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Expanding Innovation and Access: WSB Announces the Redesign of the Executive MBA

By Wisconsin School of Business

May 16, 2022

Grainger Hall

Building on recent innovation with new flexible offerings and curricular modernization, the Wisconsin School of Business is announcing plans to redesign one of three MBA programs, the Wisconsin Executive MBA. The redesign is part of an effort to develop an agile, market-driven portfolio of graduate degrees for professionals at every stage of their careers. 

The redesign of the executive MBA follows the successful launch of the Wisconsin Professional MBA, a new program that started last year with a hybrid delivery of in-person and virtual learning. Enrollment in the redesigned executive MBA program is expected to open in the fall of 2023 with classes starting in the fall of 2024. 

The redesigned program responds to industry demand, where executive-level professionals show a continual need for opportunities to expand their skills and elevate their leadership to take on business’ shifting dynamics. 

“People at this stage in their careers are seeing all sorts of new challenges,” says Enno Siemsen, associate dean for graduate programs. “How do I grow my business? How do I manage change? How do I think about strategy? How do I think about leadership? How can I make effective decisions and get others to make effective decisions?”

The redesigned program will give executives tools to answer these questions within a more flexible delivery model that enables students to better balance the strenuous nature of their careers and lives. 

The program will feature new and innovative courses, expanded experiential learning, and increased executive mentoring. The school will continue to expand the development of new micro-credentials and badges as part of its graduate portfolio innovation initiative.

Like the professional MBA, the new executive MBA will reach different types of professionals and expand the school’s geographic footprint outside of the Madison area. Students will benefit from greater networking opportunities and be able to connect with a more diverse pool of professionals. 

Leadership development and flexibility for high-level executives

From a structural standpoint, the executive MBA will shift from an in-person, all-day Friday and Saturday format, to an experience that highlights the best aspects of virtual and on-campus learning. 

The school will preserve the curriculum’s focus on teaching high-level economics, operations, finance, marketing, and leadership, and the program’s emphasis on networking and collaboration will remain steady. 

Students will continue to work in teams, but they won’t be tasked with long days away from their work and families, and they’ll be able to more easily access program materials and correspond with classmates and faculty from wherever they are. 

The program has always been built on the strength of its student body, which is traditionally made up of entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and military veterans in addition to corporate executives and leaders on the path to the C-suite. The updated program format will better mirror the workplace experiences of these professionals and help them fit their education into their busy schedules. 

“Time commitment is one of the biggest barriers for prospective students, who often consider pursuing a program for over ten years before applying,” says Betsy Kacizak, director of admissions for the MBA and master’s programs. “Working professionals continue to receive encouragement and support from their employers to pursue an MBA, but they now seek options with a mix of in-person and virtual learning.” 

Intentional strategy for program growth

This program transformation is part of a long-term goal for the school to deliver a nimble, market responsive graduate program portfolio. Over the last three years, WSB has been growing and optimizing its graduate programs as part of Roadmap 2025, the school’s strategic plan, and Dean Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy’s vision for delivering a global platform for lifelong learning. 

“Business is going through a rapid transformation. We want our programs to mirror the future of work and respond to the changing needs of the digital economy,” says Sambamurthy. “The redesign of the program will strengthen executive education offerings for working professionals with the built-in flexibility and customization the market demands.” 

“Business is going through a rapid transformation. We want our programs to mirror the future of work and respond to the changing needs of the digital economy.”

—Albert O. Nicholas Dean Vallabh “Samba” Sambamurthy

The redesign research process started in the fall of 2021 when it became more evident that professionals increasingly sought hybrid options for their degrees. Comprehensive market research is helping guide the development of the new program.

The school’s graduate portfolio includes three MBA programs, including two part-time programs, the executive MBA and the professional MBA, and one residential program, the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA. Four specialized master’s programs were also launched in the last three years, expanding the school’s rich portfolio of programs to rapidly respond to demand from both students and industry. Students can now choose one of eight one-year programs to jumpstart their ideal careers. 

A redesign built on recent success 

Launched last year, the Wisconsin Professional MBA Program proved that a hybrid delivery model could be successful for the school’s working professional students.

Students in the professional MBA program experience a 50-50 blend of in-person and remote coursework. They spend one weekend a month on campus and take virtual classes on Wednesday nights. Fifty-seven students made up the program’s inaugural class, and the program will expand this upcoming school year with new cohorts starting in the fall and spring. 

One of the key successes of the program’s first year was enrolling professionals that would have traditionally struggled to complete a degree on campus in Madison. Connor Tingstad, a senior financial analyst at Target, lives in Minneapolis, for instance. 

“I chose the Wisconsin School of Business for the reputation and quality of school, but also because I wanted a program that was flexible in terms of working virtually, while also allowing me to network in person with my fellow cohort,” says Tingstad. 

Following the model established by the professional MBA, the new Wisconsin Executive MBA is investing in educating professionals where they are—in life and in the country. The redesign is a major step forward in addressing the needs of business professionals who are on the go—or at home, juggling the responsibilities of business, parenting, travel, and much more.

“WSB’s investment in the executive MBA program is important,” says executive MBA alum Tim Williams (MBA ’19). “The redesigned program will deliver an excellent opportunity to not only gain proficiency in the actual mechanics of how business works, but will enable each class member to become a better, more effective leader equipped with the latest knowledge and expertise to confidently grow and transform the relevant opportunities they choose to pursue.” 

Michelle Bougie (MBA ’20), Sr. Director – Marketing, GE Healthcare, says the networking component is essential for executive students. 

“My Wisconsin EMBA experience has been invaluable to my career and personal development . . . relationships forged through the experience have continued well beyond graduation. These networks have been a great resource to tap into for additional points of view and enrich one’s lifelong learning,” says Bougie. 

Applications to the new executive MBA program are expected to open in the fall of 2023. Current executive MBA students will continue with the fully in-person program format through to graduation while the school reimagines its delivery. The last cohort of the current program format will be the class of 2023.

Starting now and through the program’s launch, the MBA admissions team remains available to advise and consult with prospective students.

Individuals interested in an executive MBA program can schedule a 30-minute consultation or sign up to receive the latest program information.