What do Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and IE Business School in Madrid, Spain have in common? Roughly 20 Executive MBA students. On March 6, executives and managers from 14 countries, including Malaysia, China, Peru, Pakistan and Mexico, will meet in Providence for their first day of class in the newest and one of the most imaginative partnerships ever struck in business education: the IE Brown Executive MBA program.
The novel 15-month program is a poster child for the most recent wave of executive MBA partnerships–ones that unite the business basics with another discipline all together, while infusing courses with a healthy dose of global content.
In this relationship, Brown is a poet, with faculty slated to deliver liberal arts topics ranging from medical anthropology and neuroscience to international politics. IE is the quant, carrying the bread-and-butter MBA classes. “Many of the leadership challenges confronting global executives arise in the social, political, cultural, and philosophical context that we all know matters, but that usually gets sidestepped in conventional MBA programs,” explains David Bach, dean of programs at IE Business School, and academic director of the IE Brown Executive MBA. If their website is anything to go by, expect more Einstein and Tolstoy than Welch and Gates.
Such alliances were once considered risky ventures. If it wasn’t the logistics that turned schools off of the idea of moving students and faculty around the globe, it was the thought of working so closely with a rival. But the results are impressive. These executive MBA programs shirk the somewhat prescriptive course of MBA instruction–making their single-school EMBA cousins look dull in comparison. Classes meet for varying lengths of time on different continents, often with long gaps between. Students interact through online learning platforms, on Skype, and team conference calls are a given between modules. In lieu of office hours, professors keep class discussions flowing online.
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