Cornell-Queen’s Novel EMBA Program

A Saturday videoconferencing class in Cornell-Queen's EMBA program

A Saturday videoconferencing class in Cornell-Queen’s EMBA program

Joseph Babcock, director of Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA program, is eager to set the record straight.

He heads an unique dual-degree program, which blends distance learning with traditional on-campus classes. Over a 16-month stretch, teams of six to eight people meet on weekends via videoconferencing in 27 cities, largely in the U.S. and Canada. They also gather for a trio of residential sessions held on campus at Cornell and Queen’s.

The program drew a flurry of comments to Poets&Quants’ analysis of U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 EMBA rankings. Poets&Quants suggested that some B-school deans and directors, rankled over losing choice students to Cornell-Queen’s novel business model, which now brings in nearly $10 million in annual tuition revenue, may have penalized the school in their rankings. Babcock disagrees. Nonetheless, the program’s 40:60 split between traditional on-campus classes and video-conference lectures has doubtless raised a few eyebrows in B-school circles.

Babcock suggests this skepticism is largely born from a misconception about what the program is all about. He mounts a vigorous defense of what he terms “a residential program done remotely.” Babcock adds that the program, which focuses on general management, offers benefits not found in more traditional models. Cornell-Queen’s 27 “boardrooms” scattered through cities ranging from Los Angeles and Atlanta to Monterrey, Mexico, and Bogotá, Columbia, allow for more program diversity and a wider network, he says. Babcock also believes that the state-of-the-art videoconferencing system facilitates personal interaction between students and professors and raises the caliber of conversation, given that students may vet their questions with their fellow boardroom classmates before throwing them forward.

On one level, the program’s $115,740 price tag for two MBAs–one from Cornell and one from Queen’s–is a relative bargain compared with the sticker for the standard Cornell Executive MBA, which will set students back $157,416. But it’s certainly not cheap, either.

Babcock, however, contends that the experience is well worth the investment for students looking to take their careers to the next level. “I really am a true believer in the strength and the diversity that we’re offering here,” he says.

A former sales and marketing manager in the medical equipment industry, Babcock moved into education in 2008 when he became director of Executive MBA programs at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He had received his MBA from Thunderbird 18 years earlier. Babcock moved over to head up the Cornell-Queen’s program in March of 2011. Poets&Quants caught up with him on a recent visit to San Francisco.

How would you explain the program to someone who may not have heard of it before?

This is a dual-degree partnership program between two universities – Cornell University and Queen’s University in Canada. So it’s a hybrid learning model. Basically what happens is the students are enrolled in both universities. They are taught by faculty from both universities, and they earn and complete all the requirements for both degrees. Hence, they’re granted both degrees.

When you read some of the comments on the website or attend some of the Executive MBA conferences, I notice that some of my colleagues don’t fully understand what it is we do. I’d like to offer my perspective. One of the benefits of the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA is that it enables students who live in a broad variety of locations to attend these two premier universities from their home cities or regions.  So it wouldn’t surprise me that people may think it’s an online program, but there’s no part of the program that’s online in anyway.