Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Bauer Executive MBA Program. It was a well-organized event and it was humbling to see alumni return to celebrate and reconnect. It was an opportune moment to talk about where we had come, and more important, where we were headed as a program, a college, and an institution of learning. You see, #35 is special. It is not 25 and it is not 50, and interestingly 35 is the minimum age you need to be to run for president of the U.S., so obviously it is a turning point presumably representing a maturity threshold.
In our context, for the EMBA program at the Bauer College of Business, what does this maturity point represent?
Yes, we are a large school — almost 6,000 students with a comprehensive range of programs. We graduate about 1,500 students every year, and our programs are nationally ranked — #5 in the country among publics to produce the largest # of S&P 500 CEOs and our undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the top 3 nationally. We now offer the EMBA here in Houston, in Beijing, in Dubai and in India, and debuting soon will be a version of this program in the Woodlands — all thanks to the people, our students, our faculty, our staff, and very importantly, you, our alumni. And I could give you reams of statistics on what we have accomplished in the last 35 years.
In many ways however, our next move, the shift, or the inflexion, is driven not so much by quantitative metrics, but more by a qualitative shift in our brand — we are moving from a degree-provider approach to a customized, how-do-I-leverage-my-skills approach where we focus on expanding our participants’ sphere of influence.
The big rock of our times, as Jim Clifton describes in his book, The Coming Jobs War, is that currently global population exceeds 7 billion, of which 3 billion are capable of working, but there are only 1.2 billion jobs. Unemployment on the scale of 1.8 billion, which is almost one quarter of the global population, is the biggest challenge of our times. Rather than a transactional approach built around helping our participants find jobs, our program today is about helping you find, but more importantly create, jobs and really create opportunities for you and for those around you.
You see, in business schools we don’t reinvent the wheel, rather we help you understand how to move the wheel forward. Any more however, there are too many wheels all on the same street and the streets that were once open are now under construction. As much as you need to know how to move the wheel forward, the true reward lies in paving a new street where you can navigate your wheel.
If you listened to the conversations coming out of Davos this year, the themes of our day are disruptive innovation, the new normal of slow growth and cautious optimism, and dealing with change. In the most recent issue of the HBR there is an article on the 100 best CEOs, and the competency that seems to be in demand is the ability to learn even as the world around you changes. From teaching finance, and accounting, and marketing and information systems, or the basic language of business, our EMBA program — your EMBA program — is moving to a plane where we help you learn, but more importantly we help you learn how to learn. We have teamed up with Korn/Ferry International to offer a curriculum that will help develop competencies that you can use to move your organizations even during periods of massive change, tools that will help you learn even as things change, to manage even as rules change, and to lead even as the plan changes.
Fortunately, the tools available to us to accomplish this are also evolving — the revolution in technology is allowing us to create customized learning experiences. So the second theme we are building on is customization — knowledge is standard but the learning experience needs to be customized, and if you walk around the University Classroom and Business Building, which houses the Insperity Center and the new home of our EMBA program, you will hopefully get a sense of that — you can sit in the quiet reading room on the 5th floor, or you can work with your team of 5 in a breakout room, or you can work with a larger group in our lounge areas, or you can chat with your teammates in Dubai in our video conferencing facility. I know it is not done yet, but we are getting there. Bottom line — our maturity lines are the result of us, our programs, our faculty and staff learning to deal with disruptive innovation in our environment. And we have just begun.
But the bottom line is that now more than ever, as Mitch Joel describes it, we live in a world characterized by six pixels of separation rather than six degrees of separation. We are closer than we have ever been, we can reach out and connect like we have never done before, and that is the third rock driving our inflexion point. We are reaching out, we are connecting and we want you to connect, we want you to come visit us, visit us and bring a friend, visit us and mentor a student, visit us and share your expertise, visit us and participate as a volunteer, visit us and refer a colleague, visit us and refer a donor.