So What’s the Deal with the Bradley EMBA Already?

If you follow me on twitter or are a facebook friend, you’ve already heard: I got accepted into the EMBA program at Bradley. (If you’re not following me on twitter…why not? My twitter feed is a great source for links to interesting articles I’ve read and an occasional useful source of news in my life like when I get accepted into prestigious graduate programs.) I got the official notice from the program director yesterday morning. I’m both excited and nervous at the same time, and I’ll write about my emotional state in later posts.

But I’ve been hinting around what makes this particular program different…what makes it worth considering when I’ve dismissed immediately any other thoughts of ever returning to school for a degree program. And I promised that the next post would explain. And by “next post” I mean “this post” of course.

So here’s what’s different that made me consider it, and then decide to apply:

Time.

The program is both accellerated and convenient. Except for a couple of times, all classes are on Friday and Saturday, 8-5, and rarely consecutive weeks. That is something actually possible to work around. And then the length? Only 15 months from start to finish. Putting other things in life at work and home on hold isn’t for 2-3 years…it’s 15 months. That’s doable. Totally designed for someone in my line of work.

Structure.

The Friday/Saturday class schedule is only part of the structure I find attractive. It’s also not a typical classroom experience. About half the work that students complete is team based. That’s part of what makes the program attractive to me. Working as a part of a team to solve problems and develop one another is a big part of my job and the style I want to have for leadership. And the team I’ll be working with isn’t the typical MBA student class of folks still wet behind the ear with the ink barely dry on their bachelor’s diplomas. The average EMBA student at Bradley has 10 years of management experience. The average age is 40. The team I get to work with may have as much to teach me as the instructors.

Also the instruction isn’t textbook heavy…we will be working to solve real life, in the trenches, problems. So what I’m learning will be immediately applicable in my day job…not aimed at someday in the future. I may even have opportunity to bring issues from work into class to work solutions with the team there.

Availability.

Bradley University accepts a small number of EMBA candidates without a Bachelor’s degree based on life and work experience. I had a chance, without going back to finish my BA (something I wasn’t willing to do), to get into the program. Also, Bradley is right around the corner. I may walk to class a lot of the time…it’s 8 blocks. And I could use the exercise. So there’s less commute to school than there is to work. Makes the option much more viable.

And for “Why now?” Need.

Samaritan Ministries has been growing rapidly for a number of years now. Since 2007 we’ve more than doubled in size, both our membership and our staff. It’s pretty impressive.

But it has cost. The other day in a conversation with my boss I likened it to baseball. When I came on staff in 1999, horribly under-qualified for the work I’m doing, we had 3,000 members. Let’s say my “A-game” at that point would have gotten me on to a high school baseball team with room to spare. No problem. Within a few years, continuing the analogy, I was probably able to bring a strong minor-league level game, and we didn’t quite need it. So I did well at my job, and was able to continue to grow with the organization.

But now we, as an organization, need to play at a major league level. And no matter how consistently I bring my A game, my A game is still that of a minor league player who’s not ready to be called up. So the choice was in front of us: we either recruit a major league level VP (recruit someone to be my boss) or we find a way to bring my A game to the next level so I can continue to do my job as the organization grows. I think this EMBA program will be part of the training and tools that I need to take my game to the next level, and I’m really excited about that. I love to improve at my work…and this is a great chance to do it. I also have right now a great team of folks to work with who are going to be able to help carry my game through this next 15 months. Imagine a pitcher who’s tired, 8 innings into a perfect game. That last inning everyone draws in to keep that going, even to the point of the left fielder throwing what would usually be a base hit out at first to end the game. The team I get to work with will back me up well right now.

So that’s it…I don’t like school. But I’m excited about going to this school for this program. Keep reading each week to see how it goes!

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