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Celebrating the 10 | 15 Year Reunion of WU Executive Academy on July 1, 2021.
In 2006, Austria celebrated Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday and assumed the presidency of the council of the European Union, NASA launched the world's first Pluto probe, “New Horizons”, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon became the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, Walt Disney announced to acquire Pixar Studios for US$ 7.4 billion and Allan Greenspan, longtime head of the Federal Reserve, presided over his final Fed meeting in Washington, D.C. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) won the Oscars for Best Leading Actors, and the musicians of Black Sabbath and Blondie, also Miles Davis and the Sex Pistols (to name a few) were inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. 2006 was an eventful year, as were the years before it and the years to follow. For the current Dean of the WU Executive Academy (WU EA) and Associate Professor of International Marketing Management Barbara Stöttinger, it was her first year as Academic Director for the Professional MBA in Marketing & Sales.
Do you remember your first engagement at WU EA? Have you been with WU EA right from the beginning?
Barbara Stöttinger: Continuing education already existed at WU Vienna many decades before the founding of the WU EA. The oldest continuing education program was the Tourism & Event Management one, which dates back to 1940s. Personally, I wasn’t involved in the activities of the WU Executive Academy from the beginning on or in its founding in 2004. But I had already taught in the International MBA program, before it was integrated into the WU EA.
At that time, there was a trend starting, a rough division into General MBAs and Professional MBAs to say so. The latter was aimed at the target group that not only wanted to specialize or deepen their knowledge in a particular subject. Can you still remember that?
Barbara Stöttinger: Yes, of course. It must have been around 2007 that I had already been appointed as Academic Director for the Professional MBA in Marketing & Sales. As you say, on the one hand it was about specializing in a specific industry such as energy or health care for example, but it was also about expanding career opportunities in fields such as finance. That's because the Professional MBA still has a "business core" that comprises about two-thirds of the program; the rest is devoted to more in-depth functional specialization or industry.
The Professional MBA was a very smart move, it still has very few imitators internationally. It is undoubtedly a major part of the WU EA's success story and an area in which new impulses have been developed over the years.
Is a "customized" MBA something that is discussed in (potential) corporate cooperations? Do companies sometimes pay tuition for their employees?
Barbara Stöttinger: Of course. We have also offered and carried out programs for various companies - for the OeNB, the Austrian National Bank or the FMA, the financial market supervision; we also set up the "Mobility Management" program for Porsche Holding. However, this accounts for only a small part of the programs that we offer.
As an institution that must demonstrate consistency, but at the same time be adaptable to the conditions and requirements of the labor market - what is the best way to proceed strategically?
Barbara Stöttinger: Of course, there is no single strategy. From the very beginning our aim has been to be a bridge between theory and practice, to share WU Vienna’s scientific expertise and to maintain continuity in our fields of work. We see ourselves as a living organization that wants to understand what makes people tick, and we also want to constantly offer those people who entrust themselves to us content that will move them forward - even long after they have graduated. We are not only concerned with the phenomena of the present, but above all with those of the future - and since the university is a place where new things are created, as attentive faculty we see what is being discussed and what is needed - it’s a case of a constant transfer of knowledge.
Do these trends, the demand for certain things, really reflect the times? Or to put it another way: Were there "hot topics" ten or 15 years ago that people are no longer paying attention to today?
Barbara Stöttinger: I would put it differently. There were indeed "hot topics” but they have become mainstream. About ten or fifteen years ago, the topic of business ethics was a completely novel, today, it is a fixed component within all programs. Another great example is the Virtual Team Project (called Global Team Project today) as part of the General MBA. It was about virtual collaboration - you had to complete a group project in which the participants were distributed around the globe. The goal was also to develop skills in the area of virtual leadership. At the time, the program was visionary, innovative, and more difficult to organize, because we didn’t have the technical tools we all know so well today – all you have to do these days is send someone a link.
Let's move on to the alumni, whom we will meet on July 1. In total, more than 4,500 people have completed an executive program at WU EA and the network, i.e. the community, is a very lively one.
Barbara Stöttinger: We have really invested a lot of work in our community engagement in the last five to six years - and the investment has been worth it. There have been significant developments -. We create learning and interactive spaces We want to offer something to the people who entrust us with their time and their future career chances – this means content of course, but also a vivacious network. We aim to create a space that makes use of an academic context and offers career and community services so that our students and alumni can chart their own path and set their own goals. We work according to the principle of the "4Cs" - Career, Content, Community and Contribution.
What do you think distinguishes such a network? What makes these contacts so valuable, if not incomparably good?
Barbara Stöttinger: The participants get to know each other very well over the course of 16-18 months - and not only from their best sides. For most of them this is a period of very intensive studying. The very diverse group fosters mutual trust and this group forms a network in which they will be able to contact colleagues at any time of the day or night who will be there to give them advice and support. You can only find a bond like this in situations and conditions like these. That is unique and extremely valuable.
If you could wish for something from the WU EA alumni - including during the course of this reunion - what would it be?
Barbara Stöttinger: I think it relates to our fourth C – contribution. It would be amazing, if our alumni gave those who follow them a piece of their experience. I once heard a phrase that illustrates this well, and I like it: 'sending the elevator down'. An alumnus, an alumna, who graduated from a program ten or 15 years ago is at a different point in their life today and can use their experience to help those who are at a point today when they started their MBA. I wish for that openness and that they would lend us their ear from time to time to be a sounding board for us. That would be a great contribution.