Mendoza School of Business

Notre Dame EMBA retools curriculum to focus on strategic thinking

Published: May 11, 2011 / Author: Carol Writing

It used to be that only top executives made strategic decisions about the company’s operations. With the increasing impact and complexity of global business, that’s no longer the case. On a daily basis, leadership at all levels must be able to design and implement resilient, strategic plans that take into account the dynamics of today’s business climate.

In response to this changing requirement, the Notre Dame Executive MBA, offered by the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, has redesigned its curriculum to emphasize strategic-thinking skills and the ability to effect strategies through strong values-based leadership. The new curriculum will take effect in August 2011 for the incoming South Bend class of 2013 and the Notre Dame Chicago EMBA program that begins in January 2012.

“This curriculum is designed to develop a senior management perspective in our students over the course of two years,” said Paul C. Velasco, director of Notre Dame Executive Education Degree Programs. “Given the complexities and fluidity of the global business climate, effective business leaders must do more than consume information. It’s vitally important that they understand how to interpret and use information to make critical business choices on a daily basis. They must also be able to create a flexible, resilient implementation strategy.”

The program, which is currently ranked No. 6 in The Wall Street Journal’s “Best Executive MBA Programs 2010,” will continue to include a strong focus on ethics, beginning with its signature leadership program, Executive Integral Leadership (EIL), and integrating considerations of values-based leadership and ethical decision making throughout the coursework.

“We believe that an education worthy of our students must teach them to address difficult business problems with honesty and strong habits of the mind,” said Carolyn Y. Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College. “But to be an effective leader, you must also have the ability to develop the larger vision, and the strategic plan to get there.”

One of the most notable changes is the addition of Strategic Thinking as one of the first courses that students will take in their first year. “The Strategic Thinking course provides the structural steel to reshape students’ mindset so that they can think about business more completely and holistically,” said Velasco. “It sets the foundation that helps students synthesize individual courses into a unified general management framework.”

Another new course in the second year, Advanced Tactics, is also strategy-focused, but drives students to approach business problems as dynamic systems, where decisions must be considered in the context of interrelated functions and a dynamic market structure.

Additional new courses include Design Thinking and Innovation, Change Management, Strategic Planning for Growth and a re-worked Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation – all intended to provide students with innovative frameworks for driving value creation and implementing change.

Students in the South Bend program will also have the opportunity for an international business experience through a one-week International Immersion, where students can choose from a slate of 10 to 15 projects located around the world that engage them with multinational corporations, local entrepreneurs or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to solve a business problem. The projects range from analyzing market-entry strategies to developing income-producing recycling ventures for some of the poorest populations in developing countries. The immersion is intended to provide an action-learning experience as a capstone to the first year of studies.

“Many programs provide international immersions that provide students with exposure to global issues, but the organizations our students work for demand more applied knowledge,” Velasco said. “Our format requires students to take everything they’ve learned in the first year and integrate their skills and knowledge from various disciplines toward a realizable decision or solution in an international setting.”

The Notre Dame EMBA also features an Electives Week, where students can customize their experience by choosing from a number of sessions devoted to vital business topics.

Founded in 1980, Notre Dame Executive Education provides leaders in the executive and management ranks the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership abilities and business acumen skills through both degree and non-degree programs. The Notre Dame EMBA offers a 17-month program in Chicago, as well as a 21-month program in South Bend, with an off-site classroom in Cincinnati. In keeping with the Notre Dame mission, the program emphasizes values-based leadership in addition to academic rigor.

For more information about the Notre Dame Executive MBA, visit

Contact: Paul Velasco,, 574-631-8876


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