It’s that time of year again when we are flooded with all things graduation around us. Our social media feeds are filled with family, friends, and colleagues who are donning the signature regalia and celebrating one of life’s major accomplishments. If you are thinking to yourself, “Maybe I should go to graduate school,” you are not alone. I was in that same boat just two short years ago. I decided that my answer to myself was “yes,” and this is my experience.
I’ve spent the last 21 months in the Executive MBA program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I chose the EMBA program over the traditional MBA program because I wanted to be among a group of driven professionals that would push me out of my comfort zone and from whose experiences I could learn. I also knew weekday evening classes wouldn’t work with my schedule. The EMBA classes are every other weekend on Friday afternoons and 8 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays.
The curriculum is much like a traditional MBA with a few key differences. First, the program is lock-step, meaning each semester’s courses are scheduled for you, so you don’t have to choose which courses to take in which semester. Second, there is no specialization track. The intent is to give you a broad background in all major areas of business administration. Third, there is no thesis requirement. One of the professors early on explained it in a succinct way: This program is designed not to make you the expert in each of the areas of your business, but to give you the tools and acumen to understand what the experts in your business are telling you.
When I first heard the words “Executive MBA,” in my head I saw a lecture hall filled with middle-aged males in 3-piece suits with their leather briefcases all trying to one-up each other with their personal accomplishments. That could not have been farther from reality. Our cohort was very diverse in demographics, expertise, and experiences. Some of the greatest value and learning opportunities came from among the students themselves. We had business owners, retired military personnel, stay-at-home parents, young managers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, web developers, cattle ranchers, team building instructors, and the list goes on and on. Everyone had something unique to bring to the group, and the open dialogue structure of the lectures highlighted this fact.
The courses are led by world-class professors who have a vested interest in our success. They come from the country’s leading universities and are leaders in their respective fields. They are active researchers, authors, industry experts, award-winning lecturers, and resident thought-provokers. They genuinely enjoy teaching in the Executive MBA program because of the high caliber of students with a drive to excel. They aren’t the kind of professors who just live on the other end of a red pen, ready to mark up your paper or test. They are the kind of professors who meet with you at 10 PM at the Starbucks for a chat about a project. They join your class for breakfast on Saturdays before class. They exchange texts about your questions as you work through the homework assignment. They share with you their personal and career highs and lows. They treat you like a student who also happens to be working full-time and might be juggling a family, too. They are truly the backbone of the EMBA program.
Finally, I can’t fully describe my experience without talking about our international trip. Each cohort, along with a few of the professors, takes an international trip and spends 10 days immersed in other countries to learn about a few key industries and the global economic and political impacts we all face. Our cohort traveled to London and Paris, with mornings filled with visits to places like Lloyd’s of London, where the insurance policy for the Titanic was signed, and ARUP, the company who brought us the iconic Water Cube aquatics center and Bird’s Nest arena at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The afternoons were left to sightseeing and class camaraderie at places that included a pub built in 1538, Windsor Castle (yes, you can go inside!), and dinner up on the Eiffel Tower. It was the highlight of the program and an experience we all won’t soon forget.
As I reflect on the journey I’ve just been through, I realize that this isn’t the end. It is a new beginning, too: the beginning of a life with all the skills and experiences I’ve earned over the last five semesters; the network of life-long friends I know I can reach out to as I make it through the rest of my career and life; an assembly of professors whose life’s passions mean a wealth of expert experience and professional guidance as I continue my journey to becoming what I want to be when I grow up.
If you are considering a graduate program, then the Executive MBA might be for you if you:
– Have a desire to work in groups of people with vastly different backgrounds
– Have a minimum of 8 years of professional experience
– Can dedicate time to complete 5 semesters from beginning to end
– Want to make lifelong friends with your peers and professors
– Want to earn an advanced degree in a challenging academic setting
– Want to have the experience of a lifetime
For more information on UTSA’s Executive MBA program and for upcoming information sessions, visit business.utsa.edu/cpe-emba/.