Before joining the MIT Sloan faculty in 1998, Prof. Georgia Perakis was a PhD student and a post-doc at MIT. "Once I came to MIT, I never left!" says Georgia, who is passionate about working with students and has graduated 20 PhD and 41 Master's students. A professor in the MIT Executive MBA program since its second year of operation and now the faculty director, Georgia says, "I realized how special this program is from the start. EMBA students are more mature and bring a diversity of experience to class. Not only does that enrich the classroom environment, it also enriches me as a teacher and even as a researcher." We asked her to tell us more about what makes this program unique, teaching MIT EMBA students, and the importance of women in the program. Here is what she said:
What sets MIT's EMBA Program apart from other top programs?
This is MIT! There is a unique energy here that translates into every program. For the EMBA program, there are several aspects that set us apart, such as our strong focus on analytics that starts in first-year courses like Data, Models and Decisions (DMD) and continues in other courses like the Analytics Edge. Interested students can even earn an Analytics Certificate. The EMBA curriculum also includes week-long modules each semester in which students do deep dives. Examples include Leading and Integrative Management (LIM), Innovation Driven Entrepreneurial Advantage (IDEA), and Leading in a Global Context (LGC). In addition, we have a strong focus on Action Learning with courses like Organizations Lab (O-Lab) and Global Labs. These are opportunities for students to go from theory to practice and tie everything they've learned together by applying those knowledge and skills to real issues. The goal is to make the impact for students more immediate.
What do you enjoy most about the EMBA Program?
EMBA students bring experience, maturity and a passion for learning to class. Because of their experience, they share examples from their jobs in the classroom. And they ask deep questions. They also take the material and immediately apply it in their jobs. That is all very rewarding for faculty. I also enjoy interacting with our alumni, who stay very engaged with the program. This past January, we welcomed back more than 300 alumni to campus for a week of electives that the program offers to both the current students in the program and alumni.
What class do you teach in the EMBA Program? What do you want students to get out of that class?
I teach a core first-year class called Data, Models, and Decisions in which we work with data to build models that help business leaders make good decisions. I want students to appreciate the roles that analytics can play in their jobs across all industries. As organizational leaders, I want them to see analytics opportunities and how analytics can be used to make a difference. Even after the first class, it is very rewarding to see that students immediately apply the analytics tools they learn each weekend to their jobs and see the impact.
Is the EMBA Program trying to increase the number of women?
It's important to bring a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the program. Everyone should be able to lead, and people who lead should be able to lead everyone. As for women, we typically have between 33-37% women in each class, but we want to do better. A big obstacle is that many women in their 30s and 40s are at a stage in life when they are already juggling their career with family. Regardless of gender, this is difficult, but it may be an extra challenge for women. I want to see more women in this program in order to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions across all sectors.
How does the program support women and parents in the program?
The EMBA program is very supportive, starting with our schedule. We post the full two-year calendar in advance, so you know exactly when you need to be on campus and can plan childcare as needed. Our faculty and staff also know that not everything can be planned so we support students as challenges arise. Students are another source of support. A lot of the coursework involves teams, so students can rely on team members too. A benefit for local students is that they aren't required to stay at a hotel during class weeks. They are welcome to go home in the evenings so there is flexibility to do what works best during any given week. As for women, there is an active EMBA Women's Group, which holds meetings and organizes events and dinners.
What advice do you give for students who are balancing work, school and families?
Plan ahead as much as possible. All of the assignments and due dates are provided in course packs, so students can plan ahead for an entire semester. Also, they should let faculty and staff know if they have a problem. Faculty and staff are always very supportive. We livestream and video all classes so, if a class must be missed because of an emergency, we work with students to make sure they don't fall behind. We also have student advisors who provide pointers about the resources available. The bottom line is that this is a very collaborative environment and once a student is in this program, we do everything we can to help them succeed.