School Supplies: Number 2 Pencil and Management Track

BY STEVE DINNEN

If it’s September, school is back in session. And that could include you, Mr. or Ms. 40-something business executive or owner, as you sharpen your entrepreneurial skills with guidance from executive MBA programs.

With the advent of distance learning, MBA degrees from many of the nation’s top universities are available online. Many feature at least some short residency on campus, and many others offer an offshore component to learn how business is done globally.

Closer to home, and in person, Drake University, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa all offer some version of an executive MBA program, or a professional MBA. There is a difference. At Iowa, for instance, the professional MBA program runs 36 months and attracts students who on average have about seven years of work experience. The executive MBA program runs 21 months and attracts students who are well into their careers.

Dawn Kluber, assistant dean of executive education at UI, says executive MBA students come to class with significant responsibility over budgets, clients, projects or strategies at the companies they own or work at. UI uses the cohort approach – a set number of students are admitted at a particular time, and they all take the same classes over the course of their education.

“It’s especially important for people who own their own businesses,” says Kluber, as they may well have to play many roles without backup. This works for professionals as well, and Kluber says cohorts always contain physicians and lawyers who are interested in bringing more business skills to their craft.

Daniel Connolly, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at Drake, says the MBA program there is aimed at people who want to enrich their career path. They might want to learn more about leadership skills – there’s a course on that and human capital development. And in a data-rich, global business environment, there’s a course on developing data.

Drake emphasizes an MBA program that is flexible. A degree can take two years, or five if need be when life or business events pop up. Regardless of the timeline, Connolly says Drake intends to help executives move from functional to managerial roles.

Iowa State offers full-time MBA and professional MBA programs, with classes taught during the week in downtown Des Moines. And by this time next year it ought to start its first executive MBA program, which will focus on animal science and agribusiness.

Sam DeMarie, director of the executive MBA program, says it will feature a leadership speaker series where research scientists, startup entrepreneurs and industry experts will share their wisdom. Leading that series will be prominent Des Moines business leader Suku Radia.

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