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Knowledge made-to-order

Krannert Executive Education Programs
fill a niche with custom-made learning programs

Executives looking to acquire new skills after five to 15 years on the job tend to know exactly what they need to learn and how much time away from work they can sacrifice.

That's why administrators for KEEP, the degree and non-degree Krannert Executive Education Programs, are creating education programs that are made-to-order.

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"The typical customer of our non-degree program wants business and management skills to add to the technical skills he or she has," says Michael Sheahan, associate director in charge of non-degree programs. "This might be an engineer who is taking on more management responsibilities."

Recently, 22 rising stars at the Lafayette, Ind., Caterpillar plant were enrolled in a specially arranged KEEP "mini-MBA" non-degree program. Cat's workplace development manager of human resources, Judith Potts, helped set up the unique program and enrolled as a student.

"At Caterpillar, lifelong education is part of the fabric of the company," Potts says. "For the Executive Management Certificate Program, we looked for high-potential candidates from different disciplines and departments and from a variety of educational backgrounds on the management team. Our goal is a more well-rounded management team."

Based on curriculum choices that Caterpillar identified as critical to its executive management development, Potts arranged for five short courses in economics, accounting and finance, human resources management, marketing management and strategic management. The timing of the classes was arranged based on Cat's needs and preferences.

"We set up a five-month, five-module program, with each module lasting 18 hours," Sheahan says. "They wanted classes to be from 2:30 to 5:30 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, so that's what we did. Each of the five modules lasted three weeks."

Because the plant is near the West Lafayette Campus, all of the in-class instruction was face-to-face, but distance learning can be built into custom-made programs for other customers who work too far away to come to campus that often.

"In almost everything we do there is some component of online learning," Sheahan says. "Often before they ever get to campus, executives are going online to access pre-class readings so that when they get here they can hit the ground running."

The combination of distance and face-to-face learning makes sense for executives who enroll in KEEP for a Master of Business Administration because many come from hundreds, or thousands, of miles away.

"Beginning in the early 1980s, most people were doing weekend MBAs for two years. And that makes sense for executives who live and work near the university they're attending," Sheahan says. "We've had to be innovative because we don't have a large metropolitan population to draw from like the University of Chicago does, for example."

So rather than expecting faraway executives working long weeks to fly in every weekend for two years, as do many MBA programs, Purdue packages its executive degree into six two-week sessions distributed over 22 months.

Gregg Harvey, an executive at Oracle Corp., who attended from his base in Hong Kong, said the combination of course design and quality made Purdue's program an easy choice.

"The flexibility plus Purdue's reputation and the challenging curriculum greatly influenced my decision," Harvey says. "From Purdue you can get a graduate education without being concerned with location and travel, provided you have the discipline and the motivation. The program has a balance of classroom and distance instruction that is well-suited to the busy professional."

In BusinessWeek's October 2001 summation of why it ranked the Krannert Executive MBA program 14th in the world, it cited that 59 percent of those who enroll come more than 500 miles to attend. The graduates that BusinessWeek surveyed praise Purdue's program for its knowledgeable, experienced professors.

For Kendra Losee, a graduate of the Executive MBA program, the proof of the program is in its applicability.

"What reinforces that I made the right decision is my ability to apply immediately what I learn in the program to my job on almost a daily basis," Losee says. "Working primarily in high-tech marketing and Internet strategy, I am filling in the many gaps in my knowledge through Purdue's focus on analysis and operations."

Jeffrey Gonlin, referral manager and vice president for Kolnische Ruck, a German insurance company with a $111 million annual income, is a graduate of the Krannert International Master's in Management Program, which offers six, two-week sessions over two years.

"I may have had a lot of fun while learning very practical concepts and techniques, but my choice of the International Master's in Management Program was something I took very seriously," Gonlin says. "The professors are excellent, the reputation is top, the value is outstanding. Its format suits my work and lifestyle -- instead of the other way around."

A startling bargain

When BusinessWeek ranked the top executive MBA programs in the world in October 2001, it also listed their costs.

The rankings revealed that no university program ranking higher than 14th-ranked Purdue cost less, and in fact the program whose cost came closest was 12th-place Texas-Austin at $53,000, $8,000 more than Purdue's $45,000 cost.

Top-ranked Northwestern, at $91,000, was twice the cost of Purdue, and third-ranked Pennsylvania was much higher, at $106,000.

PHOTO CAPTION:   Judith Potts, manager of human resources at Caterpillar's large engine center in Lafayette, also is a student in the Krannert Executive Education Programs, which offers "mini-MBAs." With her is David Schoorman, professor of management, who teaches human resources management in the Executive Management Certificate Program.

Story by Amy Raley
Photograph by David Umberger