What were some of those opportunities you were seeing within the business education space?
One of the main things was what I said earlier, which was between the age of 30 and 75, I felt that market was very underserved. People change jobs much more than before. There are so many new types of jobs — technology, globalization, the maturation of some industries. The emergence of new industries is going to require people to have all sorts of new skills and abilities and ways of thinking and ways of relating to each other — mindsets, if you will. And compared to, say, the undergraduate education space or even the MBA space, there is room to build and help define that space which may not have existed in the more mature undergraduate business market and the MBA market.
Given that, I said, let’s try to look at what kinds of degrees and education — whether in the degree or non-degree space, whether full-time or part-time, whether face-to-face or virtual, whether it’s in the form of traditional learning in the classroom or in terms of learning in communities over time — in terms of life-long learning for people who have already been a part of your school or university and need you to be active in their learning life beyond that. This was all largely undefined. To me, that’s exciting. That’s an opportunity to create and innovate and discover.
So, I wasn’t looking at one or two particular opportunities. I said, 15 years from now there is going to be stuff we’re glad we did. Now, let’s try to do it now, so we’re glad.
Can you give us some examples of what you’re doing now that you hope to be glad about in 15 years?
Yeah, one of the things I started relatively early was the Global Executive MBA. Now, TRIUM did have this executive MBA, which is LSE (London School of Economics), NYU Stern, and HEC Paris, right? But what they were doing was, students spent one semester at each school and went on. And I said, what is global education really about? It’s understanding and managing complexity across the globe. Therefore, it’s not best achieved just by learning a few facts or learning a few things about culture and institutions. It’s partly going to be by experiencing it.
So, that’s when we developed what I think was the world’s first truly global degree, which was the Georgetown-ESADE Global Executive MBA, where they go to six modules in different locations, where we merge teaching from international relations to geopolitics to political economy to business in the same class. When we look at the complexity of multinationals and understand that people have to make decisions across these countries and functions.
The second realization for me was about our executive MBA program. You know, it’s very well ranked. The Financial Times has ranked it number one in the world (for international business). It had been around for, at that stage, about 17 years. It wasn’t a new program and I had been teaching in it. But I said, how do we take it to the next level? Now, we’re in Washington, D.C., which is an important city in many ways. It’s an important city because of the politics that take place. It’s an important city because of all the multinationals that are there. It’s an important city because everyone who wants to influence governments are there. It’s an important city because of all of the embassies and their relationships to businesses. And I said, “Are we making full use of it?”
So, in the second year, we created a sequence of courses that are uniquely Georgetown — that you probably wouldn’t get anywhere else. We’re developing this course called How Washington Works — or doesn’t — which allows you to understand not just the newspaper account of what a president is doing, but understand what role regulation plays, or how laws are made, or how advocacy takes place or doesn’t take place. Whether you like it or not, there’s great power in understanding what’s actually going on and not going on. And how multinationals make decisions. And how the World Bank may affect economies elsewhere. Or how different institutions interplay with each other. That is stuff Georgetown students can know and understand much better than anyone else in the world. And we have to take advantage of the speakers, the relationships, and our presence in these areas more than anyone else.
We’ve created this sequence of courses and I think it makes us entirely special. No other school can replicate that. And it’s so global. And it’s so business- and policy- and politics-relevant.
A third example is, we decided to launch what I think is one of the first premium online programs in the world. So, five or six years ago, if you thought of an online program, you’d say, OK, they just want more reach and they want to get economies of scale and it’s going to be lean media. And I said, “No, let’s create a premium program where we actually charge more per credit than our face-to-face programs.” And we’re doing it. That puts pressure on us to make every class richer and better. It was to be more Georgetown rather than less Georgetown.
So, what do you do? You get the best professor to spend hundreds of hours creating content for each class — not preparing for five hours and going into a classroom. We need to have a live session every week so we have synchronous content. And the sections should be smaller so the students can get to know their professors and the professors can get to know them. So, we have multiple sections. We have taken the flipped classroom and made it more rich and interactive. We have more office hours and more on-campus residencies and it’s been hugely successful.
It is a premium program. We charge a lot. We give the students incredible return on their investment, and satisfaction levels are very high.
So, again, what I’m trying to do is look at the possibilities and how the landscape is changing, and in some ways create programs or opportunities within programs that predict the future.
What types of students — or differences in students — are you seeing enrolling in the Global Executive MBA program and the online MBA program?
When people used to ask me what the profile is of the Global Executive MBA program, I would say, “Part of the point is we don’t have a profile.” They could be as young as 30 and as old as 65. They could be from any sector. We have people from education. We have people from nonprofits. We have people from banks. We have a Jesuit priest in every program. Why is this? We realize part of the challenge of globalization is learning to see the world from other perspectives. And, in spite of our best intentions, we are not very good at dealing with people with different sensitivities, different cultural understandings, different ways of operating.