Executive Education

What to Look For When Evaluating Student Culture in an EMBA Program

executive MBA

If you’re interested in joining an executive MBA program to further your education and career, you might be wondering about how to evaluate the different options. Of course, factors like the price, curriculum, and location are all crucial. But one factor you’d be remiss not to include is student culture.

During your time in the program, the opportunities and cohorts surrounding you will play a critical role in forming your overall experience. Development doesn’t just happen in the classroom—having access to outside resources and events will enhance your education and help you walk away with a richer understanding of the business world.

Which Factors Influence Student Culture?

The idea of culture might seem abstract, which can make it difficult to determine if a potential program is the right fit. However, by focusing on a few key offerings, you can evaluate the different options to find the best one for meeting your goals.

First, consider how the program encourages student engagement. A supportive and engaged community makes students feel more secure, allowing them to fully commit to the academic experience. For example, does the school offer clubs, associations, and events that bring students together? What about opportunities to connect with individuals you might not otherwise have access to, such as studying abroad or volunteering?

Next, find out what the program has to offer by way of career development. For example, an EMBA program might provide an active alumni network or host off-site workshops and expert panels. These kinds of opportunities will not only help you determine your own career path, but they’ll also allow you to foster a sense of community with high-achieving peers.

For additional insights, look at how the program works to prioritize student wellness. For example, certain programs will advocate for work-life balance by offering weekend courses, online or hybrid classes, and counseling options.

Finally, consider how EMBA programs celebrate their students to encourage pride and ambition. Possible examples of this may include in-school competitions, achievement awards, or monthly newsletters featuring student and alumni highlights.

5 Executive MBA Programs That Prioritize Student Culture

Once you understand what to look for, having a strong pool of potential programs is crucial. We’ve compiled a list of EMBA programs that consistently rank highly among Ivy Exec members when it comes to student culture.

1. University of Alabama Culverhouse EMBA

Executive MBAThe University of Alabama Culverhouse offers two class schedule options to ensure students have the most convenient schedule possible. The Huntsville program features hybrid classes, with online courses and once-a-month weekend meetings. The Tuscaloosa program is shorter, with streamlined bi-monthly weekend courses. The University focuses on keeping courses intimate and dynamic, with the average class size consisting of around 25 people. This ensures active participation while still allowing for students to develop a broad professional network.

The University of Alabama EMBA also creates opportunities to expand your world-view through immersive study-abroad programs. For example, the 2019 class took a trip to South Africa and Botswana to help cohorts better understand the perspectives, lifestyles, and challenges of a different culture.

2. University of Oklahoma Price Executive MBA in Energy

The University of Oklahoma Price’s executive MBA energy program offers students the opportunity to explore different parts of the world. The program consists of three one-week residencies, one of which takes place in Europe. During this time, students reap the benefits of collaborative learning, with class sizes averaging around 20 people. Unlike other EMBA programs, the University of Oklahoma Price offers a concentrated study on the energy sector, which allows the class to delve into relevant topics in-depth and develop new contacts within a shared industry.

Beyond the classroom, students also reap numerous benefits of a strong academic culture. Cohorts will enjoy a well-rounded experience when attending this program; school pride and “the Cowboy code” are hallmarks of the graduate experience.

3. Northern Illinois Executive MBA

Ranked #10 for work-life balance among Ivy Exec members, the Northern Illinois Executive MBA program is ideal for students seeking a personalized and supportive approach to their education. Students can earn their degrees in less than two years while keeping their weeks free for work and personal development, thanks to the program’s weekend-based curriculum.

During their time in the program, students will enjoy a wide range of developmental opportunities. For example, the Executive MBA Consulting Alliance Experience offers students the chance to immerse themselves in a real-world business environment, in which they consult with notable companies to create business plans and initiatives.

4. Pace University Executive MBA

Executive MBARanked #5 for work-life balance among Ivy Exec members, Pace University’s EMBA program boasts numerous features designed to enhance the student experience. When it comes to work-life balance and ease of studies, this program shines; they offer lodging and weekend residencies to give cohorts the flexibility they need for seamless traveling and peer collaboration.

Pace’s executive MBA program also fosters a sense of community—class sizes are small (roughly 12 cohorts per course), and the program offers weekly group dinners to give students and faculty opportunities to develop rapport and celebrate each session.

5. Saint Mary’s College of California Executive MBA

The driving principle at Saint Mary’s is to grow from the insights and experiences of those around you. The school believes students learn just as much by interacting with their peers as they do attending classes, which is why it offers numerous opportunities for collaboration.

Every year, Saint Mary’s EMBA students embark on a trip to the Kyushu region of Japan to visit their partner school, the Fukuoka Institute of Technology. Here, cohorts are encouraged to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of Fukuoka, one of the leading entrepreneurial cities of Japan—by doing so, they’ll develop perspective and a greater understanding of the evolving world market.

Saint Mary’s also provides veteran support and career services to give EMBA cohorts the tools they need to succeed in the program and beyond.

There are hundreds of executive MBA programs worldwide for you to consider. But with a clear sense of what you’re looking for, a strategic approach to narrowing down your options, and a desire to make the most of the experience, you can find the perfect fit to advance your career. For more information about enrolling in an executive MBA program, visit Ivy Exec’s 2019 EMBA rankings. There you’ll find school profiles and information collected from hundreds of surveys about five defining program features: prestige, career advancement opportunities, curriculum strength, global experience, and life balance.

About the Author

Isabel Blake is a writer, editor, strategist, and content manager. She works with businesses to develop meaningful connections with their clients through targeted, impactful content and helps working individuals further their careers with effective, actionable advice.