Changes On The Way For Duke’s EMBA Programs

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business

Big changes are coming to the EMBA program lineup at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In an effort to increase accessibility and flexibility for mid- and senior-level executives — and to expand the geographic regions from which it typically attracts students — the school is revising and rebooting two of its programs and getting rid of another. They’re also shaking things up by ridding itself of the usual “age and experience” formula that most schools go by for their executive MBA programs.

In the fall of 2018, instead of three executive MBA programs, prospective Duke Fuqua students will have two EMBA options to choose from: a restructured, 17-month Global EMBA and a reformatted, 19-month Weekend EMBA. With these changes also comes the elimination of the school’s Cross Continent Executive MBA — but while that program is being removed, its format will remain intact and become the new structure for the rebooted global program.

The hallmark of both the Cross Continent EMBA and the Global EMBA was their international focus combined with blended learning, Duke Fuqua Dean Bill Boulding tells Poets&Quants. Both contained between three and five different residency periods that were situated in various parts of the world, from North Carolina and New Delhi to Shanghai and Santiago, Chile and many points between. Interspersed between residencies were longer distance-learning periods wherein students completed online coursework from anywhere they liked.

By converging the two programs, Boulding says, Duke expects several key benefits for incoming students. Historically, the student profile of the global program has consisted of senior-level working professionals with 15 years of experience, so the time away from work for long residencies in different parts of the world wasn’t particularly career-friendly. By adopting the Cross Continent program format, the updated Global EMBA will lessen the time spent in each residency from two weeks to one.


Duke Fuqua says it’s also “widening the lens” when it comes to the student body makeup of the new Global Executive MBA program. Whereas the Cross Continent EMBA largely targeted professionals in the five- to 10-year range for work experience, and the Global EMBA targeted pros in the 12- to 15-year range, Duke is taking the limits off by allowing the two to come together. The school has been “experimenting with mixing the ages of the cohort between GEMBA and CC,” according to a statement about the upcoming changes, “and have seen awesome results from that diversity with mentoring and reverse mentoring. Therefore, we feel like blending the programs is going to be hugely beneficial to our students in learning from their classmates of different ages, experiences and career levels.”

Over the past few years, Duke has put the changes to the test, Boulding says, and it’s the reverse mentoring that has been most eye-opening.

Bill Boulding, Dean of the Fuqua School of Business

“Senior execs are talking about the need to learn from more junior-level professionals,” he says. “There’s a generation they don’t understand as well, there’s social media, and other things they have not grown up with. By bringing the two together, there becomes a symmetry. Junior-level professionals benefit from the presence of senior-level professionals and vice versa.”

Boulding described this as an “aha” moment: “When we found that combining the two would produce value for both sets of participants.”


The other big change coming to Duke’s programming is found in its Weekend Executive MBA. While it will continue to be based in Durham, North Carolina, instead of two monthly residencies requiring in-person attendance only one will carry the in-person mandate; the second is left up to the student to decide if they’d like it be physically present in the classroom or simply join virtually.

By cutting the required in-person time in half, Boulding says, Fuqua expects to increase the geographic representation of the program. “The majority of Fuqua’s Weekend MBA students are coming from the East Coast right now,” he says. “We’ve had people coming from London, California, Texas, and so on, but the typical corridor has been north to Boston, south to Miami, and west to Chicago. For people who believe in the quality of the Duke experience, this makes it more accessible for them.” He adds that Duke is hoping the revised Weekend MBA will make the program friendlier for working parents or others who may not be able to travel every two weeks.

Applications for both the Global Executive MBA and Weekend Executive MBA programs are being accepted. The changes will take effect with students who are matriculated in August 2018.


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