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Customizing the Exec MBA

Customized programs allow participants to work on strategic initiatives without the confidentiality issues that might arise in an open-enrollment or executive MBA program.

December 19, 2008
Related Topics: Career Development, Employee Career Development
In 2009, 30 executives from South Korea’s LG Electronics, one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers, will earn executive MBAs at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona.

The group is the fourth cohort of five participating in a custom corporate MBA program designed exclusively for LG by Thunderbird. The fifth cohort will start the program in June 2009 and graduate in August 2010.

"We talked to LG for five years to arrive at the corporate EMBA idea," says Barbara Carpenter, head of Thunderbird’s executive MBA program. Thunderbird is now in discussions with LG to renew the agreement for another five cohorts.

The LG executive MBA provides core MBA classes plus courses designed to meet LG’s specific needs. Thunderbird flies faculty and support staff to the LG Learning Center in Seoul, South Korea, for one module every four weeks; participants spend one month at the end of their program in Arizona.

Customized programs allow participants to work on strategic initiatives without the confidentiality issues that might arise in an open-enrollment or executive MBA program. To complete the LG executive MBA program, each cohort of 30 participants constructs a live group project and presents it to senior LG management.

"These are very high-level projects, and the company has implemented many of the ideas presented," Carpenter says.

Launching the customized executive MBA program is not the only major change that Thunderbird has implemented in response to changing business needs. In 2007, the school compressed its 21-month U.S. and European executive MBA curriculum to 16 months in response to client demands for a program that would allow participants to spend less time away from work.

To compress the program, Thunderbird modified its language requirements. Because of the school’s resolutely global focus, every student is required to learn a second language, but Thunderbird now allows participants who already have a second language to opt out of the requirement and permits others to test out of it if they can. For the remaining 20 percent, Thunderbird provides an intensive immersion language track that occurs outside of regular classroom time.

The school also incorporated some distance-learning components and aligned the executive MBA format with the full-time MBA format so that students can move between the two programs for courses.

"These were all significant revisions driven by time and functionality issues," Carpenter says.

Thunderbird also recently integrated parts of its American and European executive MBA programs so that some courses and modules are shared. Both U.S. and European executive MBA participants recently attended a module in China. "The coursework is similar to a field study with briefings and meetings with government and corporate leaders," Carpenter says. "And by putting together the two cohorts, we gathered together a variety of perspectives."

The executive MBA class that entered in August 2008 will complete three international modules. Students will have a choice of modules in Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Latin America and China. "Students can personalize their choices based on their interests and their company’s needs," Carpenter says.

Workforce Management, December 15, 2008, p. 26 -- Subscribe Now!

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