| Dec 13, 2021 | Michael Benigno
The Gabelli School EMBA: An MBA That Fosters Career Development
By Claire Curry
Alison Whritenour, EMBA ’11, decided to pursue an MBA while she was working her way up the corporate ladder at Colgate Palmolive. With stints at prominent ad agencies Grey Worldwide and BBDO already on her resume, she knew that pursuing an advanced degree was the logical, necessary next step to progress in the field of brand management. As she moved through the Gabelli School’s Executive MBA program, Whritenour began re-evaluating the possibilities for her future, a process that ultimately led to a life- and career-changing decision.
“My experience started off as a bit of a mandate as my employer required an MBA, but as I went through the program, it helped me to see that there are many different routes to successful careers rather than a ‘one-lane’ view of success,” she said. “This helped to inspire my decision to leave my role in New York City at the time and start a new chapter in Vermont.”
That new chapter began when Whritenour accepted a job offer at Seventh Generation, a consumer goods company based in Burlington, Vermont that is known for environmentally friendly household products. Its socially conscious mission aligned with her personal values and in July 2021—nine years and several promotions later—she was appointed CEO.
Whritenour said that in addition to the Gabelli School program’s seasoned faculty and rigorous curriculum, her education was enriched by the diversity of professionals in her cohort. “It was a real benefit to learn and engage with many different subject-matter experts,” she explained. “It helped to upgrade my professional perspective and seek input on career options.”
Francis Petit, EdD, associate dean and Executive MBA director, said the professional diversity and small class sizes are exactly what distinguishes the Gabelli School’s program from others. “You travel the academic journey together and develop a wonderful camaraderie and bond,” he said. “You not only get transformed by the academic experience, but you learn how to survive the process together.”
Not only did her experience in the Executive MBA open new doors for career possibilities, Whritenour credits its flexible schedule for making it possible to work toward an MBA while meeting the day-to-day demands of her position in a fast-paced industry. “The mix of Fridays, weekends, and long weekend sessions helped me to balance my personal and professional life in a way that really worked for me,” said Whritenour who was recently named among Fortune magazine’s “40 under 40,” 2021’s most influential emerging business leaders.
The Executive MBA Program’s flexible schedule was similarly appealing to Ali El Mahdy, EMBA ’16, who commuted from Cairo, Egypt, to New York City once a month for 21
months. The CEO of Hassan Allam Technologies, El Mahdy said the program factors in the needs and expectations of today’s executives, develops tools for growth in business and personal development, and maintains a “solid sense of integrity and ethics.” He also valued the strong comradeship and sense of belonging.
“The program has contributed to propelling my career development,” he said. “Key takeaways were self-driven motivation to grow, as well as confidence to undertake more complex business functions.”
Since its first class graduated in 2000, more than 800 executives from around the world have completed the Gabelli School’s Executive MBA Program, according to Petit, who has worked with 33 of its 35 cohorts. It’s concentration on management development, global focus, small class size, and professional diversity attract top-tier professionals from all over the world.
“It’s an MBA that has a concentration in management systems,” he said. “There is global theme, a management development focus—leading and managing people, and a strategy focus—creating value, delivering value, sustaining value.”
The 60-credit program delivers a Fordham MBA after 21 months—the same time commitment of most full-time MBA programs. What’s more, students have opportunities for international travel.
The program culminates with a capstone field study project that charges students with developing solutions for a complex problem at a real organization, allowing them to apply the knowledge and tools they’ve acquired over the previous 16 months. Students have consulted with Ogilvy China, Yamaha, BMW Financial Services, and the Rio Board of Tourism, among many other international organizations. The cohort presents findings and recommendations in person at company headquarters around the globe at destinations including China, Japan, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Turkey.
International elective courses, such as a global business perspective course in Galway, Ireland, also offer opportunities for global experiences.
“We’ve done a course on El Camino Ignaciano,” Petit said, referring to Saint Ignatius Loyola’s journey in Spain, the pilgrimage upon which he composed the Spiritual Exercises. “The students trekked through Spain on the same journey. It’s a Jesuit history course, but it’s also a leadership development course. The students walk part of the journey in silence. We think about themes, and it’s very, very powerful.”