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EMBA的六度空间

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When Jeff Swallow attended Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management Executive M.B.A program nine years ago, he never expected to find his future business partners.

Senior executives in Magnetrol, the family-owned business he was working for, were poised for retirement. Mr. Swallow soon knew where to find their replacements. 'I needed to surround myself with the best people I possibly can, and I found those (people) at Kellogg,' he says.

When a director of accounting position opened up in 2002, one year after the program ended, Mr. Swallow suggested one of his study group mates, Marlin Underwood. About six years later, at the end of 2007, a director general counsel position opened up and Mr. Swallow looked to John Heiser, another of his Kellogg study group partners.

Now Magnetrol, a Downers Grove, Ill.-based industrial manufacturer, has come full circle: it is sending its first employee to the program.

In executive M.B.A. programs it's not unusual for students to find future business partners, co-workers -- and sometimes even spouses -- during the roughly 22-months of class meetings.

Many of those connections are rooted in study groups, which are usually not formed by luck of the draw or random sorting on Excel. Instead, a myriad of staff members at a business school often will work for months to first admit the right mix of students and then place them in strategically-appropriate study groups. At Kellogg, anywhere between five and 10 staff members work to form a study group, and each cohort has about 12 study groups, says Julie Cisek Jones, assistant dean and director of Kellogg's E.M.B.A program. 'It's an intense process that takes several weeks of mixing and matching,' she says. 'The first pass at study groups is never what the final study groups tend to be.'

These by-design relationships group together students of different industries, job experience, academic background, gender and location create what the school believes to be the most effective learning environment. A typical group might include a quant jock, an engineer, a marketing executive, a health care director and a manufacturing manager.

From these groups spring personal and professional connections. 'Study groups are very tight, they form a certain level of bond that you get in no other way,' says Marjorie DeGraca, executive director of the University of California, Berkeley-Columbia joint executive M.B.A program.

One year, to get the study groups just-so, Ms. DeGraca laid out index cards with students' names and basic facts on her living room floor, mixing and matching until the groups seem balanced.

Students say the meticulous effort is worth it. According to The Wall Street Journal's 2008 Executive M.B.A. student survey, 80% of recent graduates said 'perceived quality of classmates' was an important factor when they selected their E.M.B.A program, second only to the reputation of the school. About 66% of those surveyed also said 'opportunities to network with senior business executives' was an important factor.

Forming and maintaining a network is essential to many students, who say they continue to keep in touch with classmates during and after the programs. Schools with multiple programs make efforts for students from the various programs to meet whether it's for a particular class, for international electives or for seminars made available to all of the school's executive programs.

The result: plenty of E.M.B.A. alums, like the employees at Magnetrol, end up working with -- or for -- each other. Others have gone as far as creating companies with their peers.

When Jennifer Boss was a student in the University of Chicago's E.M.B.A program a few months ago, she purposely sat with Russian students while taking classes in Europe. Ms. Boss, a senior vice president in research at Heitman LLC was motivated because the Chicago-based real estate investment management firm she works for was putting its money in a new fund in Russia. 'I made all of these great contacts including someone who works for a consulting firm who has real estate contacts,' she says. 'It worked out really well.'

Maura O'Neill was in the Berkeley-Columbia program when a classmate approached her with an idea to start a new business. After giving him advice, he asked her to be the chairman of the board. Two years after completing the program, in March 2008 they sold the company, Cafescribe.com, an educational software producer. 'We started working on it, bouncing ideas off while we were still in the E.M.B.A program,' she says.

Of course, some of these relationships go beyond the boardroom. Dayo and Toks Olabisi first met at a Wharton Business School information session. After exchanging business cards, neither expected anything more than a professional relationship would ensue.

But their friendship continued to grow after both decided to attend Wharton's E.M.B.A program. 'I actually felt [Dayo] is what helped me get through it,' Toks says. 'We're able to always leverage up each other (to do our best).' The pair married in December 2006 and graduated from the program in May 2008.

Dating during the programs is not entirely uncommon. Dina Keswani, a student in Cornell University's E.M.B.A program, has seen couples form in the school's program. 'When you spend so much time during a weekend doing work and stuff related to schoolㄒyou form a bond with the people,' she says. '[The couples are] really maximizing their time.'

Kelley Blanco, assistant dean at Columbia University's E.M.B.A program, knows that first hand: she married one of her learning group members from the program. And at the end of the day, whether personal or professional, Blanco says peer connections can make or break a program.

'That cohort component is definitely one of the keys to our success,' she said. 'I know the importance of the whole E.M.B.A experience, the whole thing. It makes the job a lot more rewarding.'

九年前,杰夫·斯万娄(Jeff Swallow)进入西北大学凯洛格管理学院(Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management)攻读EMBA课程,当时他并没有想到自己会在这里找到未来的工作伙伴。

斯万娄所供职的家族企业Magnetrol公司里有许多资深管理者即将退休,不过他已经想好了该去哪里找他们的继任者。他说:“我需要尽可能地把最优秀的人才罗致到自己周围,而我在凯洛格找到了这些人。”

2002年,EMBA课程结束后一年,公司财务主管的职位出现了空缺,斯万娄推荐了自己EMBA学习小组的同学马林·安德伍德(Marlin Underwood)。大约六年之后的2007年年底,首席法律顾问一职也出现了空缺,这回斯万娄又找来了凯洛格的另一位同学约翰·黑瑟(John Heiser)。

如今,总部位于伊利诺伊州丹尼森市的工业产品制造企业Magnetrol公司完成了一个完整的循环:首次派出公司雇员去念EMBA课程。

EMBA课程为时大约22个月,在此期间找到未来的合作伙伴、同事──有时候甚至是配偶──并不是什么新鲜事。

这类的关系中有很多都是在学习小组中建立起来的,而学习小组的组成通常并不是靠简单的抽签或者Excel的随机分配。商学院要调派大量人手、花费数月的时间,先招收到各类合适的学员,然后再将他们分到相互匹配的学习小组。凯洛格学院院长助理及EMBA课程负责人朱莉·西塞克·乔恩斯(Julie Cisek Jones)说,在凯洛格商学院,需要5至10名学校员工来安排一个学习小组的组成,一个班学生大约会分成12个学习小组。她说:“这是个严密的过程,我们要花上好几周的时间来把学生混合再匹配。而学习小组初选出来的人员构成跟最终的构成肯定会有不同。”

精心配置的小组将行业、工作背景、教育背景、性别及居住地各不相同的学员组合在一起,创造出了在校方看来最为有效的学习氛围。一个典型的学习小组中可能会包括一名股市分析高手、一名工程师、一名营销主管、一名医疗保健主管和一名生产经理。

学员们可以通过这些学习小组建立起个人以及职业交往。加州大学伯克利分校-哥伦比亚大学联合EMBA课程执行主管马乔里·德格拉卡(Marjorie DeGraca)说:“学习小组成员之间的关系非常紧密,这种关联是无法通过其他方式获得的。”

有一年,为了实现精确分组,德格拉卡在自家客厅地板上把标有学员名字及基本概况的索引卡摊了一地,试验了各种排列组合,最终使所有人员得到了均衡的分配。

学员们认为,这种极其细致的努力是值得付出的。据《华尔街日报》2008年度EMBA调查,新近毕业的学员中有80%称“同学的素质”是他们选择EMBA课程的重要考量因素,仅次于学校的声誉。66%的被调查者还说,“结交高级管理人员的机会”也是一个很重要的因素。

对于许多学员来说,建立并维系一个关系网是非常重要的,他们说自己在课程期间以及课程结束之后都会一直跟同学保持联系。那些开设多种管理课程的学院会尽量给不同课程的学员安排与其他学员结识的机会,其形式可能是面向所有学员的某一门课,也可能是跨国选修课或者研讨会。

这些措施的结果就是:就像供职于Magnetrol公司的这几位一样,许多EMBA学员最后跟同学达成了同事或者雇佣关系。有些人甚至还一起组建了新公司。

几个月前,詹尼弗·博施(Jennifer Boss)还是芝加哥大学(University of Chicago)的EMBA学员。去欧洲上课时,她刻意跟俄罗斯的同学坐在一起。博施供职于总部位于芝加哥的房地产投资管理公司Heitman LLC,是负责调研业务的高级副总裁。她之所以这样做是因为公司正在投资俄罗斯的一个新基金。她说:“我结识了很多对我非常有帮助的人,其中有一个来自一家拥有众多房地产业客户的咨询公司。真的是很有帮助。”

莫拉·奥尼尔(Maura O'Neill)曾经在伯克利-哥伦比亚的联合班就读,当时有一个同学来找她商量开办新公司的事情。奥尼尔提出了自己的建议,这位同学便邀请她出任董事长。2008年3月,也就是他们的EMBA课程结业两年之后,他们顺利卖掉了自己的公司──专注于教育软件开发的Cafescribe.com。她说:“还在上EMBA的时候,我们就开始做这家公司,想出了很多的点子。”

当然,也有一些人的交往远远超越了办公室的范畴。妲尤·奥拉比西(Dayo Olabisi)和托克斯·奥拉比西(Toks Olabisi)第一次见面是在沃顿商学院(Wharton Business School)的介绍宣讲会。交换名片的时候,两个人都没有想到他们之间还会发展出比职业交往更为深入的关系。

在双方都决定参加沃顿的EMBA课程之后,他们的友情得到了进一步发展。托克斯说:“我真切地感受到,(妲尤)就是那个能陪我度过此生的人。我们总是能够激发出彼此的潜能。”他们在2006年12月步入婚姻殿堂,2008年5月完成学业。

念EMBA期间谈恋爱已经完全不是什么新鲜事了。在康奈尔大学(Cornell University)读EMBA的蒂娜·凯斯瓦尼(Dina Keswani)已经在自己的班上看到好几对了。她说:“即便是在周末,你还是要花很多时间来做跟学业有关的各种事情……于是你就跟这些人建立起了一种紧密的关联。(这些情侣)不过是在最大限度地利用自己的时间而已。”

哥伦比亚大学EMBA项目的主任助理凯莱·布兰科(Kelley Blanco)对此有着切身的体会:她的另一半便是自己所在学习小组的一位成员。布兰科说,到最后,不管是从个人还是职业的角度,同学之间的关系都是决定课程成败的关键因素。

她说:“每一个成员的表现绝对是我们取得成功的一个关键要素。我很清楚EMBA经历的重要性,这整个过程都很重要。它能给工作增添很多意义。”
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