The concept of bringing real-life business problems into the classroom takes on a whole new dimension in the executive MBA programme at Purdue University’s Krannert Graduate School of Management. In one session during the programme, a classroom at the school is turned into a court case where a case – usually relating to a small business – is heard.

The school can conduct this innovative combination of a live legal process and a business school session because James Kirsch, the professor leading the programme, also happens to be chief judge at the Indiana court of appeals and, as such, is able to decide where a particular case will be held.

“It’s an incredible experience for the participants to see our judicial system in action,” says Erika Steuterman, director of the EMBA programme at Krannert.

For Krannert, the session is one of more unusual additions to a programme that is broad-ranging in its content, covering everything from leadership, organisational behaviour and HR management to financial accounting economics, marketing and business law. Running through the various disciplines is a focus on analytical techniques the school encourages students to apply in the workplace.

“Then there’s strategic management, which brings everything together in the last module,” says Prof Steuterman.

“So it’s got everything you would need to have an excellent MBA without specialisations.”

Krannert’s 22-year-old programme – born out of a corporate training course designed for General Electric – has long used the internet to connect students to each other and to their professors outside the residential periods.

Richard Cosier, the school’s dean, says: “It’s not, however, an entire e-learning concept. We think the classroom contact time is important for the students.”

As a result of this philosophy, the programme has a strong element of teamworking and interdisciplinary programmes, something Prof Cosier sees as increasingly important as elements of the corporate world become more interdependent. “The days of the rugged individual who worked in a functional silo are well past us,” he says.

When it comes to the second EMBA offered by Krannert – the International Masters in Management programme – partnerships with the Tias Business School of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, the CEU Business School in Budapest, Hungary and Gisma Business School in Hanover, Germany, ensure that the student cohort has a highly international profile.

Starting with a five-day orientation session at Purdue University in February of the first year, the IMM’s subsequent sessions take place in six, two-week residential periods that are spread over two years.

Adapting course material to what is happening in the world outside business school walls is a constant activity for staff and faculty at the school. “We are always doing curriculum changes on the fly,” explains Prof Steuterman. “It’s not something where we stop and redo everything. But we’re very much attuned to what’s going on out there.”

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