Prof. Karolin Frankenberger, PhD, is the Academic Director of the Executive MBA (EMBA) in the Executive School of Management, Technology & Law at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). She is also the Director of the Institute of Management and Strategy in the School of Management at the University of St. Gallen.

In this exclusive interview, she shares exciting new developments and the features that attract high-profile English and German-speaking business executives from around the world to grow as global leaders in one of the oldest and most successful postgraduate general management degree programmes in Europe.

Beijing, Los Angeles, and Shanghai are new destinations where the EMBA programme can immerse the globally diverse class before they join the 25,000 University of St. Gallen alumni community – one of the most active and influential business networks in the world.

In your new role of EMBA Academic Director, how would you like to develop the programme?

Having worked for seven years at McKinsey & Company and seven years at the University of St. Gallen, I believe this is an ideal combination to reinforce the EMBA programmes. Before I help executives to learn what to do within companies, it has always been important for me to understand how companies work.

I would like to continue developing the Executive MBA programmes that equip our students with in-depth management expertise, personal development support, and outstanding networking opportunities with top executives from various companies. For this, we provide real business cases to students by collaborating with top executives from multinational companies to provide insightful information and probing questions for the students.

What inspires you to lead the Executive MBA HSG programmes?

What drives and inspires me is making a difference in the world. What I took away from working at McKinsey & Company is how to have impact in life and to do something that really makes a difference in the world. I hope that in this position as an Academic Director, I can also have an impact and help to further improve the EMBA programme.

What new features do you have in store for business executives considering EMBA studies at the University of St. Gallen?

We strive to develop global leaders by offering a framework nurturing personal and professional advancement, with a focus on converting theory into practice. Our programmes provide the latest management methods and tools through collaboration with a wide range of companies and leading executives. This allows participants to develop the specific competencies needed to tackle various business challenges within a global environment and to make an impact in their organisation.

For example, in most of our courses, we give students real cases and problems to solve and ask the students to deliver their presentations before a jury, which is often composed of top executives from multinational firms and organisations. Following their presentation, the students are required to answer probing questions from the jury, who also provide them with in-depth feedback.

It is important to learn how to structure, solve, and master complex challenges. That is what we teach them throughout the 18 months. They should become experts on how to solve issues.

Who will benefit most from the St. Gallen EMBA experience?

High-potential executives who want to accelerate their career will benefit highly from our EMBA programme. The modular format enables executives to study and work at the same time, which allows them to apply what they learn immediately. The EMBA participants are able to acquire in-depth management expertise and benefit from personal development support and outstanding networking opportunities.

The St. Gallen EMBA is delivered in two formats – an International EMBA in English and an EMBA in German. How can prospective participants choose between the two options?

We offer programs in two formats for the students to choose from - in German and in English. Both programmes provide the latest management methods and tools through collaboration with a wide range of companies and leading executives. This allows participants in both programmes to develop the specific competencies needed to tackle various business challenges within a global environment and to make an impact in their organisation.

The EMBA programme in German

The German-speaking Executive MBA programme is primarily based at the Executive Campus in St. Gallen. There is a strong focus on real-world case studies in which our students convert theory into practice and work closely with various companies, primarily in German-speaking countries. We also focus on bringing high-class guest speakers into the classroom and we are constantly updating our programme with the latest management topics such as data analytics, block chain, and artificial intelligence.

In the integral management framework, we enable the students to enhance their real-life problem-solving skills by collaborating with multinational firms such as Swiss International Air Lines. Throughout the programme, students also visit various countries such as Russia, China, and Japan in order to increase their exposure to the global business environment and develop a global reach.

The International EMBA in English

In contrast, the international EMBA programme is taught in English and looks beyond regional markets, with a strong focus on international management skills.

Within the framework of the International EMBA programme, we offer modules abroad in collaboration with various partner business schools. For example, in North America, we work with the University of California, Irvine. In Asia, we have established a strong partnership with the University of Tsinghua in China in order to provide international exchange modules. In these modules, participants receive lectures from Tsinghua professors on topics such as the digital transformation in China, and visit large multinational companies, such as Alibaba or Tencent. This enables students to acquire an understanding of the Chinese market during their studies and learn how to do business in China.

Learn more about MBA programmes at University of St. Gallen by taking a look at this handy school profile.

Could you describe your current student profile?

We aim to build a unique peer learning experience for our EMBA participants by careful selection of a diverse class. On average, our EMBA participants are 38.5 years old and have 14 years of professional experience, of which eight are in managerial roles. Their current positions span board members and CEOs to project managers and team leads. Half of the EMBA class are heads of a division or a department. Our participants bring insight from industry and manufacturing (20%); banking, finance, and insurance (15%); and other sectors such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, IT and technology, consulting, and the public sector. EMBA participants come from diverse educational backgrounds, with Engineering leading at 35%, followed by Business and Economics (19%), but the fields of study also include Medicine, the Sciences, and the Humanities.

How do you measure the success of EMBA alumni?

Successful EMBA alumni demonstrate the characteristics of tenacity and trying until they succeed. They are able to make an impact in their organisations. They trust themselves and succeed. They have this drive and this achievement attitude.

When you come to St. Gallen, you will acquire the mindset that is not only about insight but also about impact. What we teach students is how to solve complex problems and how to structure complex solutions. That is a key capability that managers need in the VUCA environment. It is also important to be humble and to try to empower others. And not always try to be the centre of attention, but rather empower others in order to make them successful.