By Arial Starks
The Vanderbilt Business Executive MBA program is designed to offer working professionals the opportunity to earn an MBA degree while continuing to work full-time. In the second year of the program, students choose between 2 tracks: the Executive Edge Track where students experience the high-level work of business professionals in the classroom every other Saturday, or the Global Immersion Track in which students become part of an international cohort and participate in 4 immersive cross-border residencies. This year marks a significant milestone as we celebrate the 10th graduating class of our Global Immersion Track, originally known as the Americas MBA for Executives program.
The history of the EMBA’s Global Immersion program
Since the 1940s, Vanderbilt University has maintained its reputation for having a strong Center for Latin American Studies. For 20+ years, Vanderbilt has hosted cohorts of Executive MBA students from the Fundação Instituto de Administração (FIA) in Brazil for their U.S.-based residency, where Brazilian students traveled to Nashville to learn about how business is conducted in the U.S. Leaders of Vanderbilt and FIA’s Executive MBA programs at the time recognized the benefits of this experience which ultimately led to a partnership between the 2 schools. Through this partnership, conversations were sparked around what a global Executive MBA program focused on the largest economies in the Americas could look like. With a Brazilian university partner (FIA) already solidified, Canada and Mexico were next on the list.
“We chose to partner with Simon Fraser University in Canada, in part because of the strong Southeast Asian influence in Vancouver,” said Juli Bennett, Executive Director of Vanderbilt Executive MBA Programs. “We wanted to expand that kind of global mindset, and they teach courses in areas like cross-cultural management.”
Vanderbilt also partnered with Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), “When choosing a Mexican partner, we found that ITAM was ready to do a global program and also wanted to be responsive to the market and act quickly,” Bennett explained. “Our Mexican partner teaches concepts like family business. I have seen estimates that over 95% of businesses in Mexico are family owned. Understanding that dynamic is essential for global business professionals.”
In the late 1990’s Vanderbilt Business offered an International Executive MBA program where students and faculty met at a hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Program leaders recognized that this setup was not sustainable for the long term, but the initial offering served as a blueprint for the Americas MBA for Executives program—later renamed the Global Immersion Track of the Executive MBA program.
“We recognized there was a demand and a desire to continue that program, and so, in 2011 when we initiated this program, the main goal was making it sustainable; the way that we did that was by partnering with other schools,” Bennett said.
Highlights of EMBA’s Global Immersion over the years
Over the last decade, the Global Immersion track of Vanderbilt’s Executive MBA program has continually produced exceptional career outcomes for its graduates, “The partnerships have been strong,” Bennett said. “They are tight. We uplift each other, challenge each other, and we are constantly thinking about how to improve the program and what steps we need to take to make it more continually relevant.”
Alums over the years report achieving their career goals of being more efficient at conducting business on a global level.
“What I thought the Global Immersion Track would add to my career was better awareness of how businesses were conducted in other parts of the world, and that is 100 percent true,” said Erin Raccah (EMBA’16). “But it was more of the relationship side—the soft skills, the teamwork, the general cultural awareness—that I benefited from.”
The structure of the program, placing students in an immersive international cohort of around 60 students, roughly 15 from each partner school, is intentionally designed to offer students a new, unique perspective on business. The students travel to each other’s schools in each other’s respective countries, learning from educators in those places.
“It is a splendid opportunity for anyone pursuing the Executive MBA program to get to learn from and work with people from different cultures,” said Vibhav Veldore (EMBA’15). “There are always takeaways from every assignment. Those opportunities are very unique, especially in an MBA program setting where you get the chance to learn, fail, and execute. It’s a valuable opportunity that not all programs offer.”
The future of the Global Immersion track
The main goal for the Executive MBA Global Immersion Track, since its startup in 2011, was for it to be sustainable. Bennett says not only has the program reached this goal but exceeded it.
“In the next 5 years, I hope we continue to be strong,” she said. “I hope we continue having strong capstone strategy projects and ever-increasing global impact.”
The focus on producing exceptional career outcomes has consistently paid off for students in the Global Immersion Track. Jessica Osaki (EMBA’17) started the program in a consulting role she was not excited about and after graduating, she landed a role with globally renowned Google.
“You get this really rich experience,” said Osaki. “The professors are challenging you to think in so many different ways from a cultural context. It forced us to adapt and challenged us to think in different ways.”
Aside from the personal benefits students receive from the program, many are willing and excited to pay their experiences forward to current and future students by supporting them for years to come.
“For me, volunteering to help students with capstone projects is very fulfilling, because I can give back, teach, and learn,” said Veldore. “What better way to do this and give people the most out of the Executive MBA program, than connecting with them, giving advice, letting them know what did and didn’t work for me, and sharing these things as they are evolving through their projects.”