Executive MBA or part-time MBA? Katherine Mlika, manager of product program management at Fitbit, thought a compressed timeline with classes that met less frequently would be the best way to balance an MBA with work and family. Axel Abellard, new to the Bay Area, wanted more time to absorb the material and to build relationships.
As part of our series on MBA application tips Katherine sat down with Axel and with Liz Rosenberg, associate director of admissions for our MBA for Executives and Evening & Weekend MBA Programs, to talk about choosing between these two programs—a first step in the application process.
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Katherine: Hi, I'm Katherine Mlika, and I'm a student at the Berkeley Haas MBA for Executives Program. I'm a manager of Product Program Management at Fitbit, and I'm here, today, talking with Evening and Weekend Program student Alex Abellard and also with Liz Rosenberg from the Admissions Committee.
Axel: Hi, everyone. My name is Axel. I'm a third-year part-time MBA student, and I work as a product manager at an environmental firm.
Liz: Thanks, Katherine. I'm Liz Rosenberg, and I am the Associate Director of Admissions for the MBA for Working Professionals Programs. I work with students applying to the MBA for Executives Program, as well as the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.
Katherine: I know I looked at both programs and, Axel, you, as well, so we're going to talk today about what factors prospective students can consider when looking at both programs and weighing what might be best for them. Axel, how did you make the decision to go with the Evening & Weekend MBA program?
Axel: That was not an easy decision for me, but the things that really mattered were the amount of time, the class size, and what kind of experience I wanted, and I felt that having three years to fully immerse myself in MBA life would give me more time to absorb the material. What about you?
Katherine: I think it was how short and compressed the EMBA program is that drew me in, because I thought, "the shorter, the better" in terms of being able to sustain the energy required to go through school. And then I was thinking with my responsibilities at work that I might be able to make it work, this every third Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I thought that with my family obligations, it probably would work better, actually, to complete my EMBA in a shorter amount of time. It requires a lot of support on my family's side, but it's an achievable goal—a very challenging, but still achievable goal.
Liz: I think we generally tell people about the differences (between the two programs), because it's the same degree when you graduate. That diploma is going to say that you have a Berkeley MBA, no matter which of our programs you graduate from. You have the same pool of faculty, the same access to resources no matter which program you're in. But the two things that make the biggest difference are that schedule—how often you're here and how long the program is—and how that works for your life. For some people it's better for it to be more compressed. For others, you want to have a longer experience. You're maybe looking to make more of a change in your career, and you want that extra time.
Axel: Especially since I was new to the Bay Area, I was also looking to broaden my circle of friends and network. So, that was part of my decision.
Liz: And then the other thing is the peer group that you're with, to see where you really see yourself fitting and who you're going to spend the next either 19 months or 3 years with.
Katherine: What do you tend to tell prospective students about the differences in how they'll spend time with their cohort in the Evening and Weekend Program versus the EMBA program?
Liz: In both the part-time programs at Haas, one of our main goals is creating a collaborative community. For Evening & Weekend, being in the same cohort throughout the core and in a study group, you really build the community there, and there are a lot of activities that on campus that you can take part in. For the EMBA program, the fact that you're in residence, arriving on campus on Wednesday night every three weeks and basically living together for three days ...you kind of shut out the outside world, and these people become your main community while you're here.
Katherine: I didn't anticipate fully how immersive the residence aspect of it is, but it definitely is social, and it's great!
Axel: The social aspect has been great doing the part-time program; I have made life-long long friends, and I'm very happy with the decision.
Liz: Looking back a year ago, what kind of advice would you give to someone in your shoes?
Katherine: I would ask a variety of students about their different strategies in how they've managed their time ... and it's not just how they've managed their time with the coursework and their work-work, but just managed spending time with their cohort. It's a balance ... and family, too, of course.
Liz: One thing we offer, which can be helpful to prospective students, are personal consultations. We can help by reviewing a resume or talking to them about the program, or even connecting them with students in the same line of work or life situation. Axel, did you only apply to Haas?
Axel: I actually applied to the part-time program at Haas and also another Executive MBA program. Although I gained admittance in both, Haas was my first choice. What really got me interested in Haas was the experiential learning.
Liz: You also mentioned wanting to take advantage of more resources on campus or wanting to be here longer. Was that part of the decision?
Axel: It definitely was. I've been with the same company for over 10 years, so I wanted to take advantage of career services to transition into a new field. I also wanted to take advantage of being involved in the clubs that are student-run at Haas, and I'm actually captain of one of the soccer teams here.
Liz: I love hearing that because my 30,000 foot view is that this is the last time that you get to be a student, and it's great to hear about people taking advantage of all sorts of resources, not just at Haas, but on the Berkeley campus.
Which MBA program might be right for you? We invite you to explore the differences between full-time, evening/weekend and executive MBA formats and to compare Berkeley MBA programs.