As Andrea Clark continued to hear conversations in her role as an operator at agricultural provider WinField United, she started to get the sense she was missing out on key knowledge and information. A full MBA program seemed like a bigger commitment than she was willing to make, but when she heard about St. Thomas’ Mini MBA Program in the Executive Education program, everything clicked.
She went through the program in April of last year and came away with a huge range of knowledge she’s applied daily in her work since.
“I loved the variety, how it covered every aspect. We got a bit of a dive into everything. Finances, business. That’s what I wanted: a taste of what everyone around me was talking about,” Clark said. “I feel I now know how to ask questions in the conversations around that and can contribute a lot more.”
Clark’s experience is one of the nearly 2,000 that come through the Executive Education program each year, with this year marking the 60th anniversary of the program as a whole. With more than 30 individual and custom programs built specifically to the needs of company partners, Executive Education has grown into a valuable community resource with the nimbleness to offer exactly what the evolving workforce needs.
“Having the ability to respond to the economy, responding and educating around the latest and greatest of what’s happening, gives them an advantage over other programs,” said Mike Korman, who took several courses through Target’s partnership with St. Thomas to sponsor employees laid off in 2015 and who now works for Icon in Chicago. “I feel really blessed to have had St. Thomas in my corner.”
A flexible menu
Like a chef’s menu evolving with the best available ingredients, Executive Education’s enrollment portfolio has grown and changed over time based on what people need. Within its portfolio are three main sections: specialization (programs in project management, finance, operations, digital marketing and nonprofit); business acumen (Mini MBA, mini master’s, finance, health care and data analytics programs); and leadership programs that span all industries.
Director of Open Enrollment Susie Eckstein said regular input from students and faculty help determine what new courses may be offered, and because the faculty is made of practitioners, new programs can be developed quickly and effectively.
“It’s kind of looking at the whole thing and saying, ‘What are we missing? Where can we improve upon the current stuff?’” said Eckstein, highlighting the fact Executive Education added 11 new programs last year, including an entirely new suite of digital marketing offerings.
Another new development will be the St. Thomas Executive Program (STEP): With a focus on world economics and skills that will be in growing demand in coming years, STEP will be a development force for executives looking to reach the upper rungs of their companies.
Assistant Dean Jacque Anderson described the bulk of professionals seeking out Executive Education’s individual programs as in the “stuck or inspired” stages of their career. On either side, adding valuable skill sets can be the key to unlocking the next stage of their career.
“The range of positions that can attend and still get such a different experience out of it, it really can apply to everyone,” Clark said. “If you want to continue your education you’re going to get something great out of it.”
In Executive Education’s custom offerings, both large- and medium-sized companies work with St. Thomas to create development and training programs for their employees. As a strong, reputable outside facilitator of these trainings St. Thomas offers a valuable service.
“As an expertise partner we’re ready to say, ‘OK, what are your objectives?’ and we’ll do a whole box of things we can design [specifically to the company],” Anderson said.
Closer to home, St. Thomas employees can also enroll in classes at a 50 percent discount. Regardless of where their career is at when they encounter that evolving menu, it can open up a wide range of ways professionals can improve their skill sets and advance their careers.
“The whole experience was great,” Clark said. “Everything is still right here in the front of my mind [almost a year later.]”