Vanderbilt EMBA program ranks No. 18 among alumni in WSJ rankings

New Saturday schedule helps accommodate working professionals ⎯ especially women

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Amy Wolf
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Vanderbilt University
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Sep 30, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ⎯ Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management ranked No. 25 among executive MBA programs in a new survey of national business schools published Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

On management skills and alumni satisfaction, key components of the Journal’s rankings, Owen ranked No 17 and No. 18, respectively.

But for Tami Fassinger, Vanderbilt’s Associate Dean of Executive Education, this year’s high rating by alumni means more than just good scores on a survey: It serves as validation for a move she made two years ago to implement an alternating-Saturdays schedule to help accommodate working professionals, particularly women.

Before implementing the new schedule, she remembers hearing from people like Staci Springer, an up-and-coming engineer at a multinational industrial lubricant company, about her reluctance to enroll in Vanderbilt’s EMBA program because she didn’t want to ask for Fridays off in the midst of a tough economy. Springer also wanted enough flexibility to be with her husband, whose travel schedule has him away for long periods.

That all changed in 2009, when the program’s format shifted. “As soon as I saw the Saturday schedule, I hit the ‘submit’ button on my application,” says Springer, who is scheduled to graduate from the EMBA program in 2011.
Prior to the new schedule, Fassinger grew particularly alarmed that female enrollment in the EMBA program had dropped to around 10%. She knew changes had to be made. “We did everything humanly possible to make the schedule work with our students’ lives while keeping our high academic standards intact,” Fassinger says of a months-long, top-to-bottom review of the program.
As for the two-Saturdays-per-month format, Fassinger drew inspiration from her own life: “Being the mother of a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old, I knew I could be forgiven for missing one or two soccer games, but not every single one.”

Fassinger’s team looked for ways to make the EMBA program more attractive to executive students, polling applicants as well as potential candidates who inquired but didn’t apply. “What we found was that 80% to 90% wanted every other weekend and no Friday classes, even if it meant a longer program with two additional summer terms,” she says.

The new schedule is paying off. Female enrollment has doubled over the last two years, and this fall, women make up 20% of the incoming EMBA class⎯about the same level it had been prior to the drop. This comes amid less corporate sponsorship of students, which disproportionately discourages females and minorities from applying.
Fassinger says Vanderbilt’s EMBA program is also continuing to draw executives by increasing its focus on formal study groups, called C-Teams, which are handpicked with each incoming class to represent a wide range of business skills. Each C-Team study group is selected to reflect deep experience in finance or accounting, operations, sales or marketing, information technology, and general management.

“There are three main advantages we see with C-Teams,” she says. “The first is simply that students get views from people in roles different than their own as a way to get them to think about the bigger picture. The second is that it helps these executives manage the sheer volume of work they have, given their own big jobs and family obligations. Third and most important, it emphasizes the active role we expect students to play in educating their executive classmates. That executive edge⎯learning and leading⎯is what makes our MBA education tougher than many places, and in turn attracts exactly who I want to recruit.”

In August, Vanderbilt welcomed 48 new students in its EMBA program, a premier 60-credit MBA degree offered to seasoned executives. The incoming class had an average GMAT (required) score of 610 and an average GPA of 3.23. About 20% already have professional or advanced degrees, and a host of others have other professional certifications.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is ranked as a top institution by BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times and Forbes. For more information about Owen, visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.