When Jennifer Morrison-Fuller explored business practices “across the pond” in Ireland and Scotland, she came away with a new appreciation for competition in the global market. The trip was the culmination of months of academic preparation for Morrison-Fuller and other Chattanooga area professionals enrolled in UT Chattanooga’s Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program.
“The study-abroad trip opened my eyes to ways . . . companies promote solid business relationships,” said Morrison-Fuller, a senior compensation and benefits analyst with Covenant Transport. “Several companies focus on an inside-out approach, where the number-one focus is employee satisfaction. This in turn guarantees customer satisfaction. Satisfied employees are the catalysts for satisfied customers.”
In each course of the 36-credit hour EMBA program, faculty members maintained a global focus, and the students prepared for the visit to Dublin and Edinburgh by taking international courses with an emphasis on Ireland and Scotland.
“Like it or not, global competition is here; Americans and American companies must think globally in the evolving business world,” said Morrison-Fuller. “Global academic instruction helps clarify the importance of a sound understanding of globalization. If domestic companies think globally, they will have a strategic advantage in the local market.”
The group visited Citi Ireland (Citibank), AOL, the U.S. Embassy, Enterprise Ireland, and the Irish Development Agency in Dublin. In Edinburgh they visited Martin Currie, Wolfson Microelectronics, and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. Morrison-Fuller’s classmates included a diverse group of business professionals who were interested in businesses abroad and looking for ways to make their companies do business better. An updated approach to curriculum has become the cornerstone of UT Chattanooga’s EMBA program.
With support from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the UTC College of Business has responded to the community’s need to study a full range of business subject areas. EMBA students can explore the core areas of leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship; international finance and business; management information systems; financial statement analysis; strategic management; and marketing strategy.
Curriculum decisions for the EMBA were based upon feedback received from the College of Business’s faculty, the members of its business advisory board, and regional business leaders. “The committee that put together the curriculum heard from these perspectives,” according to Dr. Richard Becherer, Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Business and Entrepreneurship, “and decided that, fundamentally, this program had to be integrative and it had to be linked to the real world.”
Students Work Weekends
While many MBA programs accommodate full-time students or those taking evening classes, UTC’s EMBA students meet on alternate weekends, beginning class on Friday afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m. and finishing on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The weekend model was created by the nation’s top business schools,” said Kimberly Turner, executive director of graduate programs in the College of Business. “A lot of people cannot walk away from work to go to school, but they want that academic retooling.”
Josh McManus was one of those people. He is the cofacilitator of CreateHere, a collective rethink project by Chattanoogans, for Chattanooga. He called his EMBA experience “rewarding,” but not without sacrifice.
“The curriculum is intense, and balancing the demands of career, family, and school are tough,” McManus said. “That said, the program is a wonderful primer for the demands that are placed on entrepreneurs and senior managers day in and day out. I have benefited most from the real-world experiences of the professors and students.”
McManus and his cohort began the program together and stayed together until they finished, thus enriching opportunities for networking and professional development.
Employers May Pay
Students are seriously committed to the program, perhaps partly due to the involvement of their employers. In many cases, employers not only provide the student’s recommendation for admission to the program but also pay for the program through tuition reimbursement.
Requiring students in the EMBA program to have 3 to 5 years of significant work experience guarantees lively classroom discussion.
“The classes helped solidify my decision to make a career transition that more closely matches my interest in applying sound business principles to not-for-profit organizations,” McManus said. “I’ve also seen a sustained growth in my ability to navigate financial statements and complex legal issues.”
Bonding in the classroom through academic instruction was further reinforced on the trip abroad. “The trip definitely strengthened the already-tight bonds among the 12 class members, as well as the participating professors,” McManus said. “Having the chance to interact in travel situations, international business sessions, and more social settings offered a much deeper opportunity to learn from and know your peers. I really enjoyed the dynamic of the group on the trip, which was a healthy balance of work and play.”
University Fuels Growth
Innovative programming at the university is a key ingredient in future economic growth in the Chattanooga region, according to the chamber’s CEO, Tom Edd Wilson. “If you look at cities around the country with a high-performing economy, almost always there is a very good university,” he said.
Becherer agrees. “Having a good university with programs relevant to the community I think is fundamental to economic growth,” he said. “UTC’s business school and other programs on campus have responded to that. The EMBA program is a special experience–the cohort format, the hand-picked faculty teaching the program, the international trip that provides a unifying experience. It can make a real difference in your career.”
Employees of large firms and budding sole proprietors will feel at home in the EMBA program. “I would definitely recommend the UTC EMBA program to any individual who has the desire to learn and is prepared to make a serious commitment to the program,” said Morrison-Fuller.
“The program offers a unique learning experience that comes from an extremely knowledgeable faculty, close peer relations, and intense focus on issues that matter to emerging leaders. The executive experience is one that is not duplicated in other programs,” said McManus.
In July 2008, candidates will be selected for the 2008-09 cohort, which will begin in August 2008. For more information, e-mail Michael-Owens@utc.edu or Kim-Turner@utc.edu. For information about the UTC College of Business, call 423-425-4313.