Who goes into Executive MBA programs? To find out, we launched this highly popular feature which profiles some of the most outstanding candidates in EMBA programs. Reinvention and self-investment have always been driving forces behind the education, and that’s truly evident in the 50 leaders who comprised Poets&Quants’ 2016 Best & Brightest Executive MBAs. For many, returning to campus was a monumental step. Suddenly, these top performers were squeezing another 20 to 30 hours of work into their already cramped and chaotic weekly schedules. They continuously shifted priorities between work, family, and school, wrestling with the guilt that they couldn’t always be perfect — or present, for friends, family, community. Sometimes, they were driven from their comfort zones, as they learned to leverage team strengths over individual talents and proven practices over gut instincts.
By the numbers, P&Q’s second annual list of top EMBAs mirrors the ever-diverse nature of business schools themselves. These graduates range in age from 29 to 63, with 40.7 years being the average. They were equally split between men and women at 25 a piece. However, American schools held a decided advantage in selections: 41 of the 50 spots — a split that reflects the EMBA programs that responded (28 American schools and eight from overseas). The class’s alma maters stretch from Lagos State (Nigeria) to Graceland University (Iowa). And their business role models range from Elon Musk to Mother Teresa. They include decorated military officers and acclaimed surgeons, not to mention Juilliard-trained cellists and accidental entrepreneurs. Aside from the U.S. military, just one employer boasts two executives on the list — the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (from two different programs, no less).
Every two years when Bloomberg BusinessWeek surveyed the latest graduating class of Executive MBAs from the best business schools, it invites students to provide open-ended comments about their business school experience. And every two years, the students serve up candid comments, willing to share personal experiences, insights and opinions.
A sample of those comments are published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek in the online profiles of each of the schools. While the vast majority of remarks are quite favorable to each school, there are almost always graduates who want to see their schools address issues or perceived problems to make the Executive MBA program better. Over the years, the most common complaints have focused on the career services office. It’s rare when no graduates gripe about career placement—but it becomes a real sore point among EMBAs who are paying top dollar for their degrees.
Poets&Quants searched through the last batch of remarks to find what an applicant would never discover in a school marketing brochure or website. As usual, there was plenty of constructive criticism and, perhaps, a few sour grapes. Each respondent is guaranteed anonymity so that every student is encouraged to provide a tell-it-like-it-is response. Many have legitimate gripes, given the high tuition and expectations they bring to the school. Some may have an axe to grind.
What do Kofi Annan, former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen and economist Sir Howard John Davies have in common?
They’re all Sloan Fellows – meaning they completed the first full-time graduate business program for elite mid-career managers and entrepreneurs. Only the MIT Sloan School of Management, the London Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business offer the program, which grew out of a series of grants from legendary General Motors Chairman Alfred P. Sloan and his foundation. Stanford has since renamed its program MSx, but it’s the same old thing.
As far as 12-month, MBA-like experiences go, the Sloan Programs are the most prestigious and elite business degrees in the world. That’s partly because of the outstanding reputation of the three schools that run these programs, as well as the fast-track executives they attract. But it’s also a function of the highly successful list of Sloan Fellow alums who have reached the top of their organizations over the years.
Given the relatively small size of the three graduating classes each year (at roughly 250 total it’s less than a third of Harvard Business School’s annual MBA output), it’s astonishing how many of the Corporate Elite have a Sloan Fellowship on their resumes, from Ford Motors’ CEO Alan Mulally to Aetna Chairman Ron Williams. The former chief executives of Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Caterpillar, Siemens, BellSouth and Eastman Kodak all are Sloan Fellows, too.