Lately, Executive MBA programs—like many academic programs—have had to work harder to justify their survival. Fewer companies are willing to finance their employees’ EMBAs, says Barbara Ostdiek, senior associate dean of degree programs at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Sending people off to EMBA programs costs companies both money and work time (i.e. more money). To appeal to organizations and individuals alike, EMBA programs must make their value propositions especially clear.
That’s why Rice’s 22-month EMBA program is undergoing a little spring cleaning. This fall, the program will launch with two major changes: a revamped calendar, and the addition of forums and seminars. Tuition for the class of 2015 is $109,000, and these changes won’t affect that number in the immediate future. “For this coming year, we’ve held the line on tuition increases,” Ostdiek says.
Rice revamped the calendar by insisting that the EMBA program be a true every-other-week program—without catch-up periods. Students will spend roughly 42 work days on campus. The change lines up nicely with what other EMBA programs have been doing: According to the Executive MBA Council, there has been a shift toward fewer in-person class meetings over the past five years. Rice’s new calendar will accommodate Houston locals whose jobs require extensive travel, as well as students who live in different cities and have trouble flying in all the time. It’ll also assure companies that their employees won’t be missing too much work.
Classes won’t be watered down, though—they’ll just be concentrated. Executive forums will bookend each of the program’s two years with periods of intensive learning. For five days, students will participate in a mix of classroom discussion and small-group work, turning assignments around within a day or less. “It’s an intense experiential delivery channel, but it’s academic content,” Ostdiek says. The very first forum will also have a second purpose: revving up the networking. “Part of that first executive forum is designed to help the class jumpstart that important part of the experience,” Ostdiek adds.
Each student will also enroll in a seminar. This fourth class, which will run through the entire program, will cover topics like communication, ethics, and negotiation. If the forums are the bookends, the seminars are threads that tie the whole experience together with common themes.
Ostdiek lists a final reason to come to Rice: The city of Houston has been undergoing a refresh, too. Though it’s often overlooked in favor of places like New York, Los Angeles, and Austin—the emerging tech darling to the northwest—Houston has one of the fastest-growing economies in the United States right now, along with the second-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. “For those of us who’ve lived here for a long time, it’s really exciting,” Ostdiek says. It’s not New York, but considering the cost of living there, maybe that’s not a bad thing.