Friday, October 16, 2009

Higher learning in a high place

Possible 'executive' MBA program coming to valley

Express Staff Writer

Representatives of Blaine County and Idaho State University are in the preliminary planning stage for bringing an executive master business administration (EMBA) program to the Wood River Valley. If all goes well, the inaugural class could begin as early as next fall.

At a meeting Tuesday, Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said he met with Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and Kenneth Smith, dean of the Idaho State University College of Business to discuss the feasibility of creating a one-year program in the valley.

The trio spent time Monday meeting with over a dozen business leaders, nonprofit organizations and city officials to gauge support and potential involvement.

In an interview, Smith said the program would be comprised of 20 to 25 students who would work over the course of a year, doing a significant portion of the curriculum online and meeting once a week, possibly at the Community Campus in Hailey.

Smith said the target student body would be employees in management positions, or those in line to move into management, seeking to learn overall business, strategic planning and company management skills.

Unlike a traditional two-year MBA program, which meets multiple times every week and is very classroom oriented, an EMBA has a more flexible schedule and is aimed at people who are already working and have business education or experience.

"This would be great for people who like living in the Sun Valley area and would like to continue their education without having to leave the valley," Smith said.

Smith said that because of its attraction as a destination, the Sun Valley location could also draw students and faculty from other areas of the state, including Boise.

He said tuition would likely cost between $18,000 and $30,000 for the year. To enroll, students would need a bachelor's degree in business or could take a number of prerequisite classes, such as accounting and marketing, before the course begins.

He said the program would use professors from Idaho State University in Pocatello, which has a nationally ranked accounting program and long-time accredited business school, as well as valley residents as guest lecturers.

"The Wood River Valley has many very sophisticated retired business people who could help out," Smith said. "To make this happen, we really need the support of the community."

Jaquet said Ketchum resident Bob Kaplan, who started a similar program in Vancouver, B.C., helped initiate the idea and that it has been well received so far.

"It's the idea of growing your own—local cities and companies would not have to hire headhunters and look outside for personnel," Jaquet said. "Pretty much everyone we met with was very enthusiastic."

Jaquet said the program would need about $300,000 to $500,000 in start-up capital, but then could become self-sustaining through tuition.

Smith said the plan would need to be approved by the Idaho State Board of Education.

Smith will be back in the valley to discuss the plan with the Wood River Economic Partnership at an open meeting Dec. 2.

"We want to see if we have broad-based support," he said. "This needs to be sustainable, not just run for a single year."

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