EWMBA students

Executive Women’s MBA celebrates successful first residency

Mar 31, 2020
Kathryne Davis

EWMBA students together.While many of the nation’s top business schools have complicated histories with their female students, a new executive program at Brenau University sets course to do things in an entirely new way.

The Executive Women’s Master of Business Administration at The Women’s College of Brenau University is the nation’s first executive master’s program specifically designed for and open only to women. The program, which launched in January, equips and promotes driven women who are currently successful in the workplace but looking to advance to the C-suite.

According to the Executive MBA Council, which includes more than 200 colleges and universities in more than 30 countries, female students made up only 31.2% of enrollment in Executive MBA programs in 2019. In the program within The Women’s College, female students are no longer the minority.

After months of planning, the first Executive Women’s MBA cohort spent a busy weekend in New York City for its first residency.

The residency took place in February prior to the outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 and included financial advising, executive coaching, self-assessment courses, dinner with Brenau alumni and friends, a celebration of the #InCharge initiative — a partnership with Amazon to promote women-owned businesses — at the Diane von Furstenberg flagship store, and a panel event at the Ashley Longshore Gallery hosted by MBAchic. The panel event featured powerful female speakers who shared how they succeeded in their careers.

Melinda McLeod hugs Lila Westmoreland“The purpose of the residencies is to provide some of the face-to-face networking opportunities for the cohort they lack in that online environment,” said Juli Clay, assistant vice president for executive programs. “It’s also meant to provide some of the cocurricular experiences that are outside of the classroom that are really important in terms of giving the students the skills that they need to advance in their careers and to truly become executive women.”

The first cohort is made up of eight women from different parts of the country, including Tennessee, New York City and Georgia. Some of the students had a Brenau connection before starting the program. Melinda McLeod from Louisville, Georgia, graduated in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational learning. She currently works as a director of supply chain operations at Doctors Hospital of Augusta.

McLeod saw information about the EWMBA on the MBAchic’s Instagram page. She went to Brenau’s website and looked at the online brochure.

“I thought, ‘I might like to do that after I graduate,’” McLeod said. “I didn’t really have it in my mind that I wanted an MBA before that. I just thought it might be nice. After I started following the EWMBA on Instagram, I saw the different things they did in the program. I said, ‘This is exactly what I’d want to do if I were to pursue an MBA. This is exactly what I’d be interested in.’”

Megan Martin, vice president of marketing and development for the North Georgia Community Foundation, had a similar experience when she saw the EWMBA marketed on Facebook. She had been thinking about an MBA for a while and said the EWMBA came at the perfect time.

EWMBA students at Ashley Longshore Gallery.“I read about it and said, ‘This is it. This is the program for me,’” she said. “I wanted to be surrounded by strong women leaders who had the same desire to learn and to grow both personally and professionally.”

The New York residency was the first time McLeod had been to the city, and the trip exceeded any expectations she had.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “There was so much detail in every single part of the trip. I think it really impressed all of us how much work was put into it and how many people contributed. Every single second was very thoughtful.”

Since McLeod works in a hospital, she has been extremely busy since the outbreak of COVID-19. She said all of her professors have been very helpful and understanding during this time.

“That has been my experience at Brenau,” McLeod said. “Everybody goes above and beyond. I have been to other universities, and it’s not the same everywhere.”

Martin agreed. Although the program just started earlier this year, she knows it is “one of the best decisions she has made in her life.”

“My fellow students are just amazing,” she said. “I know that they’ll be friends that I have forever. Everyone behind the program has been so encouraging. The support system is there, and they obviously have a passion for it. Anyone would do anything for you. They want you to succeed.”

Students looking at the New York Stock Exchange.Lila Westmoreland, director of operations and executive programs at Brenau, said she and Clay were thrilled to see how the cohort has bonded.

“Not only were they working together in groups, but they were also able to connect and have one-on-one time with each other,” she said. “There were many nights where they were up past one in the morning.”

The program includes two more residencies. The next one was supposed to be an overseas trip to China, but Clay said COVID-19 changed that plan. They will still do an international trip, but it will be next year with the location to still be determined. The third residency is still scheduled for next year in Atlanta.

No matter where the next residency will be, Martin is looking forward to spending more time with her fellow students and getting to experience another unforgettable trip.

“You felt like you were Superwoman the whole time,” she said. “I’m extremely impressed. I know I couldn’t have picked a better journey to be on. This is something good. It’ll change all of us for the better. Kudos to Brenau for doing it.”