Executive MBA Program


The back-to-school bell goes on ringing for middle and upper management, thanks to this long-standing program. Now in its twenty-second year, the Executive MBA program allows participants to complete an MBA in two years by attending intensive summer sessions plus a full day of classes once a week during the academic year.

EVEN BETTER, THE CAMPUS IS NOW COMING TO THE STUDENTS, Distance learning — that byword for the future of graduate business education — has not only begun to extend the reach of the Executive MBA program, it is already widening its horizon to dimensions as yet unknown.

During the 1997-98 academic year, five managers from Motorola attended class at an offsite facility in Oak Brook. Thanks to a live, two-way, interactive video set-up, these students were able to take in lectures and presentations by Commerce faculty concurrent with classmates on the UIUC campus. "We tend to have highly mobile executives as our students," notes program director Merle Giles. "The challenge is to get them to commit to a two-year program when they may not be in the same office over that time — and are often on the road." Giles (himself an Executive MBA grad, class of '94) cites the efforts of faculty members Larry DeBrock, Joe Porac, Susan Cohen, and Tom Linsmeier in helping to launch this high-tech teaching arrangement.

"By next year we'll be able to run courses by IP video over the Internet," predicts Giles. "The technology is such that we won't even have to have corporate video conferencing classrooms."

"When it comes to meeting the needs of these executives, there have been two camps," Giles continues. "There is Internet-based, asynchronous learning, and there is distance learning over live video. Now, if we marry these technologies we may very well have the best of both worlds for distance learning."

"If we marry these technologies we may very well have the best of both worlds for distance learning."
- Merle Giles, Director, Executive MBA Program
AN INTEGRAL AND SUCCESSFUL PART OF THE EXECUTIVE MBA IS THE MANAGEMENT 2000 PROGRAM,  in which students offer pro bono consulting services to not-for-profit organizations. In this year-long, two-credit course — launched in 1992 — study groups consult for local social service agencies and other charitable organizations. "I estimate that these services represent between $10,000 and $15,000 worth of consulting for each of the agencies," says Giles, who notes that students often choose to work with agencies in their home towns. "The students are coming up with recommendations that these not-for-profits would otherwise never have received." Through the Management 2000 program, forty organizations have received the benefits of Executive MBA student services. Between January 1996 and January 1997, the following organizations participated in Management 2000:
  • Champaign County Humane Society

  • United Way of Champaign County

  • Project Success (Danville)

  • The Oasis Logan County's Senior Citizens' Center (Lincoln)

  • The Children's Foundation (Bloomington)

  • Julian Center (Indianapolis)

  • New Life Pregnancy Center (Decatur)


Even more literally distant — and perhaps even more part of the future — is the distance learning "classroom" of Teresa Stone, a Microsoft employee who's in the Executive MBA Class of 1998.
While working in Seattle, she has been attending classes — via PC. Stone is proof — screen-watching, camera-focusing, keyboarding proof — that on-line education works, especially when there is technological expertise, flexibility, and a will, among all participants, to make the set-up work.

She was studying for her Executive MBA while living in Champaign, when her husband's company transfer took her to Seattle. But, using a PC with a video board, an ISDN connection, and a special software package, she has gone on attending class — at her desktop. Cameras — both in Commerce West and at Stone's desk — create a two-way video link. "I can even move the camera around from here," she says.

"Of course, I'd really rather be there," she admits. "But this has allowed me to complete the program. I was very pleased and excited that the college worked with me to make this happen. It took a few iterations to get it right, of course. There are some unique challenges in terms of getting set up."

Adds Zvi Ritz, director of the Office for Information Management, which has played an essential technical role in distance learning set-ups for CBA: "Using ISDN lines has been worthwhile for Ms. Stone, but it's very expensive — up to $500 a month. Now we're experimenting with feeding everything through the Internet. It works very nicely. It's just a local call."

"Our students often have in-house upward mobility. Eighty-five percent of our students are sponsored by corporations. Two-thirds of our recent class came from companies that had previously sponsored other students."

- Merle Giles, Director, Executive MBA Program

Executive MBA students, faculty, and staff went on a two-week tour of Germany. The itinerary included a hard look at some German businesses, as well as sight-seeing in Berlin.