Loyola Sellinger
Business School Blog

Emerging Leaders MBA Celebrates 10 Years of Business Leadership

In 2010, a Baltimore Sun photographer visited Loyola to capture photos of a momentous event: It was the first day of class for the very first cohort in the brand-new Emerging Leaders MBA program. About 20 students from a wide variety of majors and backgrounds posed together, as full of potential and promise as the fledgling program itself. “It was the first one of its kind in the area,” remembers alumni Scott Smith.

Ten years later, the ELMBA at the Sellinger School of Business is still thriving and growing. It’s among MBA Central’s Top 50 Fastest Accelerated MBA Degree Programs, with an international reputation for turning out talented young business leaders who are committed to social justice and innovation. Year after year, candidates graduate the program with ambitious career opportunities already waiting for them—and with a powerful professional network already at their sides.

What the ELMBA Is—and How It’s Grown

The concept behind the Emerging Leaders MBA program is simple: A one-year immersive program of full-time study that is targeted towards professionals early on in their career—anyone from new graduates to professionals who have one to six years of experience in the working world. A business degree isn’t required; in fact, Sellinger encourages students from a wide variety of majors and backgrounds to enroll. Candidates typically choose the Emerging Leaders MBA because they want a leg up prior to starting their career, realize they need an intense, immersive program to provide further direction and distinction in their career plans, find themselves wanting to pursue a career in a business-related field as a non-business major, or are an entrepreneur or small business owner who could benefit from the focused experience the program provides.

The program is a complement to the Professional’s MBA program, which is part-time and accommodates candidates with several years of work experience who prefer to balance a full-time career while pursuing their degree.

It’s an important year of personal and professional maturation. “A lot of undergraduate students still have a ‘tell me what to do’ mentality when they start the program,” says Dr. Dave Luvison, DBA, Executive in Residence – Management and International Business. “We challenge them to move out of their comfort zone and to think and act like business leaders. It makes them better poised to compete than they would be just by taking classes.”

Professor of Finance Dr. Karyl Leggio, Ph.D. has taught in the program since its inception, and has watched its evolution with pride. The program size has doubled over the years, she notes, and the international field studies component of the program has come to focus on areas of growth and expansion and the global issues that affect business today. Of course, Loyola has always prioritized social justice and ethics in our programs, but the practical approach of the ELMBA continues to find ways to embed that priority more deeply in its DNA. Over the years, the program has also nurtured deep relationships with businesses within the Baltimore community as well as international powerhouses like Disney, relationships that create incubators for student growth and development.

What Makes the Emerging Leaders MBA Program Exceptional?

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the ELMBA is how carefully it’s tailored to each candidate. There’s no one-size mentality here; each student’s background, strengths, and goals are evaluated to shape the experience they receive. Even this diversity contributes to the skills each cohort will learn, as they work and study so closely together and must appreciate each other’s different contributions and ambitions in order to succeed together.

This is also a program that values practice as much as theory. Everything that’s covered in class is demonstrated in action with local “First Friday” site visits to businesses that partner with Sellinger School of Business. Every candidate also takes part in two internships over the course of the year, experiences that are chosen and shaped uniquely for them and their goals. Case studies and debates about real-world dilemmas are every bit as much a part of the curriculum as textbook reading assignments.

Current students and alumni alike agree that there’s enormous value in the networking and personal connections they make throughout the program—and for years after. “My advice to incoming candidates is to make sure you’re using all the Career Center resources and all avenues to make connections while you’re there,” says alumna Lauren Boulding, who joined the career advisory board at Loyola upon graduation and continues to serve with it. “This program can really get you where you need to be.”

A Commitment to Ethical Business Leadership

The emphasis on ethics and social justice within business doesn’t start and end with the Law, Ethics, and Corporate Social Responsibility class in the Fall. It’s woven into the fabric of the entire program. Candidates have the opportunity to see, through their field studies domestically and abroad, the direct impacts of our partner businesses’ values on their communities. They’re challenged to view every aspect of their broad-based studies—finance, marketing, management, operations—through the lens of responsible leadership.

Loyola embraces social justice because it’s the right thing to do, but as it happens, it’s also good business. “Being progressive is an important aspect of business today,” says Class of 2020 alumnus Johnny DiGirolamo, who brings a criminal justice background to his emerging career. “As leaders, we’re going to have to set and uphold a lot of ethical standards.”

From ten years further into his career, Scott Smith agrees. “Understanding the need to look beyond shareholder value to a broader set of values has been every bit as important as the business concepts in the years since graduating—it’s been a big part of my work life.”

“What Loyola has always been uniquely poised to show is our commitment to community, to ethical judgement, to right,” says Dr. Luvison. “To make a mark on the companies that hire our graduates, to think in an integrative fashion, to bring Jesuit ethics to the workplace—those are the things that are our legacy.”

Learning through International Travel

The ELMBA program’s international field studies are a showpiece of the program and have attracted many of its candidates, not just from Loyola undergraduate programs but from across the country. They’ve traveled to Spain, China, Chile, Panama, Peru, and Vietnam. Each trip is a combination of business and pleasure; a mix of historical and cultural education, project intensives with partner businesses, and bonding time with the cohort. The travel agency that prepares each trip works carefully to customize it to the curriculum goals provided by the program leadership. It’s not a packaged commercial tour, but a thoughtful and intentional experience in partnership with businesses worldwide.

Dr. Leggio particularly likes the trips to Vietnam. “It’s an area with a lot of growth and rapid change,” she says, “and it’s also a real culture shock for a lot of the students. Their first trip to Asia shouldn’t be in their job. We’re able to give them these new experiences and help them overcome fears. It makes them more resilient, better thinkers, they are more empowered. It’s such a growth moment.”

Prior to international travel, candidates have a global issues class that engages them in topics like cybercrime, poverty, and hunger. They’ll see firsthand how these issues interact with industry during their travels and gain a deep appreciation for the role of business leaders as global citizens. “These are issues that their employers will be facing when these students get into their careers. We are preparing our candidates for the contributions they’ll make five to ten years down the road,” adds Dr. Leggio.

Internships: A Gateway to Career Success

When Johnny DiGirolamo graduates from the Emerging Leaders MBA program, he’ll likely be choosing between two excellent job offers with the company currently sponsoring his internship for the program. Scott Smith’s second internship was with CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield—and ten years later, he’s still proud to be contributing to the direction and future of the company. Lauren Boulding, too, got her current job after completing her ELMBA internship with her employer through a Loyola Executive MBA student connection.

“One of the major strengths of the Emerging Leaders MBA program is Loyola’s truly “evergreen” network – one that never fails to connect students with industry insights, job prospects, and mentoring opportunities during the program and beyond,” says Kelly Fader, Director of Graduate Cohort Programs in the Sellinger School which includes the ELMBA. Ms. Fader teaches the fully online internship course and currently oversees all internship components of the ELMBA program.

Even for graduates who don’t take full-time jobs with their internship sites, ELMBA internships offer incalculable value to every candidate. “The embedded internship in the program allows students to prototype different career possibilities while learning more about themselves through the process,” Fader says. Faculty advisors facilitate opportunities for students to find their best fit and advance their professional goals. It’s a chance to truly put the principles and skills they learned in class into practice in a real-time setting. It makes them competitive with people who have more years of experience in the working world, creating a transition from the student mindset to one of an emerging leader.

Looking Ahead

What’s next for the Emerging Leaders MBA program? The ELMBA Partners group, comprised of program faculty and administration, monitors industry focus areas and business trends to ensure the program's curriculum stays competitive and adds value for students, alumni, and employers. The ELMBA Partners are also exploring opportunities for degree customization by providing additional elective offerings in specialized areas of study. The SAS joint certificate, offered in partnership with SAS Institute, Inc., offers an opportunity for students to apply two MBA core courses towards earning certification in business intelligence, analytics, and data mining. In addition, program leadership continues to invest in the school’s "fast track" admissions initiative which offers admissions benefits to high performing undergraduates who can apply to the MBA program as early as their junior year.

For the moment, the program’s leadership is focused on the changes for the new school year that are driven by COVID-19. This past spring, ELMBA classes—like all Loyola classes—went entirely virtual. The spring trips to Vietnam and Cambodia were replaced by virtual tours, field trips to Vietnamese-owned restaurants to talk with the owners and staff, and Zoom sessions overseas. Johnny DiGirolamo was disappointed to miss out on the trips but praised the faculty and staff for creating a culturally rich, deeply connected experience on such short notice.

“The program leadership has a commitment to expansion and long-term vision,” says Dr. Luvison. “We’ve got to expose the students to things that they may not in their current business experience have been exposed to. If we can cause people within that year to realign their thinking and challenge their concepts of success and performance, then the program has been successful. They’ve used this transitional year to its fullest.”

Is an MBA in your future? If you’re interested in committing to one immersive, transformative year that can set the course for your entire career, read the full details of the ELMBA program on our program website, attend one of our regular information sessions, or contact us to talk about applying to the program.