Columbia Business School: An EMBA Smorgasbord

New York City's Columbia University

New York City’s Columbia University

If executive MBA education were Major League Baseball, Columbia Business School would, fittingly, be the New York Yankees. Columbia’s EMBA program is storied, consistently hits the top of rankings, has robust resources, and sheer size.

The program, which is currently ranked seventh in the world by Poets&Quants, has been ranked as high as second by Bloomberg Businessweek and boasts many structural options to meet nearly any executive schedule—regardless of workload or geography. If potential applicants can take a weekday for school, they can choose the Friday/Saturday program. If work beckons on Friday, the Saturday program is an option.

Columbia also offers the New York City-based “EMBA-Americas” program, designed for students willing to travel from North, South, and Central America. Finally, Columbia, with London Business School and the University of Hong Kong, offers the “Global Americas & Europe” program, which bounces from New York to London, and the “Global Asia” program based in Hong Kong.


The Friday/Saturday program begins in late August and students meet every other Friday and Saturday, all day, and have two required residency weeks. It runs over five terms for 20 months. The Saturday program meets on Saturdays only, begins in May, and lasts for a little more than two years. The EMBA-Americas program is the newest and draws students from all over North, South, and Central America. Students spend one week each month in New York and also have required weeks during the first year in Silicon Valley, Toronto, and São Paulo. The program lasts 20 months.

The global programs are an entirely different beast. In the Global Americas & Europe program, students spend half a week each month for 1 1/2 years in either London or New York. During the second half of the program students may also take courses in Hong Kong or Shanghai. The result is unusual: dual MBA degrees, from Columbia and London Business School.

Students participating in the Global Asia program spend 16 to 20 months taking courses in New York, London, and Hong Kong. It is structured similarly to the Americas & Europe program and students meet for about half a week one week each month. Students eat, live, and study together.

Kelley Martin Blanco is well versed in Columbia’s vast offerings. She’s nearly done it all at Columbia. She came to the school in 1998, after four years at Virginia’s Darden School of Business, as associate director of major gifts. She quickly worked her way up to director of giving and director of development, earning an EMBA to boot. In 2007, she took over as assistant dean of the executive MBA programs and now serves as dean of students for the EMBA programs.

Blanco recently spoke with Poets&Quants about Columbia’s strong emphasis on career management and creating a community across the school’s many EMBA programs. She revealed why you won’t see technology taking over the EMBA programs at Columbia anytime soon and how Columbia plans to put the student experience first as they continue to innovate in EMBA education.

Poets&Quants: What is Columbia doing that is new and unique?

Columbia has been thinking of the future for its executive MBA program for about five years now. We have had a lot of change aimed at addressing the future of the EMBA and the profile of students for the future. We’ve introduced our New York program, which meets on Saturdays so they do not need corporate sponsorship. They come almost every Saturday for about two years. We are looking for students who are bright and willing to invest resources and time in their future—and that’s what we got. They (Saturday program students) are a wonderful part of the community. We’ve really tried to blend all the EMBA programs into one community.

Another big innovation for us is, of course, our EMBA Global Asia program, which is with London Business School and the University of Hong Kong, which joined in 2009. We also have the EMBA-Americas program which is essentially a commuter EMBA program. It allows students to pursue an EMBA at Columbia and to do so while still working. This program, launched three years ago, has already been successful and is growing in the size of the cohort.

Community is something that is important to us. It comes as a part of our infrastructure. Because of our size, we have quite a large offering of global electives. Our (global elective) courses are offered Monday through Friday, nine to five and available to all students, regardless of EMBA program. We have five to six international seminars that are also available to all EMBA students. As a cohort, you are together for the first two to three terms and in the final two to three terms you are branching out more.

All of our programs are quite robust. Our EMBA New York programs are all almost the same size. Our EMBA Global programs and Americas program are a lot more niche because they have to be away from work for one week a month. For those, we are looking for students with international experience. The Americas program is the smallest but is growing and we hope it will be the same size as the other programs.

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