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Curriculum and Academic Experience


The Executive MBA classroom is energized! Play the video above to hear how student insights and perspectives are brought together, resulting in improved understanding and conclusions. Find the full version here.

Challenging and immediately relevant

The 21-month Executive MBA Program is a demanding, integrated, general-management curriculum that emphasizes leadership development and strategic thinking as well as the application of decision-making tools. Ranked #1 in the Northwest, #16 in the U.S. and #69 in the world by The Financial Times, the Foster Executive MBA Program delivered salary increases of nearly 30%, and average salaries on par with Cornell.

Based on UW Graduate School enrollment policy, the EMBA Program is considered a full-time enrollment program (at least 10 credits per term). A total of 68 credits is required.

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Integrated cohort-based curriculum

Current business trends, including globalization are integrated throughout the entire curriculum and within individual courses.

  • First year courses focus on the building blocks of business — accounting, economics, management, statistics and team building
  • Second year courses explore the connections between operations, finance, strategy and leadership, including marketing and entrepreneurship.

The course sequence is designed as a cohort-based model. That is, EMBA classes are completed in a predetermined progression and as a group. There are no electives within the EMBA Program. Grades are based on both individual achievement and study group based assignments.

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Diverse teaching approaches

EMBA students experience a variety of teaching styles that create a challenging and dynamic learning environment. With opportunities for both individual learning and group involvement, students come away with a rich and valuable experience:

  • Classes combine thought-provoking lectures with lively discussions
  • One-on-one interaction with world class faculty
  • Supportive, motivating study teams
  • Case studies link theory with real-time challenges and current business practices
  • Students use their own organizations as laboratories and bring the results to class for further discussion and analysis, a valuable return on investment for sponsoring companies.
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International Immersion

EMBA students in Vietnam
Successful business executives must intimately understand the challenges posed by today’s competitive global environment. To provide first-hand knowledge about business practices, as well as the impact of legal, political, historical and economic issues on business in different countries, the Executive MBA curriculum includes a required International Immersion for second-year students.

  • Occurs early-September of 2nd year
  • 8-10 days (timing to be announced)
  • Two academic credits awarded (EMBA 590)
  • Most on-the-ground expenses included except travel costs to and from the Immersion site(s)
  • NOTE: Students (groups up to 30) may take trips to different regions/countries. Each group will be a mix of North America and Regional students to maximize networking opportunities. Applicants’ submission dates may be used to determine location preference priority. Applying early for admission has its advantages.

Selected previous International Immersion locations have included: Vietnam or Poland and Germany (2016); Chile and Peru, China or Malaysia and Singapore (2015) Brazil, the Czech Republic/Germany, or Vietnam (2014); United Arab Emirates and India (September 2013)Singapore and China (March 2013).

Each Immersion is designed to:

  • Provide students with an in-depth view of the host country’s economy, businesses and politics.
  • Explore the practicalities of doing business, communicating and effectively operating in the host country.
  • Consider issues such as cultural differences, transparency, the role of government and the legal environment of business
  • Build a network of  contacts in local government and business, ultimately useful for the companies you represent
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Learn from Northwest business leaders

Bill Ayer in the EMBA classroom
Executive MBA students have a unique opportunity to hear from prominent leaders and executives across northwest industries in our CEO and the Board class, taught by Bill Ayer (retired Chairman, Alaska Airlines)

Recent CEO and the Board class speakers included:

Patty Bedient-Executive Vice President & CFO, Weyerhaeuser
Ana Mari Cauce-President, University of Washington
Neal Dempsey-General Partner, Bay Partners
Dave Marver-CEO, Vicis
Scott Maw, Executive Vice President & CFO, Starbucks
Blake Nordstrom-President, Nordstrom
Jeff Pinneo-Retired CEO, Medical Teams International
Joe Sprague-Sr. VP-Communications & External Relations, Alaska Airlines
Mark Tabbutt-Chairman, Saltchuk
Peter van Oppen-Partner, Investing Team, Trilogy Equity Partners
Bryan Zidar-Managing Director- Corporate Communications, Alaska Airlines

Drawing from the experiences of such leaders, EMBA students will:

  • Understand how leaders motivate employees
  • Learn how to interact with the board of directors and management teams
  • Gain insights about achieving results without damaging relationships
  • Construct a framework for making ethical decisions in fiercely competitive and uncertain environments
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Business Plan Competition: The Capstone

The EMBA Business Plan Competition is the capstone experience for second-year EMBA students. The competition is designed to promote student ideas and venture creation by providing a forum in which students can present new business concepts to local venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and investors. EMBA students create an original business plan and compete in a one-day competition just prior to graduation.

In preparation for the competition, guest speakers including venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and program alumni meet with students to guide them through effective competition planning strategies. Topics include executive summary development, management team skill, market opportunity, competitive strategy, go to market strategy, traction, and the financials. Past winning plans have gone on to launch new small businesses.

For some students, the competition is more than an academic and emotional peak experience. A few of the business plans presented here will one day turn into real businesses.  Whether they build new companies based on their plans or integrate their new knowledge and skills into their careers in other ways, the competition instills confidence in student’s ability to apply what they’ve learned in the EMBA Program.

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EMBA guide

Download EMBA GuideFind out if an Executive MBA is right for you. Download the guide.