Unlike most other Executive MBA programs in the New York area, Hofstra University’s option has gone hybrid with a mix of online learning and on-site classes held twice a month on Saturdays. Hofstra flipped its classrooms two years ago, deciding to teach the more rote material online while reserving face-to-face class time solely for discussion and the application of the learning.
The switch occurred at Hofstra’s Zarb School of Business to give students greater flexibility in taking the program, says Barry Berman, who has been the director of the EMBA program at Hofstra for the past 21 years. “Our average students are 35 years old,” explains Berman. “They have married, they have kids, and the hybrid program makes life much more manageable. Theoretically, you also can attract people from a much larger radius.”
More often than not, when students are in class now the focus is on engagement. “There is much more discussion back and forth,” adds Berman. “We ask how could you apply this concept in your company. So the classes are more application oriented as well.”
What is taught online and how it is taught varies from professor to professor who are allowed wide discretion in how they use long distance learning. Some make intensive use of video lectures, while others ask students to delve into Harvard Business School case studies which would later be discussed in more detailed fashion during the Saturday class sessions.
Hofstra’s version of the Executive MBA is a program with small class sizes of fewer than 20 students (the latest cohort numbers just ten professionals). “I’d say 15 to 17 students would be ideal but ten works out,” adds Berman. “With the ten students, they all have my cell phone number.” Despite the small number of students, it’s still a diverse crowd. “Twenty years ago it was almost all caucasian male which was unfortunate,” says Berman. “Now it’s probably more female than male by a 60/40 ratio with a large percentage of African-American women.”
Over the 20-month-long program, there are still plenty of face-to-face classes because after an all-day orientation, usually held on the Wednesday after Labor Day, the Saturday sessions begin their every other weekend rotation. During those meetups on the Hempstead, Long Island, campus, about 25 miles from New York City, classes begin at 8 a.m. and runs until 6 p.m., with the exception of a lunch hour and coffee breaks every three hours. By the program’s end, students will have attended class in person on 35 different Saturdays.
Each three-credit course will typically meet six times in person, in addition to the online assignment work. This is a highly structured curriculum with no electives and no concentrations. All told, students will take 14 different courses, two at a time, to earn the degree. None of the courses are entirely online but all avail themselves of assignments and professor videos. Among the newest courses are one in negotiations and another in spreadsheet modeling, both two-credit offerings.
Almost all of the three-credit courses in the curriculum at Hofstra are taught by two faculty members. Berman, for example, teaches a marketing course from a strategy perspective with another professor who, he says, is more of a “consumer behavior quant jock.” The upshot: Students often get two different perspectives on a topic.
The Executive MBA program at Hofstra’s Zarb School of Business offers an unranked EMBA option with a price tag of $92,000. While higher than rival programs at Baruch, Yeshiva and Pace University, Hofstra’s tuition costs unusually includes the airfare for the international practicum that has brought EMBA students in the past to Japan, China, South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil.
The trip is a clear highlight of the Hofstra program. “Teaching global business is our theme throughout the program so most of the class discussions are global,” says Berman. But the international trip brings those classroom discussions to another dimension. The school usually presents several options and asks students to pick a country to study with economic significance.
Depending on the background of students, the visit will include some tailoring to give EMBA students the chance to see how things are done in their own industries. “If we have a lot of people in the healthcare field, as we did when we went to Japan, we included a Japanese pharma company and a hospital in Japan on the agenda,” says Berman. “We do a project typically and visit a number of companies. We try to balance it based on student interest. When they return, they do presentations and a debrief.”
Another highlight, says Berman, is the capstone course in which students are asked to dig back on all the discipline-based learning in such areas as marketing, strategy, finance, and operations and bring it together in creating a business plan for a new venture. It’s the final course in the curriculum. “We had a student who did a plan on creating a tapas bar. She got so excited by it that she had her husband build one for her.”