Class Distinction

The top executive MBA programs for small biz

At Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business in Dallas, entrepreneurship is a required course for every executive MBA student. But no one's complaining--Professor Jerry F. White's entrepreneurship class is wildly popular. Senior execs and entrepreneurs in this rigorous 21-month, part-time degree program apply everything they've learned to plan a new venture. It's easy to pick out the business owners. Says White: "Their questions are more urgent."

Cox places No. 19 in BusinessWeek's 2001 overall rankings of the best Executive MBA programs in the U.S. and abroad. But in entrepreneurship, smu soars to the top of the class. Students praise White's use of Dallas business leaders and venture capitalists as lecturers. In fact, Steve Hicks, 36, co-founder of Custom Factory, a nine-person Dallas software company, says he joined the program--and is footing the bill of $56,000 himself--based on rave reviews from one of his partners, Michael Alvarez, a 1998 Cox graduate.

In its first ranking of EMBA programs in a decade, BusinessWeek surveyed recent grads of 82 business schools and polled EMBA program directors. BW received 3,041 responses, for a 60% response rate. In addition, the EMBA grads were asked to rank their school on a scale of 1 to 5 in entrepreneurship. The best are listed below.

The winners, with tuition ranging from $42,000 at the University of Pittsburgh to $66,600 at Georgetown, all offer a strong hands-on component. No. 2-ranked Georgetown University (No. 9 overall) assigns execs to work on a consulting project for a small company in Latin America. At No. 3 University of Pittsburgh (No. 31 overall) EMBA director Kathryn Grabowski says entrepreneurial training is used to help spearhead local economic development. And No. 4 London Business School (No. 23 overall) runs its own VC fund to finance promising student ventures. "We're prepared to invest in our own product," says professor John Bates.

Among the elite, No. 5 UCLA (No. 10 overall) has the greatest share of students from small businesses--35%. This concentration gives classes the feel of a consulting session, with everyone sharing expertise, says 2001 grad Vipul Goel, CEO of NetAppl Inc., a Bay Area into-tech software vendor. The 25 hours of weekly homework paid off, too: He has used what he learned to boost his bottom line by 25%. Not a bad return in anyone's book.

By Brian Hindo

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.