Izabela Vandeest Interview Part 2: Bringing Students an Executive MBA Experience with White Glove Service

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This is the second half of a two-part interview with Izabela Vandeest, Program Manager for the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. View the first half of the interview here.

What makes your Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program most unique? What differentiates it most from other programs out there?

The EMBA-GSC is different from any other program out there because it focuses on you (the student) and your organization. Students have tailored assignments and one year-long, organizational action project that requires you to work on a key action item and project idea within your organization to troubleshoot a real problem or work through a real issue. The EMBA-GSC is much more practical and applicable and less theoretical. When you’re given an assignment, it's not to ‘go read some case study and answer some questions’. It’s much more, ‘here is some information, here are some techniques, here's some literature: let's talk about it, then you go back to your organization and find out how you can improve it by applying said information’.

The EMBA-GSC is a project based program, where it's all about you, the student and the organization you represent.

Tell me a bit about the types of students that attend the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program. What kind of candidates can benefit most from the program?

While most of our students do not have supply chain degrees from their undergraduate years, they do have director-level experience or are headed into the director-level and are on a VP trajectory. The EMBA-GSC is really for candidates that have been identified within their organization as individuals who are going to be moving up into those leadership positions quickly and need more leadership training and education.

Learning doesn't just derive from the front of the classroom as the faculty member or the presenter teaches, but also, it occurs across the classroom, from one executive to the next, bolstered by various forms of discussion-based work that goes into the program.

In terms of student backgrounds, our EMBA-GSC students are extremely diverse. Not only from an organizational perspective but also in terms of gender, race, and where our students come from, geographically speaking, as we have a significant amount of international students in the program.

Looking back at how the pandemic has affected supply chains: how has the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain program taken those disruptions, new policies and practices into consideration and brought them into the classroom?

Our curriculum has not changed, per se. But what has changed is the direction and objectives toward which our students were working in their various, project-driven work. Back in January, when COVID was just ramping up in the United States, students had one idea of what their workplace was like and what traditional, supply chain related issues they may need to address, based on past years and prior issues. But as COVID happened, it changed the work environment for our students. Many organizations found themselves regrouping to better address COVID and pandemic-related issues. Continuing with the EMBA-GSC program helped them manage that change in the workload and many of the new responsibilities and objectives they were encountering.

For many students, the project that they focus on for the year, linked to their organization and their professional responsibilities, may have had to completely shift trajectories or seen individual assignments change in real time because of COVID. One thing I’m proud of is how our program allowed our students to react to unforeseen obstacles and let them utilize the support network of the EMBA-GSC. We at the EMBA-GSC program have been here for them as consultants and advisors.

This particular issue also speaks to the return on investment that an organization gets for sending a student to the EMBA-GSC program, as well as the ROI for the individual student. The benefits are immediate, because the assignments students are tackling are totally customized and are relevant in real time to their specific organization.

Our program is ranked number one in the nation in relevance for this very reason: because our curriculum is specifically designed to each student.

Tell me a bit about the “white glove service” that you assist with and that the EMBA-GSC program provides its students. I have to be honest, I’ve never heard that term applied to a graduate program before and am curious to learn what it means.

Our “white glove service” is designed to support our students. My role is to make sure that the men and women enrolled in our EMBA-SGC program have as smooth a transition into the program as possible. And once they have enrolled, my work continues: I assist students with various tasks, helping them manage deadlines and navigate other administrative obligations so they can focus on learning. This assistance I offer is constant: it starts during the recruitment and admission process, continues through onboarding and lasts the entire year. This way, our students’ time is spent focusing on the curriculum and content, not worrying about things like registering for classes or keeping track of due dates. I do that for them.

If an EMBA-GSC student has a personal assistant or an executive assistant at their job who helps them with various forms of planning, I’ll often step in and do that as it pertains to the EMBA-GSC program. I regularly help students keep track of assignment deadlines or assist with managing and procuring extensions. The goal of our white glove service is to ensure our EMBA-GSC students have all the support they need, be it registering for classes or acquiring books. Whatever needs to be done, we are happy to step in and assist.

What would your message be to an executive who's considering this program, but feels like they are just too busy to possibly make something like this work on top of their already demanding lives?

Our support staff is proud to offer white glove service. We strive to allow you to focus purely on being a student and obtaining knowledge. It is our goal to make all the white noise that comes from various administrative tasks go away. I encourage all of our perspective candidates to give us a call to help answer all of these important considerations.

An Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain from the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business can give you insights into the latest supply chain trends while simultaneously allowing you to strategize and solve real issues and obstacles your organization is facing. If you think the EMBA-GSC program could be the right fit for you, don’t wait. Apply here today.