Ask the administrator of an executive education program why an individual would spend the money and take the time to earn an advanced degree in business, and the answer comes back threefold.
“People are coming into the program because they are looking to move up the corporate ladder,” said Nikkole McCartin, director, EMBA program, Lee Business School, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). “Sometimes it’s a choice, sometimes it’s a requirement to get those people up to the next rung. There are people coming into the program because they do want to make a change in their career. They might want to move out of the industry they’re in or they might want to move into a totally new function [in that industry], so they’re coming to gain the skills, the knowledge and the competence to make a move like that.”
The executive master’s of business administration (EMBA) available from UNLV is just one of the executive education choices available to Nevada’s working professionals.
Online, on campus or a hybrid of the two, what these programs share is the students are finished with school and working as leaders in their industries and in their particular business functions, said McCartin. That means, as well as sharing common goals, they can share knowledge from all the different industries they represent.
The UNLV program is all on campus, with students attending every other Friday and Saturday for 18 months.
“We believe strongly in the on-campus learning experience because so much of the learning that occurs is between the students,” said McCartin. “There’s 25 students to a cohort and they’re from all different industries and functions of business, so when you start talking about a particular subject, everybody is bringing their own real world experience into the classroom. They learn as much from each other as they do from the faculty.”
The EMBA is a generalist degree with a focus on leadership, strategy, organizational management and entrepreneurship. Students focus on technical aspects of business and application of what they’re learning.
“What our students are learning on Friday and Saturday, they’re taking back to use on Monday morning,” said McCartin.
“The key skills we’re looking to get out of the business program, the MBA, are critical thinking, problem solving, communications, information utilization and collaboration, and so those are the key areas that we develop our course curriculum around,” said Paul Green, campus vice president, Las Vegas campus, University of Phoenix.
So for those executives who are looking to upgrade their competencies, just what kind of executive education is available in Nevada?
In Las Vegas, the Lee Business School at UNLV EMBA program students move through the 18 month program together. The classes emphasize application over abstraction, projects, papers and presentations, that allow for deeper learning and understanding of topics rather than tests, according to McCartin.
“Tests will only tell you so much, but if you can really dig in and do a presentation or project, you’re learning a lot more about a particular subject,” said McCartin.
UNLV also offers an MBA program with more specific tracks, such as finance, marketing and human resources, and there are other master’s degree programs in accounting and finance and a number of programs at graduate level. Time commitment varies, generally two to three years per program.
The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) College of Business offers professional development courses and certificate programs on business topics from human resources management to project management to social media and digital marketing. Faculty members create seminars and workshops in the fields of their expertise, with time commitments that might run from one to 10 days.
Some of the programs are developed for industries. There’s a management development certificate program the college developed for Barrick Gold in Elko created to teach early stage managers.
“That’s actually a program that’s pretty portable,” said Gregory Mosier, dean, College of Business, UNR. “It would work for almost any company, but Barrick Gold is the one we’ve most recently done it for.”
There’s also an executive development program for the gaming industry, presented in the last three years in partnership with the UNLV International Gaming Institute. In November 2016, 62 delegates from 14 countries attended that program at Lake Tahoe.
The EMBA program at UNR offers a graduate degree in business/management education, with the idea that business knowledge equates to market power, according to Kambiz Raffiee, associate dean, director, MBA Programs, College of Business, UNR.
“The focus of the online executive education MBA program at UNR is really just about educating students about the fundamental knowledge of business and decision making,” said Raffiee. “They offer courses in accounting, economics, marketing, operations management, organizational behavior, personal branding, international business and business strategy.”
Students start and finish together in the two-year program, and the average work experience of students in each class or cohort is 14 years. Because the program is completely online, students have participated not only from Northern Nevada but from Alaska, California, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Texas, Utah, Australia and Dubai.
Time, Place and Pace
Time is an issue for everybody in business, and especially for those executives adding an MBA program to their schedules. Programs are structured to fit the needs of busy people who already have knowledge of the business world.
Western Governor’s University (WGU) was created by 19 western state’s governors to meet education and workforce needs. The programs are online, and the school utilizes competency based education, which works on the premise that someone who can demonstrate mastery of a subject can be allowed to move at their own speed through the subject. It looks at concrete skills rather than abstract understanding.
“It allows the learner to accelerate through their course work,” said Spencer Stewart, chancellor, WGU. “Putting it in practical terms, the average time for us in Nevada for students taking a four year degree is around 30 months, or roughly two-and-a-half years.”
WGU offers master’s degrees in their College of Business programs, such as a Master of Science in accounting. Programs are designed for the mid-level or senior executive who’s a full time professional.
In addition to the traditional MBA, there are MBA programs with concentrations like integrated technology management and healthcare management or a combination, a fairly unique composite created by WGU’s College of Business and College of Integrated Technology.
Other executive-level programs focus on areas like cybersecurity and information assurance, and there’s a new Master of Science in data analytics because the field is growing.
WGU was designed to reflect western states’ workforce needs, present employment opportunities for students and to provide executive level education for professionals already in those industries looking to sharpen their skills and fill in any gaps in knowledge.
“With all of our degree programs we are constantly updating our curriculum to take into account industry changes on a national and regional level,” said Stewart.
Stewart also said that curriculums are changing more rapidly now, a function of constant updates in technology and knowledge development happening across virtually every industry. “First and foremost, [we’re] making sure the programs are relevant and the competencies one leaves with following graduation are related to the workforce of today, not the workforce of 10 years ago,” Stewart explained.
University of Phoenix offers extensive executive education opportunities for busy professionals. Students can work online or on campus, taking one course at a time, one night a week for six weeks.
“Then they just keep going through their MBA program,” said Green, “which is a minimum – depending on what they’re looking to do, because we do have specialties – of 36 credit hours.”
The time commitment for the program can be significant. Green estimates students spend 15 to 20 hours a week on course work, but there are choices on how and where to attend. There are campuses around the world, including campuses in Southern and Northern Nevada, with online education as an option. Students who start in one location and transfer to another state will generally find a campus nearby, said Green. That makes University of Phoenix programs popular with military students.
University of Phoenix offers doctorate degrees in organizational management and another in leadership through programs online. In the realm of master’s degrees, there are programs in a number of different areas where students can narrow what they want to specialize in, including accounting and public relations, or students can take a straight MBA program.
Executive MBA programs and executive education as a whole are designed with busy professionals in mind. The students are already working in professional positions and are likely to have families and other time commitments.
Sonal Chablani had a decade of work experience before he started the EMBA program at UNR.
“Having worked in the technical field for several years, I was looking to move into management,” Chablani said. Before he took the program, his employers weren’t looking to promote him. However, within a couple months of his graduation in 2014, he landed his dream job in management.
For Matt Ream, the EMBA program was attractive both as continuing education and as a chance for career advancement. Being able to do the program online and schedule around family and work was important.
“It was still a ranked program throughout the country, so that made it a top choice,” said Ream. The time commitment was 12 to 14 hours a week. He worked on the program Mondays and Wednesdays after work, and on Saturdays headed to a local library to study.
“We’re really geared toward helping working professionals and adults meet their educational goals,” said Green. “A lot of folks who are busy getting into family life and work, this has been a goal for them for a long time, so we try to make it feasible for them to go back to school and earn their education.”
The UNLV program offers concierge service. Meals are provided when students are on campus, textbooks are delivered and paperwork is handled, all so students can spend time doing what they need to do: Learn.
Still, there’s more to executive education than studying.
“Our students leave with an MBA degree and all the skills and confidence and new knowledge, but the major takeaway is the cohort experience going to school for 18 months with 25 professionals,” said McCartin, who graduated from the program in 2009. “You build a network that is so much more significant than what we typically build in the workplace because you go through the experience together. That is something that is invaluable.”
“There are people I call friends now who I met through the program,” said Ream, who graduated in 2014. He estimates the online program was 50 percent local students, with the rest ranging from out of state to out of country, including a UNR graduate living in Dubai.
For Amanda Klein, the EMBA program at UNLV was like spending 18 months with 16 of her best friends. “The network we were able to grow and build as a result of the program is probably one of the best parts of the program for me,” said Klein.
Before the program, Klein worked in healthcare marketing, but wanted to have the education and technical skills to change to an administrative role in healthcare if the opportunity arose.
“They say the vast majority of individuals that go into an MBA program either change careers during or right after graduation, and I was one of those statistics,” Klein explained. She was recruited by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield as a marketing director.
Rick Darnold wasn’t looking for a career change, but for education. His mother planted the seed of lifelong learning, but when Darnold started taking graduate classes in the 90s, business and life were too hectic. The UNLV EMBA program worked for him because it was on campus and in town. Since he already had professional experience, he thought the course would be just a formalization of information he already possessed. Instead, “it really opened my eyes to alternative ways of problem solving and addressing business problems,” Darnold said.
It’s paid off, too. In March 2016, Darnold was promoted to senior vice president for Boyd Gaming corporation, a job that’s utilizing the information he learned in the program.
“I think the important thing is to invest in yourself,” said Darnold. “With business, it’s continually changing and those people who succeed in business continually change also. Success takes a continual reinvestment in yourself.”
Developing a Leadership Plan….For Yourself: Pursuing an Executive MBA is a Strategic Decision
An Executive MBA is designed for senior and mid-career executives who want to lead with confidence by acquiring an integrated understanding of business and strategic perspective.
The Executive MBA Experience at Lee Business School
The Executive MBA from UNLV Lee Business School is an unmatched combination of quality, convenience, and affordability. Harnessing the intellectual capital of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada business community, the Executive MBA program is taught by faculty and guest lecturers who excel in both the private sector and academia. Curriculum is management-focused while emphasizing teamwork, collaboration and leadership. Courses offer practical and applicable knowledge that creates value and are sequenced through a lock-step format. Each cohort proceeds through the program taking each course together over an 18-month period to ensure continuity of learning.
The program culminates with an international seminar where students witness global business first-hand.
Each cohort of approximately 25 students is carefully comprised of business executives, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. This provides students the unique opportunity to learn as much from each other as they do from the hand-selected faculty.
Convenient Weekend Format
Classes begin once a year in late spring. Cohorts meet for one concentrated week at the beginning of the program, followed by classes every other Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. These intense, two-day sessions allow ample time for working with faculty and fellow students while providing the flexibility to meet other professional and personal commitments.
Understanding that Executive MBA students are busy professionals and executives, staff handles the details from registering classes to ordering textbooks, and more. Throughout the program, students are given personalized service from application to graduation allowing them to focus solely on their education.
Tuition for the Executive MBA program is comprehensive and financial aid is available for qualified individuals. Comparatively affordable, the program is $42,000, which includes tuition and most student fees (parking, graduation, etc.); books and course materials; food and beverage on class days; and transportation, hotel, cultural activities, and most meals for the International Seminar.
Consider an Executive MBA as the next step in your leadership plan and learn more about how the program at Lee Business School can fit your goals and commitments at www.UNLV.edu/EMBA or call 702-895-2628.
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