Gaining The Executive Edge

The push by graduate schools to draw in mid-career baby boomers has created rising enrollments in executive M.B.A. programs. Are they worth it?

services at the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business in St. Louis, the principal accrediting agency for business schools. “The biggest risk is for schools not to make any changes at all.”

Indeed, no longer do companies seek M.B.A.s with only a theoretical knowledge of accounting, finance and marketing. These days companies demand employees who understand information technology and the global economy. More schools are offering updated courses in international business and diversity. Cross-disciplinary courses, which examine ethics and technology or environment and business, are quickly becoming requirements for M.B.A. degrees. For example, first-year M.B.A. students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina, are required to take a course in integrated effectiveness, which teaches communication skills, writing and computer literacy.

Cleveland State University goes even further by taking the business school to corporate America, scheduling classes when it’s convenient for executives. Professors teach their courses in a company boardroom co- employees don’t have to worry about rushing to a college campus after work.

“We’ve designed the program to make it easier for our customers to work full-time and earn their degree,” says S.R. Rao, executive director of academic programs at CSU’s school of business. “To meet the needs of our customers we have to do this.”

Richard P
elzer of Shaker Heights, Ohio, understands the importance of acquiring new skills. He has earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University, a master’s in management from Central Michigan University and a certificate in management from a Harvard executive program.

In 1995, Pelzer, who is in his 50s, enrolled in Case Western Reserve University’s newly created three-year executive doctorate in management program, which teaches additional skills to M.B.A.s with at least 15 years of business experience. Seminars in economics, culture, world politics, technology and social system design are offered. Job security was not Pelzer’s main reason for pursuing advanced training. After all, he is CEO and founder of Arhepco Inc., a six-year-old Cleveland-based private investment company. But Pelzer believes in staying ahead of the game, and feels that this is especially true for African Americans.

“We have no choice. We are especially exposed to changes taking place in the world around us,” says Pelzer. “You clearly want to be in a position to change as the world around you evolves…as an African American, this is not an option but a requirement.” Besides better positioning you in the workforce, additional training can broaden your perspective and expand your career portfolio. It can also help you increase your earning power and land a better position.

A good example is Toni Ross, who at 37 earned an executive M.B.A. from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 1993. A year later, she landed a new job, moving up from director to vice president of human resources at her company. Now a member of the executive team, her base salary climbed nearly 15% and she received additional perks like stock options and bonus packages.

“I don’t doubt that the M.B.A. positioned me into a higher compensation bracket,” says

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