Executive Education

Dynamic and Contemporary: EMBA Programs in the Midwest


The Midwest offers more than friendly towns and prairies. It’s also a capital region for industry and innovation. It’s home to business titans like Walgreens and cutting-edge research on clean energy. Chicago is also ascending as a key new player in the world of tech—nearly 6,000 jobs have been created in the field in the last year.

Industry diversity makes the Midwest one of the most promising regions for economic development. Agriculture, oil and gas, mining, construction, manufacturing, retail, and transportation are all pivotal sectors in the area. You can find a little bit of everything, whether you’re in Downtown Chicago or rural Indiana—and if you’re looking for the best EMBA program to accelerate your career, you have an abundance of high-ranking universities at your disposal.

High-Ranking EMBA Programs in the Midwest

Northern Illinois University Executive MBA

If you’re looking for a rigorous EMBA program, the Northern Illinois University Executive MBA is a solid choice. Just 18 months long, it offers an exceptional education, small class sizes (15-25 students), and affordable tuition. Up to 90% of the program is covered in the classroom, providing students with the structured environment and guidance they need to master the material.

With an emphasis on community and direct interaction, the instructors at NIU challenge students to think cross-functionally and strategically. They help students build on their work experiences to develop the executive-level skills and knowledge that will empower them to advance their career.

NIU offers several unique learning opportunities, including:

  • Consulting Alliance Experience: This culminating project invites EMBA students to develop a competitive business plan for a well-known company. Partner companies in the past have included A.W. Enterprises, Autobahn Country Club, Keson Corp, and Suter Company.
  • Cross-Border Projects: In collaboration with the Management School at Waikato University in New Zealand, NIU offers a series of lectures, renowned guest speakers, and group projects that pair students in Chicago with classrooms in Hamilton. The program covers a variety of industries, including finance, IT, and marketing, and gives insight into the global economy.

Sal Contreras, a graduate from the 2018 EMBA class, reflects on his time at NIU: “Today, I find myself in the pinnacle of my career… This was not the case 18 months ago. I simply didn’t have the right tools to make the leap from Financial Controller to President. The program transformed me from an average Accounting/Finance guy to a more polished strategic leader with a more profound understanding of Management, Operations, Marketing, and International Business. The professors in the program did a tremendous job bringing out the best in all of us. I wouldn’t be the president of a Berkshire Hathaway company if not for my decision to enroll in NIU’s Executive MBA program.”

What’s the key to moving past your current position? Repositioning yourself as an executive leader.

Ohio State University Fisher Executive MBA

EMBA programThe Fisher Executive MBA makes the top 10 rankings for prestige, global experience, career advancement, work/life balance, and curriculum strength—every category of Ivy Exec’s 2019 survey. It’s best known for utilizing the Socratic method of teaching, which focuses on learning through case-based discussions. This approach makes the program ideal for professionals seeking the most contemporary education—students explore real-life scenarios as they develop.

The OSU Fisher EMBA is divided into five terms, with students meeting on campus just once a month for three consecutive days. It takes 17 months to complete the program. During this time, students will gain a comprehensive business perspective on a wide variety of topics, from business fundamentals to team-taught, interdisciplinary subjects. The EMBA program offers electives on Venture Capital, Risk Management, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

Standout features of the Fisher EMBA include:

  • It’s ranked ninth-best in the world by Bloomberg Businessweek.
  • Students participate in a global integration course focused on issues faced by a multinational firm. The course concludes with an international experience abroad.

Rachel Friedman, a 2002 EMBA graduate and founder and CEO of TENFOLD, says Fisher Executive MBA was instrumental to her career. “I could immediately apply the things that I was learning in the program to my role and what I was doing in my professional career,” she explains.

Notre Dame Executive MBA

The University of Notre Dame offers two world-class EMBA programs out of the Mendoza College of Business: one in Chicago and one in South Bend. Both programs are similar, but there are a few key differences.

The Notre Dame Chicago EMBA program is just 17 months long and meets every other week in Downtown Chicago. The cohort is ideal for professionals who want to stay in a central metropolitan location instead of traveling to the main campus. Even though it takes place away from the university, the program offers a sense of community and opportunities to interact directly with instructors and peers. Students in the Chicago program can also enroll in two electives of their choice on campus.

The Notre Dame South Bend EMBA is a more immersive experience. Students take 22 months to graduate, and their curriculum is project-focused and built around small teams. These cohorts engage with everything that Notre Dame has to offer, from football games to Mass at the Basilica. The program also has a variety of industries represented in each class—a typical class can include engineers, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and doctors.

Hallmarks of the Notre Dame EMBA include:

  • Executive Integral Leadership: This intensive, one-week course invites EMBA students to focus on themselves. It encourages students to explore their unique leadership style while teaching them how to maximize their strengths and skills.
  • International Systems Thinking: This three-credit, week-long course takes students outside the U.S. to gain firsthand experience with international business strategy. Students learn how to approach complex issues in a global setting.
  • Electives Week: For Electives Week, students head to the Notre Dame campus to pick from a list of optional courses in Business Analytics, Mergers and Acquisitions, Entrepreneurship, Strategic Marketing, and more.

When you enroll in the Notre Dame EMBA program, you’ll be working alongside high-achieving peers. “I was workshopping with some of the 65 smartest people anywhere on a bi-weekly basis,” Alumnus Colm Kennedy says. “I’m not sure how many millions I would’ve had to pay to get that kind of expertise to help me on some of my business challenges.”

Expanding your professional network? Find out which EMBA programs in the Southwest have the best industry connections.

EMBA programs in the Midwest explore a variety of industries and focus on in-person, comprehensive instruction. With more opportunities to connect face-to-face, schools in the region facilitate transformative professional growth. If you’re considering enrolling in classes, review the 2019 Executive MBA Rankings—there you can sort programs by the strength of their curriculum, level of prestige, and other qualities based on alumni reviews.

About the Author

Kelly Vo is a full-time freelance writer specializing in digital marketing, personal development, and content creation. A social media and brand development expert, you can find Kelly at http://kevowriting.com/ where she helps businesses and executives develop their authentic voice.