Soon after Susan Nolan completed Fuqua's Advanced Management Program (AMP) in 2008, China experienced a devastating earthquake. At the time, Nolan was working in human resources for a company that had employees who were affected in China; and, the company didn't know what to do.
"We had to address the issue," Nolan said, "and I was able to take what I'd just learned in AMP and apply my understanding of their culture to help them feel part of what we (the company) were doing to assist."
To her, the real-life applicability is what truly sets Duke apart from other executive education programs.
"I have been able to take what I learned and apply it in the work force and in my personal life to enhance all the things I do. It really took me to another level as an executive," Nolan said.
AMP is a four-week program designed for senior managers and executives with at least 15 years of professional experience who have been identified by their company as someone with great potential. Similar executive education programs are common among business schools, but Fuqua's has several key distinguishing features and benefits.
First, Fuqua's AMP is directed by faculty orchestrator Rick Voirin. Rather than individual classes packed with information, Voirin weaves together different subjects in a meaningful way so that each lesson and subject, presented by a combination of Fuqua professors and field experts, develops the core themes and maximizes the experience. Voirin, an executive coach by profession, also works with each participant one-on-one to ensure each is getting an experience tailored to his or her goals.
"Our faculty orchestrator meets with each participant before the program, during the program, and even after," said Valerie Hausman, Associate Dean for Global Executive Education. "They discuss personal goals. Most want to focus on personal or professional relationships. Some goals are non-business-related, like time management for a more well-rounded family life, or living life to the fullest. Others are business-related, like encouraging their teams to take more risks and make their own mistakes. It's a very personal experience for them, so Rick doesn't lead them in a particular direction when setting goals."
To reach these goals, participants engage in interactive sessions and experiential learning opportunities. For example, each Friday of the program, participants put their new skills to action in a fun and interactive experience.
Nolan notes her experience with team leadership on the basketball court as one of her biggest takeaways from the program. She even implemented team-building exercises when she returned to her job.
"Once I got back, I had peers request help on team leading," Nolan said. "I was building the team from the inside out in a way they had never imagined."
True to Fuqua's reputation as a global business school, the curriculum includes segments focused on business in a variety of global settings. In one unique session, Fuqua enlists the help of its diverse student body to promote international understanding. International students from Fuqua's degree programs provide insight to regional effects of business decisions and global economics, and the influence of cultural differences.
"In order to be an effective senior leader, you have to understand the context in which business is being done globally," Hausman said. "We're changing their mindsets to think holistically, and to look at various regions that are changing the way business is done. We then provide an extra level of engagement."
Another thing that differentiates Fuqua is the program's format. Some executive education programs run for eight consecutive weeks. This just isn't feasible for most busy executives. In a recent redesign of the program, Fuqua created a schedule of two two-week sessions with a six-week virtual intersession.
"It's much easier for executives to get away for two weeks at a time," Hausman said. "During the intersession, they stay in touch with each other and the orchestrator, and they have the opportunity to test strategies they've learned in a real-life setting."
Fuqua AMP graduates also enjoy a perk that builds the whole of Team Fuqua - they are part of the alumni network. While alumni from other programs benefit from the addition of these high-level executives to their network, the AMP graduates have access to the ongoing learning opportunities Fuqua offers.
"As AMP graduates, we need to be more involved in this mutual relationship," said Nolan, who recently joined the Alumni Council as the first AMP representative. "It's amazing what a contribution the program has made to our careers, and we should be more involved in the Fuqua community, networking and local engagement."
Fuqua alumni wishing to participate in AMP receive a 40 percent discount on enrollment.
"It has been the most significant formal learning opportunity I have ever had in my life," Nolan said. "It introduced me to new concepts and new ways of thinking that broadened my horizons tremendously."