In 2017, when New York University’s Stern School of Business was preparing to launch a new Executive MBA in Washington, D.C., Fabrice Coles was just the type of professional the school hoped to target.
Coles was a busy D.C. lawyer with a growing family of three small children. He worked for congressmen and senators, advised the government on consequential bills like Dodd Frank, spent time in the U.S. Treasury Department, and was executive director for the Congressional Black Caucus. His wife also worked in government. He had considered business school in the past, but the time never seemed quite right.
Then, Coles saw an ad for a new Stern EMBA, this one in his backyard – downtown in the nation’s capital. Its one-a-month format seemed doable, and it bore that stellar NYU brand.
“I’ve been in D.C. for 20 years or so, but I’m a native New Yorker. My grandfather is an NYU graduate, so I felt this connection.” says Coles, EMBA ‘20. “I saw this ad and thought, ‘This is some kind of sign.’”
Coles was one of 50 students to enroll in the program’s very first cohort in August 2018, 10 more students than the school projected.
Four years on, and Stern has just welcomed its fifth cohort in its D.C. EMBA, a class that has maintained the same level of diversity and quality of its first.
A NEW D.C. EMBA IN A CROWDED FIELD
Back in 2017, Stern’s new D.C. executive MBA made good sense on paper. The business school was already attracting students from the D.C. area to its existing EMBA program in New York City. Ranked No. 7 in the 2018 U.S. News EMBA ranking, it would enter D.C. as the highest ranked program in the region. It had existing space downtown in NYU’s Constance Milstein and Family Global Academic Center, and its once-a-month format was different from many such programs at the time, offering a new level of flexibility for its busy executives. (It’s NYC program meets twice a month.)
“We thought maybe there was an unmet need there in that market, and students were looking for a program with a more global reputation that’s based more locally in their region,” says Neha Singhal, the assistant dean of executive degree programs admissions and marketing at NYU Stern.
But, it wasn’t a sure thing. The D.C. market for executive MBAs was already relatively crowded, and Stern entered with the highest price tag: $165,000. By comparison, UVA Darden School of Business at the time offered a D.C. EMBA for $158,100, Georgetown’s McDonough had one for $139,900, while Maryland Smith’s was $121,900.
The gamble paid off: When Stern’s first D.C. cohort enrolled in August 2018, it was 25% larger than expected. The class was 36% women, had 13 years of work experience, and came from a mix of industry employers including Capital One, the World Bank, Deloitte, The Congressional Black Caucus, the Smithsonian, and the U.S. Army, among others.
It’s managed to maintain a similar profile for all five of its first cohorts: The average Stern D.C. EMBA class has 12 years of work experience, 7 years of management, and 31% have advanced degrees. It is 35% women, 30% underrepresented minorities, and 25% come from international backgrounds. Further, about a third of students come from outside the local area, a testament to the wider draw of its flexible, once-a-month format.
“We’ve been really happy to be able to maintain these quality and diversity stats across cohorts,” Singhal tells Poets&Quants.
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