all the elements of a traditional MBA in a format that suits the schedules of students who are already busy business leaders. The program is blended, meaning half of its instruction is in the classroom and half is online, making it unique not only at Crummer but among other MBA programs in the state.
Katz convenes with her classmates just two days a month, meeting all day Friday and Saturday. They present case studies and team up for industry analysis or PowerPoint presentations, just like any other MBA class—although this one happens to be filled with CEOs, presidents, and managers.
“I ask them, ‘Why the MBA now, at this point in your career?’” said Professor of Finance Halil Kiymaz, KEMBA’s faculty director and holder of the Bank of America Chair. “What they tell me is that they have had to learn the hard way, or that their education was too narrow and they need a better understanding of cross-functional areas. What is unique about this program is that it is designed for them to learn from each other, from each other’s areas of expertise.”
Pamela Landwirth has had two amazing careers, one with Disney and one with the nonprofit wish-granting organization Give Kids the World, where she is currently president. She explained that it’s often difficult for an executive to find an appropriate sounding board for issues and ideas at work, so connecting with peer executives in KEMBA has been rewarding. “It’s comforting to know that there are no unique problems,” she said. “Sometimes you think you’re the only one dealing with a certain issue, but talking about it within the safety of the team, we can bounce ideas off of each other and know that it will stay with the class.”
In between these monthly face-to-face meetings, Skype steps in—and Adobe Connect and Blackboard and various wikis and podcasts, exchanged between laptops and smartphones, faculty to student, student to student, and back and forth. “The entire course is available 24 hours a day,” Kiymaz said. “If you have a question for the faculty, all the students see the question and everyone can comment on it. In fact, they are required to write meaningful comments on discussion boards.”
Landwirth wouldn’t be able to pursue her MBA if it weren’t for the technology. “I’m looking at discussion boards at two o’clock in the morning,” she said. “My lifestyle isn’t compatible with the more traditional classroom.”
According to Jacqueline Brito, assistant dean of the MBA program, the program relies on an “integrated” approach. “There are two or three professors from different disciplines teaching every class, so they’re bringing together operations and accounting or marketing and finance in a very cross-functional way. This is information that students can implement immediately in their own organizations and businesses.”
Katz said team-teaching boosts her comprehension of complex topics. “You’re not studying anything in isolation—we did international business and economics at the same time, and I got so much more out of it that way.”
“I just can’t say enough good things about the program,” Katz added. “I truly wasn’t prepared for the degree of passion and accessibility of the faculty. It has been fabulous.”