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Not Your Typical Online Program: Howard Executive Director Kim R. Wells Explains

A graphic design showing Howard School of Business' Kim R. Wells in front of a black-and-white image of Howard University campus.

As Executive Director of Executive Education and the Center for Career Excellence at Howard University School of Business, Kim R. Wells leads the school’s Executive MBA Program as well as its Executive Coaching Certification Program, its Global Executive Leadership Program, and its Executive Leadership for Ministers Program. In addition, Wells also founded and manages GenNext Performance, which offers executive coaching. It would be hard to find someone in Washington, DC, more qualified to discuss executive education than Wells.

As if that weren’t enough, Wells also serves on the Board of Advisors to Higher Digital, a “global leader in the digital transformation of institutions” and is chairman of the National Executive Council of the Black Alliance of Colleges and Employers (BACE), placing him at the intersection of online education and executive training at HBCUs. We recently sat down with him and in our conversation, Wells explained the benefits of an EMBA from Howard University.

How does Howard’s Executive MBA program differ from its traditional MBA program?

Well, first, it’s for experienced professionals, executives who have at least seven years of experience. Many have quite a bit more. They’ve led teams, initiatives, and organizations, or are starting new businesses.

Our program is designed to promote executive decision-making in talented and experienced people. We look at what the next season of their careers will be, find pathways into the C-suite, and explore opportunities to launch new businesses and develop new markets. It’s different from the MBA because the MBA tends to be for students beginning the entry- to mid-level management phase of their careers. In the Executive MBA, they’re already in those roles and looking to ascend to the next level.

Is there a ‘typical’ Howard EMBA student, and if so, how would you describe them?

There’s no “typical” student, other than they are experienced in business. They tend to be between their late 30s and mid-40s, with 15 to 16 years of experience. Many haven’t been in school in 15 or 20 years and they’re looking to refresh and refocus. The courses are designed to reacclimate them to the classroom.

"Howard has always been global. It's part of our DNA, our legacy, and it is important to us that that's part of this program."

A lot of them have already had great careers and they’re just closing gaps with their business skill sets. They represent all industries; you can’t just say that they’re all coming from corporate America. They work in management, supply chain, finance, and many different industries. We see people coming in from high-tech industries and even some senior educators; we’ve had high school principals. We have people from the sports and entertainment industries as well. We have a few international students. Our classrooms are very diverse, and that’s exciting.

Howard is located in Washington, DC. Does the EMBA program get many government managers?

We do have some government executives and government leaders join us, as well as nonprofit leaders and executives. It’s a variety. Everyone here is looking to expand their business knowledge, business acumen and savvy, and ability to make decisions and navigate. Of course, being Howard, people want to be in an environment with diverse people and thoughts.

What sort of international immersion opportunities are available to EMBAs?

At least once a year—and sometimes twice—we offer the opportunity for students to travel abroad. Past students have gone on trips to China, South Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, and other places in South America. It’s an opportunity to really understand and explore the global marketplace and, true to Howard, to encounter diverse populations in these markets and learn how to take advantage of unique opportunities and work with international governments.

In Columbia, they met with the governors and some of the regional leaders. In South Africa, they met with Coca-Cola and some of the local economic development organizations; the government offered a presentation on how to grow a fashion design business. The trip enables students to meet new people, network, and understand what it’s like in the global marketplace.

"Howard is not your typical online program. It's the real deal."

We are a global university. I believe there are upwards of 23 countries represented at the university. We’ve always been like that. A lot of schools in the last 20 years have gone in that direction, but Howard has always been global. It’s part of our DNA, our legacy, and it is important to us that that’s part of this program.

What other unique benefits do EMBA students receive?

We offer optional executive coaching in our program. I actually lead that initiative; I’m the master executive coach. A number of our students meet with our coaching professionals, and we have some faculty and executive advisors who counsel students as well. Interested students can do everything from professional assessments and diagnostics to business plans and strategies. It’s definitely a very strong benefit of the program for those who want to take part.

What sort of financial assistance do MBA students typically receive?

Students have access to financial services to discuss their individual circumstances and interests. There are no scholarships. Some of the students come in (I would say maybe about 15 to 20 percent) with some kind of support from their employers. Those numbers have changed over the years; when we first started 2012, that was as high as almost 35–40 percent. But today, it’s probably more like about 20 percent.

"Howard is one of the most profound, most impactful universities in the history of the United States and the world."

Howard has a renowned alumni network in terms of both its size and level of support. How do online MBA students engage that network and benefit from it?

Well, here’s one example. We have a Super Day, which is a virtual career fair in which students access recruiting employers. We have a legendary recruiting environment, with some of the top corporations in the world partnering with us to recruit.

Our alumni network includes the heads of business, industry, government, law, and currently, the vice president of the United States. These individuals host discussion groups when they’re on campus. They do video chats. We’ll have receptions when we come back to campus post-COVID.

We have a series called the Executive Roundtable, which we host throughout the year. Guest lecturers come in from business and industry to discuss everything from personal development for executives to various industry interests. We’re just finishing up a project with a group called JOY Collective; they’re working with us to introduce our students to senior executives around the country and supporting small businesses as a part of a very specific initiative supported by ESPN and some other major corporate sponsors.

Howard is not your typical online program. It’s the real deal. When you come to Howard, you’re getting access to those networks. It’s up to students. We’re not going to force-feed it, but we will introduce it in various programs and activities. All our students—undergraduate, graduate, on-campus, online, traditional and executive MBAs—have similar access to resources at this university.

Why should someone choose the online executive MBA program at Howard?

It’s Howard. It’s all about Howard. Howard is one of the most profound, most impactful universities in the history of the United States and the world. You have an opportunity to work with some of the brightest and best here. It’s part of our legacy. You’re going to be a part of an institution that’s proven to be well-received, well-respected, and well-networked.

Howard is an experience. It offers an education that’s proven to provide a pathway to success. This is not your typical online journey. This is an institution that is a proven leader in developing and enabling, empowering, and driving success for our students. People who are able to study with us are very privileged because it’s a very rare opportunity to get access to an institution like this and a brand like ours.

Howard University School of Business offers both its traditional and executive MBAs in online formats, making these world-class programs and the opportunities they create available to students worldwide. Highly ranked by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report (the online EMBA was ranked the nation’s second-best by College Consensus), Howard MBA programs deliver top instruction and cutting-edge experiential learning in a flexible format adaptable to busy executive schedules. A robust alumni network boasts connections in corporate boardrooms and executive suites worldwide. If you have at least seven years of professional experience (at least five in leadership and management) and a Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university, you may qualify for admission. If you’d like to learn more, you can request more information. If you’re ready to make the commitment, start your application now. You could earn your EMBA in as few as 18 months.

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