Program innovations

GEMBA Program applies virtual reality to Executive MBA experience
Villanova University

INSEAD is tapping virtual reality (VR) to enhance the learning experience for students in the school's Global Executive Master of Business Administration (GEMBA) Program. INSEAD launched its VR Immersive Learning Initiative pre-pandemic in 2019 to boost engagement, retention of knowledge, and personalization of learning. Today, more than 4,500 MBA and executive education participants have experienced VR as part of INSEAD program throughout the world, both remotely and in classrooms at its campuses in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.

“After worldwide lockdown forced us to pivot from physical to all-online training, we immediately saw the potential for virtual reality to compensate for the weaknesses of purely distance learning, such as Zoom fatigue,” says Ithai Stern, INSEAD professor of strategy and academic director of the VR Immersive Learning Initiative.

With responsive to real-time head movements, VR offers students the chance to think through a situation in a safe and controlled environment, make decisions without feeling judged by other participants, and sense pressures by others who may be participating.


“Through an immersive 3D simulation involving scripts and actors, participants can be plunged into a lifelike conference room setting with a debate in full swing, or a tense close-quarters negotiation with fraught power dynamics on display,” says Stern. “Just as they would in life, they must use their wits and powers of perception to come to grips with the situation and determine next steps.”

VR experiences help students learn about themselves. Students also take part in in-depth collective discussions to maximize those individual insights.

“We don't envision that virtual reality will replace existing executive educational tools and approaches, rather it will add a new dimension to the classroom – both virtually and physically – without taking anything away,” says Stern.


EMBA students visit Northern California for inside look at legislation

Each summer, EMBA students at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) spend a few days in Sacramento and Silicon Valley as a part of their Innovation in Practice course to gain a better understanding of the legislative process and ways organizations can more effectively manage innovation.

The trip kicked off in Sacramento with a visit to the State Capitol where co-instructors Bob Clark, Rob Beamer, and EMBA alumnus Clarence Griffin (MBA ’09) led students in meetings with State Treasurer Fiona Ma, capitol staff, lobbyists, and representatives from NGOs, state departments, and the Public Policy Institute of California.

In just two days, students obtained an insider’s perspective on the legislative process, the various players who support the effort, and the essential role that relationships and trade-offs play in maintaining the fabric of a functioning state government. They also learned how to engage with the state government and legislature through their elected officials, industry lobbyists, and representatives from NGO/advocacy groups and state departments.


EMBA student Jill Yang was surprised to learn the accessibility of government officials and the many ways that private citizens can help drive change, such as joining special committees and contacting politicians.

“Prior to this trip, the only role I thought I had in politics was to vote and that was where my impact ended,” says Yang. “I feel so empowered after the trip knowing I can do so much more for my community.”

Students visited Silicon Valley next, where they met with executives and LMU alumni at some of the top innovative companies in the world including Google, Dell, Oracle, Jabil, and Absolute EMS. They also explored the Computer History Museum and Apple Park Visitor Center.

Overall, the students enjoyed hearing insights from government and business leaders working at the intersection of business and policy through the lens of innovation.

“I learned that a big part of innovation in government or business is about relationships, asking the right questions and building a creative team with diverse skill sets,” says Ruth Amanuel. “The trip brought to life the impact of both public and private sectors on driving this trillion-dollar California economy forward.”

For Mike McKenzie, the experience opened his eyes to a new approach for team collaboration and effectiveness that he plans to implement in the workplace.

“The time we spent with various companies and legislators created a different narrative for each of my classmates – very different takes from the same meeting,” says McKenzie. “Post-meeting takeaways are so valuable and will now be part of my team’s roadmap going forward. I want to take the time to learn from each participant to create a more collaborative and worthwhile experience.”

As part of the summer course, students must analyze a company and identify how that company does (and does not) foster and support innovation. After returning to Los Angeles, student teams completed a Trip Findings Report recapping what they learned and later presented an analysis of their data and recommendations for the company.

“We’re thrilled to be able to foster an experience like this for our students, that brings together learning and action,” says Beamer, director of Executive Programs at LMU. “Hearing and seeing our participants so engaged was tremendously reaffirming. A highlight was hearing students discuss how they planned on applying what they had learned into their communities and workplaces.”


New Executive MBA in Charlotte recently debuted

In fall 2022, the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School launched its Executive MBA Program in Charlotte.

“We are excited to have this special opportunity to bring our Executive MBA Program to working professionals in the Charlotte area to serve the business community there,” says Dean Doug Shackelford. “We look forward to being more deeply engaged in Charlotte to benefit students as we develop their next generation of leaders.”

During the 24-month program, working professionals attend in-person classes on Monday nights and on some Fridays when classes include working lunch sessions with Charlotte business leaders. The blended program includes classes that are equally divided between in-person and self-directed online course work.


In September the new class of Charlotte students gathered in Chapel Hill for orientation along with the new entering Evening Executive MBA students. This shared orientation immediately expands the students’ networks in the Charlotte and Triangle areas. Classes began in Charlotte in October.

“For many years, the Charlotte business community has been deeply supportive of us offering our program there,” says Shackelford. “We will make the most of being in Charlotte: We don’t just view it as a new location to deliver an MBA program but as way to meet the needs of, engage with, and strengthen our connections with the Charlotte business community. We’re also excited to connect more deeply with our 4,437 alumni in the Charlotte region.”

While designing the UNC Kenan-Flagler Charlotte Executive MBA Program, school leaders used the opportunity to re-think the school’s other programs for working professionals.

They adjusted the schedules for the Charlotte, Evening, and Weekend Executive MBA Programs, keeping the number of credit hours (62) the same for all three programs, with 37 from required classes and 25 from electives. They adopted a consistent calendar across all working professional programs, as well. The new schedules allow for deep relationships in program cohorts, as well as broadening connections across all programs.


The Wharton School launches Alumni Career Fellows Program

The Wharton MBA Program for Executives Office of Career Advancement at the University of Pennsylvania recently introduced a new initiative, the Alumni Career Fellows (ACF) Program.

The ACF creates more opportunities for current EMBA students to have meaningful one-on-one discussions with alumni about market trends, career best practices, and professional development.

The fellows volunteer a set number of hours per academic term to serve as advisors for Wharton EMBA (WEMBA) students who are interested in the specific industries that fellows represent. They offer targeted insight and recommendations while also fielding the more technical questions about a particular function or industry. 

Wharton Alumni Fellows represent industries such as health care, finance, technology and product development, venture capital, strategy and operations, and more. Career Advancement team members thoroughly vet fellows, who also complete training in career advising.

Current WEMBA students can access the ACF website to review the fellows’ bios and identify which alum offers the best fit for them. The students can choose to meet with a different Alumni Career Fellow each term, maximizing their opportunity to receive valuable advice from the dedicated alumni volunteers. 

Current EMBA students always can access the global Wharton alumni network through a myriad of other channels, programs, and offerings. With the launch of the ACF Program, Wharton is providing even more opportunities for current EMBA students to build meaningful relationships with alumni and enhance the strength of the Wharton alumni network, now 100,000-plus strong.

EMBA students return to travel for global immersions

After the pandemic interrupted global travel, the students in William & Mary’s Executive MBA Class of 2022 were excited to experience their two required global immersions during the 18-month program that started in January 2021. 

“It was great to return to a sense of ‘normal’ by taking the students on our international immersions this year,” says William & Mary Professor Brent Allred.

In October 2021, the students traveled as a class to Athens, Greece. In May 2022, their immersion took place in Cape Town, South Africa.  Professor Rajiv Kohli led the immersion to Greece where students studied digital transformation.

“With the help of our partners at Athens University of Economics and Business, the meetings and site visits greatly exceeded our expectations,” says Kohli.  “From meeting the Minister of Digital Governance to learning how OTE transformed its telecommunications business after the financial crisis to observing the digitization of the Athens Stock Exchange, we witnessed the ingenuity and resilience of the Greek people.”

Access to executive leaders and ministers brought the course work, lectures, and case studies on digital transformation to life.

“One of the reasons I selected William & Mary for my EMBA was the opportunity to experience two global immersions where classroom lectures partner with hands-on experiences,” says EMBA student Allison Berry. “The immersions were an outstanding learning experience.”

While the pandemic limited global travel for the past couple years, it also put global trade and supply chain challenges in the spotlight.

“The immersion to South Africa gave our students the opportunity to see the concepts explored throughout the program in a very interesting setting,” says Allred. “South Africa presents an interesting contrast of straddling both the developing and developed worlds. This immersion experience was a wonderful way to conclude the EMBA Program.”

Students appreciated the added element of studying global business in a post-COVID world.

“Experiencing another global market at this particular time was a great opportunity,” says EMBA student Tony Divaris.  “The global immersions put you on your path to making a difference for the betterment of those around you.”