Every other weekend for nearly two years, Sandy Rodriguez, vice president of corporate communications at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, set aside family and a high-intensity career in pursuit of an Executive MBA degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business. Her goal to broaden her business acumen beyond her communications expertise was met — and ultimately exceeded — by a newly acquired global network of professionals and a newfound confidence in herself as a business woman and leader.
According to Greg Hanifee, Associated Dean of Degree Operations of Kellogg’s Executive MBA Global Network, the EMBA at Kellogg is a three-way intersection: “It starts with developing yourself to be the best leader you can be combined with research and rigor our faculty bring to classroom. This is met with a cross-cultural collaboration and team approach that has been at the heart of Kellogg for so long. It sets the stage for students, for whatever their potential might be.”
In other words, everything that Sandy Rodriguez, Class of 2017, wanted and more.
A TRULY GLOBAL PROGRAM
The EMBA program at Kellogg dates all the way back to 1976 when it was instituted by former long-time dean Don Jacobs. Today the EMBA program has two locations in the U.S. — Evanston, Illinois and Miami, Florida — plus five global partnerships that also administer the program from business schools in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Toronto, and Vallendar, Germany.
These five global locations serve as breeding grounds for the global network that Hanifee and Rodriguez say is a key student outcome of completing the EMBA program at Kellogg. As part of the 22-month curriculum, the school requires a week-long international trip to one of the five global partner schools or an elective in another international location.
Rodriguez chose the latter and spent a week in Africa focused on education in Kenya and Rwanda. “One of the best experiences of my life,” she says. “We met with organizations focused on education through a lens of scalability and sustainability. We learned what they were doing to make the world a better place, what they were doing to help individuals from that region, and what we can learn from that. Learning about business in a different way, where it wasn’t focused on making another dollar, but making the world a better place was just fascinating. It broadens your perspective on how you can make a difference in the world.”
“In the old days it could be that you’d complete an EMBA program without an international experience, but we require it,” says Hanifee. “ We really believe that even if you’re running a family business in Wisconsin, you have to understand global business. We are truly a global program so people have to be prepared for that.”
ONE GLOBAL REQUIREMENT, THREE MANDATORY RESIDENCIES
For prospective students, Hanifee’s caution is one to take note of. Like most EMBA programs, Kellogg targets students with eight to ten years of professional experience. Students in Kellogg’s incoming cohorts are typically even further along in their careers, usually averaging 14 years of experience. For such professionals, who are many times at the peaks of their occupations, spending a week in another part of the world may not be ideal nor feasible.
To add to the week-long international experience, the Kellogg EMBA also has three week-long, live-in residencies that are required at different points throughout the program.
“We start off every cohort with a launch week that’s basically six days of opening the program with a mix of co-curricular design thinking concepts and team building and we put them in classes worth 1.5 credits,” Hanifee says.
“In August of their first year, there’s a mandatory global live-in in Evanston where students are joined by all schools from all of the international partner schools. This is something that’s pretty unique in the Executive MBA space. This is followed by another live-in week at another point in the program.”
As far as the international requirement goes, Hanifee says students are all for it. “You’d think there’d be a lot of pushback on it since we made it mandatory, but there’s been zero,” he says. “In order to be a leader in next 20 years you have to have global perspective so it’s important for us to give it to them. Still, we’re also people and humans so if something comes up in their lives, or if their job does not allow them to go, we’re rational and will figure out how to achieve it with coursework and other classes.”
When they’re not in one of the live-in residencies, Kellogg EMBA students meet in-person every other weekend if they’re in the Evanston program and once a month if they’re in the Miami version. In 22 months time, students take a minimum of 28 classes and the course work is centered around readings, cases, and group projects with study groups to boost students’ networks.
‘AT KELLOGG, I LEARNED MY STRENGTH IS EMPATHY’
“One thing we focus on in our leadership courses is professional and social networks based on research from one of our professors, Brian Uzzi, that leadership success is highly dependent on your network,” Hanifee tells Poets&Quants. “We all have strengths and weaknesses and we can’t do it on our own. The ability to leverage your network has a high correlation to how successful you can be as a leader.”
“One of the great things about Kellogg is it showed me how to recognize my strengths and to embrace them,” says Rodriguez who, before the program, thought the kindness she is so well-known for was a severe weakness. “At Kellogg, I learned my strength is empathy. The people in the network and my cohort taught me, and almost pushed me, to understand that it’s a strength and something that they really valued in our group work, but they also stressed that it was something I should take with me, use it, and embrace it. Now within my organization, it’s pretty amazing to be able to walk into a room and not hide from who I am, but be able to show up with confidence.”
Hanifee attributes Rodriguez’s experience to Kellogg’s requirement that students truly evaluate themselves and to be self aware. “We spend a lot of time on co-curricular efforts to be the best you that you can be.”
To this end, he says, co-curricular workshops are designed to help students define their personal stories and answer questions such as Who am I, what do I stand for, what are my beliefs, what kind of environment am I most productive in, and what kind of leader do I want to be?
“We also spend time thinking about derailers,” Hanifee says. “Everyone’s got strengths, but sometime there are derailers so we look at how to address them to be a better leader. Finally, focus on executive presence. When you walk into a room what do others see? Or if you have a presentation, how do you position yourself. There are these skills we try to offer to our students.”
38% WOMEN IN THE MOST RECENT COHORT
Incoming cohorts into Kellogg’s EMBA program are typically around 55-60 total students. In the most recent graduating cohort, 38% of the class were women. “Typically, we see about 25% to 28% women so we were above our historical averages for sure,” Hanifee says. “We are intentional in our marketing toward working professional women, but I don’t want to say 38% will be easy to replicate.”
In addition, Kellogg reports that students entering into its EMBA program generally fall within one of four categories.
“A quarter have an inkling they may want to change careers or industries. We call them shifters,” says Hanifee. “Another quarter of them want to accelerate through their current trajectory so they’re looking for general management knowledge. We call them amplifiers. There’s another quarter of students who have the entrepreneurial bug and they want to start something brand new. They want to use Kellogg to build connections, build confidence, test ideas. We talk about them as ready to launch.”
“The last quarter, believe it or not, they don’t know. These are individuals in their mid to late 30s or 40s, they’ve had success and they feel good about that, but something is itching at them and they don’t know exactly what their next path should be. The program is a great opportunity to gain more knowledge and gain access to career and leadership coaches that are here to help them round out and define who they are and what their next step should be.”
To get into the program, Kellogg requires a minimum of eight years work experience, two recommendation letters, a sponsorship letter from the applicant’s employer, and a mandatory interview with the school. Most applicants are able to waive GMAT test scores.
The cost for the program is $100,560 per year or $201,120 total. Scholarships are available for different segments and can go as high as 40% for students in the nonprofit sector.