Challenge: Find an EMBA with real-world collaboration
Some people think an EMBA is only for people who want to advance their careers, not for people who already have, but John Terrell knows differently. In fact, when he decided to pursue an EMBA in 2007, John was already the vice president of commercial development at DFW Airport and a member of the Southlake City Council. When people asked him, "Why do you need an EMBA?" he brushed it off, saying, "You'll see." And see they did!
Using the same competitive spirit to find the right EMBA as he did to move up the ranks at DFW Airport, John began his program search with a list of considerable must-haves.
The right EMBA had to offer more than book learning; it had to provide real-world collaborative experiences that could be applied right away. It also had to offer a convenient schedule, a robust opportunity to network and a China trip that was truly business oriented, not a sightseeing excursion.
After a review of both Dallas- and Fort Worth-based programs, there was one clear winner that offered a global perspective with real-world applications: UT Arlington's Executive MBA. Foremost among the EMBA's learning experiences were the many high-level business leaders who spoke and networked with John during the 15-month program. "You can get the book information from any university but having key top-level speakers come in from all different organizations was invaluable," said John. "I would not have benefitted from an EMBA that was not as focused on real-world case studies."
Broadening his perspective from DFW to China and beyond
The China immersion program was equally relevant to John's work in his development of a sister program between DFW Airport and several Chinese airports as well as a sister relationship with the City of Southlake.
But the value of the EMBA program did not stop when John graduated. In fact, he still talks to his former teachers and even the dean for insights from time to time.
What's more, John believes that "nothing worth getting comes easy" and so, after graduation he added another position to his resume: mayor. John campaigned for mayor of Southlake while he was finishing his EMBA studies, working full time and raising a family. Coincidentally, another student from his UTA EMBA graduating class was also planning a mayoral run, and both he and John won their respective races. Now that's beating the competition.Collapse
The challenge: Obtain classic business training in a non-bureaucratic format
Kim Booker always knew that the day would come for her to pursue an Executive MBA. She just didn't know when.
In 2009, after selling the insurance business she owned and managed for more than 14 years, Kim saw two certain things in her future: the opportunity to launch something completely new and the need for more comprehensive business knowledge. It was then that she signed up for The University of Texas at Arlington's Executive MBA.
Always an entrepreneur, Kim wanted the classic business training afforded by an EMBA, but she wanted it in non-bureaucratic style. So when she learned about UT Arlington's 15-month program with half-day Friday classes, she knew she had met her match. Not only was UTA's program the fastest route to an EMBA, it was also the most convenient, allowing Kim to make the most of every minute by avoiding even the most common of executive doldrums, the Friday afternoon rush hour. (Classes start at 1 p.m. Friday and go until 8 p.m., with a real dinner served at 5 p.m.)
After building her own business from the ground up and running it for so many years, Kim also knew the value of close partnerships — and brought hopes of expanding her network to the EMBA program. Even with the shorter class schedule she was not disappointed, and found that UTA's smaller class size (30-35 students) created a virtual incubator for both building partnerships and launching new ideas.
In fact, Kim's current business partner is a former EMBA classmate.
One door closes and another opens
Shortly after enrolling in the program, Kim completed the sale of her first business and started to explore new opportunities, a process that was made significantly easier by the support of her professors and classmates. "The EMBA helped me in every way through the business sale and the process of evaluating new purchase opportunities," said Kim. "Having been focused on marketing for most of my career, the EMBA filled the gaps in my knowledge about cost accounting and management, making me much more confident during the critical process of changing career paths."
As president of sales at Sales and Management Results, a training company, Kim looks back with appreciation upon everything about the UT Arlington EMBA program, from the schedule that worked for her to the teaching that informed her critical decisions, and includes the lasting friendships and colleagues.
Today, still working for herself, Kim knows she made the right decision.
(Update: November 1, 2016 - Kim is now working as a Management Consultant in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.)Read More
Challenge: Learn the 360 skills to move from supplier side to client side
Brett Townsend had long considered an advanced degree. But he wanted more than a diploma—he wanted a degree that gave him actionable, meaningful business insights that he could put to work right away.
Before enrolling in the UT Arlington EMBA program, Brett had amassed advanced knowledge in his cornerstone areas of expertise: insights, strategy and market research. However, as his interactions with top-level executives grew, Brett realized that insights and market research were only part of a business's success and could not be contemplated in a vacuum. He knew that an ability to understand a 360-degree view of a business, including areas as diverse as supply chain, finance and marketing, was essential. And, as he began to think about a move from the supplier side to the client side, Brett knew that he needed to act quickly to get those 360 skills.
One call from a Fortune 50 company changed everything
But nothing could have prepared Brett for just how quickly those new skills would be needed. Just a few months after enrolling in UT Arlington's EMBA program, Brett got a call from Frito-Lay, which is owned by PepsiCo. Just weeks after that, he found himself at the Dallas-based company as manager of Wal-Mart Inc. Shopper and Customer Insights.
"When a Fortune 50 company calls, with the opportunity to work exclusively with the Fortune No. 1 company, you answer," said Brett, and as he made the transition into Frito-Lay, he found the faculty and peers at UTA to be immensely helpful. He also learned that the UT Arlington EMBA education was essential to the interview process—in fact, Brett was flat-out told that he would not have been interviewed if he had not already been enrolled in the program.
What else? While most EMBA students report major salary increases after graduation, Brett's came earlier; in fact, his salary jumped significantly in the first few months of the program and steadily increased as Brett moved, first to the position of senior manager of innovation insights and COE, then to senior manager insights for growth ventures with Frito-Lay, then to his current position as director of strategy and insights for the Drug Store Channel for PepsiCo.
UTA's individualized approach made the difference
Brett's glad he got his EMBA from UT Arlington and he's glad he trusted his instincts; after all, he seriously considered all of the competing programs in the area. So why did he choose the UTA EMBA? After attending multiple orientation sessions and getting acceptance to other area programs, it was UTA's individualized approach to what was best for him personally and for his career that led to his decision to attend UTA, not the one-size-fits-all, impersonal approach of the other programs. UTA's forward-thinking curriculum is based on what will build better aptitude and leadership for where business is going in the future, not based on the business of the past. He knew it would prepare him for where he wanted to go and he has been proven right ever since.
To Brett, it was that simple: He needed to know all the aspects that played into business so he could put them into action in his career. And to date he has done just that.
(Update: October 27, 2016 - Brett is now working as Director of North American Insights with Electrolux.)Read More
From Engineer to EMBA — One Man’s Path to Success
Manjunath "MJ" Charmani, a 2014 graduate of UTA’s EMBA program, is proud of his background and education. "I come from India," he said, "with an engineering degree from one of the top universities."
For this high-achieving professional, however, that wasn’t enough. He wanted to earn his MBA as well. He was convinced that, combined with his engineering degree, it would be the best of both worlds for his career. Charmani was interested in more than just boosting his salary; he wanted the gratification of being able to work more effectively.
As a senior manager at Accenture in Dallas/Fort Worth, Charmani also wanted an Executive MBA program that was the best of both worlds: one that was convenient in terms of both location and format. He also wanted an EMBA program that would adequately cover three areas essential to his job responsibilities:
“I couldn’t find a better program than the UTA EMBA,” Charmani said. The 15-month program, one of the shortest in the country, was perfect for him. “In my industry, everything is changing every six months. We are living in exponential times.”
The UTA EMBA’s cohort structure, a team-based environment, appealed to him as well. “I really wanted a cohort-based program so I could work with other seasoned professionals in industry.” Charmani said his cohort was definitely diverse, with students from Texas, Latin America, the Middle East, South America and all across the U.S.
Charmani said he needed an EMBA program that covered all aspects of finance for managers. He wanted a curriculum with more than “just one-off courses,” but that included activities, too. And he wanted to become more than just a good manager; he wanted a program that groomed leaders.
The UTA EMBA had it all — and then some.
That “some” is the UTA EMBA China immersion program. “This program is the jewel in the crown of any program in Dallas, and maybe the U.S.,” Charmani said. “I think it’s the most underestimated aspect of the program.” It not only gave him a global perspective, it was a life-changing experience.
And the one-on-one career coaching was icing on the cake for Charmani.
Charmani quickly began implementing the knowledge he gained from his UTA EMBA on the job. In his role as client engagement lead at Accenture, Charmani sells solutions to build next-generation platforms for sales and marketing organizations. It’s his job to bring in a team to implement the solution. “I must bring together people from all different walks of life on each project,” he said. “We need to hit the ground running. This was especially challenging for me. How do I get the team to work on one goal, one vision?” That’s when he drew on the course material on building high-performance teams.
The financial knowledge he gained was also extremely beneficial, for both internal and external projects. “I never looked into the financial reports of my own company as I did in the UTA EMBA,” Charmani said. He added that his financial acumen is valuable in terms of working with clients too. It gives him a new approach and insight, starting with examining the client’s financial data. “This was tremendously helpful. I used to walk through a client’s door, knowing just their names and type of business, asking ‘How can I help you?’”
For professionals considering the UTA EMBA, Charmani recommends attending a class preview where they can meet alumni and staff. In fact, UTA’s faculty is another reason he chose its EMBA program. The instructors are not all academicians; many are people with vast experience in the business world.
So what advice would Charmani give to these prospective students? ““Look no further. The UTA EMBA is a program that will definitely get you to the next level in your career,” he said. “It happened to me.”
Based on his own experience, in a LinkedIn article Charmani makes a case for the EMBA. He uses the term “intrapreneur” and explains this mindset, which is reinforced in the UTA EMBA curriculum: “At the end of the day, managers are running businesses. They don’t all look at it that way. They need to think like an entrepreneur within their own organization.”
“Once you complete the program,” he added, “that’s actually the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey. Learning is lifelong.”Read More
Challenge: Talking the Talk with Prospective Clients
As president of Orasi Development, Jack Thompson specializes in economic development for municipalities. While most of his prospective and current clients have master's degrees, when he founded the company in 2006, Thompson had only an undergraduate degree. He wanted to earn an advanced degree to enhance his credibility with city managers and other officials.
In his field, Thompson said, "Most people hire you for what you know. When they're evaluating you, they look at your educational background."
That's when Thompson starting looking into MBA programs.
It's a Zoo Out There
Thompson didn't always work with municipalities. In fact, he started his career at the zoo, on the marketing side. "It's a whole different kind of animal," he joked. In the ‘90s, his career veered into marketing for municipalities and then morphed into economic development. By the time he started the UTA Executive MBA program in 2008, he wasn't what you'd call wet behind the ears; he had been immersed in economic development for about 11 years.
That's one reason he chose the UTA EMBA program. He wanted a cohort that reflected his level of experience. He wanted fellow class members he could relate to, ones that could contribute to discussions both in class and out. "There's a maturity level with EMBA. Executives want to be challenged. You not only learn from your professors," Thompson said of the UTA program, "you learn from your classmates. There can be a lot of cross-pollination of ideas floating around the classroom. I also could teach them more about marketing. We were really able to educate one another. That was pretty cool."
Thompson knew that, while most of his client contacts held a Master's in Public Administration (MPA) degree, he did not want to go that route. "I wanted an MBA," he stated. Thompson realized that an MBA would have more far-reaching applications than an MPA and did not want to limit himself. In addition, by acquiring an MBA, his new knowledge and skills would complement, not duplicate, those of his clients.
Then he narrowed it down to an EMBA. "Owning my own business is more than a full-time gig," he explained. EMBA programs are built around students' time commitments. They are schedule-friendly. Thompson had 10 municipalities on retainer, adding up to 18 night meetings a month, when he started the EMBA program. That's why class scheduling was crucial. UTA's EMBA program also had the shortest time frame — 15 months — of the schools he was considering.
Narrowing the EMBA Playing Field
Then it came down to which EMBA program was best for his personal needs. "There are quite a lot of EMBA programs in the Dallas area," he admitted. "It's sort of like football recruiting. All the schools promote their programs. Even the Ivy Leagues promote down here."
But Thompson said he "nixed all the out-of-state guys." Location, location, location. At the time, the Orasi Development office was in downtown Fort Worth. Thompson said he could walk to classes. "I could leave by 11:45 and be in class by noon!" he exclaimed.
Although Thompson earned his undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University, he did not consider it for his MBA. He said he wanted to earn his master's from a different school than his undergrad.
UTA was also the most affordable of area EMBA programs. Because he ran his own business, Thompson would not be reimbursed for his tuition as are many students who come from corporate settings.
The international component, in particular UTA's China Immersion program, also appealed to Thompson. At the time, he noted, China was booming. The other EMBA programs were going to places that were nice to visit but he asked himself, "Why there? I can go zip-lining in the jungle on vacation. The trip to China gives you a new perspective on the global economy."
Thompson observed that many companies in the U.S. were competing with China. "This gave me the opportunity to see how they're doing things over there," he said.
UTA EMBA Had All the Right Answers
Thompson's last question was: How good is UTA's program? The UTA EMBA program was in its infancy; he would be in the program's third cohort. He wondered: Was this a sustainable deal? What kind of execs are they getting? "That's when I began discussing it with the recruiter," he said. "I met some of the other prospective classmates. Yes, this looked like something that was going to take."
His predictions panned out.
"We had 27 people in the cohort," he said. "This was a phenomenal size." He said his cohort had great gender balance, about a 50/50 split. A variety of industry segments were represented: government, technology, defense, food, healthcare, the service industry. He also said the cohort was diverse in terms of age, race, experience and background.
He said the professors were very good as well. "It's different at the EMBA level," he noted. "In undergrad, the professors lecture you. Although they lecture you in EMBA, they interact. They know you have a lot of experience. There's a lot more dialogue, which I really liked. They take the time to listen. There were a lot of case studies, group projects. That made it even more special to me. You had to work as a team."
Guest lecturers added an additional layer of insight to the program. For example, the former CEO of Boeing was brought in to speak, he said.
Putting Business Theory into Practice
A business owner wears a lot of hats. "You're responsible for everything in your company," Thompson said. "You're the chief bottle washer and the guy doing the presentations up front."
Looking back on his undergraduate studies, he said, "I probably didn't pay as much attention in my undergrad classes as I should have." And two years into his role as entrepreneur at Orasi Development, Thompson realized he wanted to sharpen his skills, especially in managerial accounting, and to deepen his overall knowledge base.
"Once you have that knowledge in your head, you use it," he said. By becoming more fluent in finance and accounting, Thompson became less reliant on his consultant. This not only gave him a new perspective when reviewing financial documents, it saved him both time and money. As someone in business for himself, this helped justify his investment in an EMBA, delivering significant ROI.
The UTA Executive MBA: A Degree That Keeps on Giving
Thompson can't say enough about the camaraderie of his cohort.
Today, he still keeps in touch with members of his cohort, mostly on LinkedIn. An added benefit of the UTA EMBA, he said, is that you gain a group of consultants. "The more resources you have, the more friends you have, the more colleagues you have, the better off you are. It gives you a well of knowledge that you can dip into. It's fun to help each other out.
"The quality of the cohort is what keeps on giving after you leave," he said. "It can help you professionally. UTA had a big impact on my professional career. The UTA EMBA was and continues to be meaningful and impactful.
"The people I met were phenomenal. You're choosing a program of people you want to be in the trenches with. You not only increase your knowledge, but your value in the workplace."Read More
Challenge: How to Grow Professionally When You're Already in a Leadership Role
An executive with American Airlines, David Campbell had been in the same role for about seven years. You could say he got the seven-year itch in terms of his career. "As I looked at the prospects for my career," he said, "it looked very limiting. I was really stagnant."
The logical solution, he concluded, was to work on a master's degree in aviation management. However, Campbell found the curriculum less than stimulating. "Many of the things they were talking about," he said, "I was already doing in Washington, writing those rules." He found the program to be of no value to him because he was not learning or growing professionally.
Change of Course: Pursue an MBA
The University of Texas at Arlington launched its EMBA program in 2006, which was perfect timing for Campbell. He saw that the program "could really fill the bill." He said he was impressed because UTA is a reputable school with a great academic record.
"UTA just had a really good system," he said. "The school was starting to distinguish itself — in terms of size, scope and detail."
Besides the school's reputation, Campbell said that a program promoting school-work-life balance was important to him. "My time was worth a lot to me. This program is built for working professionals."
For Campbell, UTA's program was just what the doctor ordered. "As an executive, you move yourself out of the learning environment and you're no longer challenged. You're no longer looking at things from a global standpoint. You have a very micro view of business."
He said UTA's program caters to both senior executives and young professionals. For the former, it's an opportunity to continue to learn and be productive in the workforce. For the latter, it's an opportunity to broaden one's horizons.
The UTA EMBA program "re-energizes your mind, your aptitude and your attitude to learn." In addition, he said the program not only sharpens your business skills, it fine-tunes them. "It's more than just a formal learning environment."
He also was sold on the fact that UTA has a strong community network. "Most of those in my cohort were from Fort Worth. The Fort Worth community is structurally and fundamentally different from the Dallas area," said Campbell, adding that some of the best companies in the industry are located in the area.
From Local Connections to International Networks
Campbell said the program's benefits extend well beyond the Fort Worth area. "UTA's China connection is simply awesome and amazing," he said. "I thought it was the perfect formula.
"Everything I thought I knew about China, I didn't." He said it circles back to how we're educated in the U.S. and the media's perception of us in the world.
In the China Immersion portion of UT's EMBA program, students learn about more than just imports and exports. Campbell's eyes were opened to the Chinese culture, the Chinese people, and what was going on inside the country.
From a business standpoint, he learned what was going on macro-economically. From a world standpoint, he said, "It forced me out of my comfort zone, out of the typical publications I read such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal." And from an aviation standpoint, Campbell said China is a huge market, not only from an international view but a domestic one, too.
The international outlook was reflected in the makeup of his cohort as well. Even the demographics were diverse, with senior executives alongside young managers. "It was an interesting perspective that promoted cross-dialogue. It made the conversation in the room flourish a lot more. I thought, ‘Wow. Those are the same people working with me. They think differently than I do.'
"In the workplace," he continued, "you're not in an environment for casual conversation. It affects how you interact. For example, seating at work may be reserved for senior executives, but that's not the case with the cohort."
Taking the Helm at Horizon Air
Campbell puts MBA theory into practice in his current role as president and chief operations officer at Horizon Air. In terms of institutionalizing change, he said the EMBA was invaluable. His degree also helped him formalize change management. He said this took place through many of the case studies, coupled with academic learning.
He applied his knowledge to "streamline the operation and make it smarter, better, faster. Inside of 18 months," he said, "we restructured union contracts and raised productivity."
Additional opportunities to implement what he learned, he noted, were to sponsor more internal dialogue and growth and learning opportunities.
Campbell refined practical business skills in the program, too, such as formal financial reporting. Budget and expense reporting is now "comfortable and easy" for him.
Retrospective... and ROI
Looking back on the program, what would Campbell change? "I wouldn't change anything. I think it's the right length to get the level of education you need to be successful. There's a tendency to make [EMBA] programs shorter, but I would not."
Campbell had equally good things to say about the faculty: The program managed to balance the level of professional staff, the materials, and pulling together everyone as a team. It delivered great results through the professors who were selected for the program.
"Because of the way the program was structured," he elaborated, "a lot of business leaders were brought in to tell their companies' stories. I learned as much from them as I did in other parts of the program. Bringing in those community leaders made a huge difference in the learning experience."
Was it all worth it? "It's really interesting. Once I went into the EMBA program… I moved to American Eagle as the VP of Ops (COO). I think just letting my boss know that I was doing an MBA — I was more than just a ‘maintenance guy.' I've had a six-figure salary increase in base just from being in the program. It's been a huge, huge ROI. I'd say five-fold.
Now, almost a decade after Campbell's completion of UTA's EMBA program, the sky's the limit for this industry leader.Read More
For Charles Larry, a group manager at Ryder, the China Immersion program was a career- and life-changing experience. It gave him the global perspective he needed when interviewing for his current position.Play Video
A consultant who works to bring development to cities, Jack Thompson said most of his clients have MBAs. The UTA EMBA gave him the credibility he needed as president and owner of Orasi Development.Play Video
Kathy Weaver, chief human services officer at Ryan, is recipient of the UTA EMBA's Outstanding Early Career Achievement award. The EMBA '14 grad successfully juggled her career, family and coursework.Play Video