The World as a Classroom: The Executive MBA Program at the University of Arkansas

March 14, 2024  |  by Alex Lalonde, Global Campus

Photo of Alyssa Eby
Alyssa Eby

Students enrolled in the Executive MBA program offered by the University of Arkansas get to take a pretty exciting field trip.

The Sam M. Walton College of Business EMBA program blends online learning with engaging face-to-face interaction one Saturday a month in a unique hybrid program. Students also develop and apply their studies through a real-time international experience, the Global Immersion trip.

This opportunity gives students hands-on learning opportunities in developing and executing business proposals, as well as immersing them in cultural experiences abroad to expand their business acumen, cultural insights, and personal growth.

For many students in the program, the hybrid nature draws them, along with the ability to learn alongside other working professionals.

Photo of Todd Adams
Todd Adams

“It’s really nice to be in a program where everyone is kind of in the same boat,” said Alyssa Eby, a senior product designer in the technology sector from Kansas City. “We’ve had some work experience and so now we’re pursuing further studies and being able to use our work experience, apply it and share it with the other class members. I’m learning just as much from my class members as I am from our great teachers in the program.”

Todd Adams, of Little Rock, is a global director of training operations with a background in law enforcement and cell phone security. He said this program was the best fit for him because of his work.

“I travel all over the world all the time,” he said. “I’m gone two weeks a month. I’m in Singapore or, you know, London or South America or wherever. So having that hybrid, being able to be in class but also be able to go on the road and do my studies, has been very beneficial; that’s what really drew me to it.”


Business Trip

The EMBA Global Immersion trip typically offers multiple travel opportunities across the globe, but unusually high demand narrowed the options of the Class of 2024 down to two: Chile and Japan. Eby elected to travel to Chile, drawn by the possibility of new experiences.

“Chile is a place that I don’t know much about,” she said. “I’m not very familiar with it, and it wasn’t already on the bucket list of places that I wanted to visit, so what an opportunity to be able to go through school with a kind of organized body.”

Adams followed a similar call to adventure, using it as an opportunity to broaden his professional network.

“It’s a location that I have never traveled in all of my worldly travels,” he said. “I’ve never been to Japan. It was really an interesting trip for me because I had work while I was there. I actually did work. I was able to meet with some salespeople that work with my company, and that is a market that I have not yet really gotten into.”

One of the key components of the Global Immersion trip is working with a team to develop and execute a business proposal, typically to either bring a product or service from the United States to the country visited, or from that country back to the United States. These projects are fully developed by each team, and they can range from market research to importing or exporting a product. As part of the hands-on experience of the project, students are responsible for a considerable amount of work, research, and preparation before they ever leave the country.

EMBA Travel Map of Chile
EMBA Travel Map of Chile
EMBA Travel Map of Japan
EMBA Travel Map of Japan


Project Development

A member of Eby’s team was an account manager for a poultry company, and they brought ideas that led to their project in Chile. It became a market analysis of Chilean preferences toward turkey products.

“While we initially had our project idea,” she said, “there was a lot of research that went into it. Just understanding Chilean health trends and how they view white meat versus red meat for example. What have been some of the progressive movements they’ve had in terms of health? What do they think about American brands?”

Prior research included looking into what types of foods were being served in general at Chilean restaurants, and what was in demand.

“Those are some of the questions that we came up with before the trip,” said Eby, “and then during the trip we had a mixture of interviews, surveys and then developed a market analysis through experiencing the culture that we did.”

To prepare for their trip to Japan, Adams’ team began with a plan to propose having a Japanese company move their manufacturing to Arkansas. They worked with Arkansas Economic Development Commission members to determine the most impactful approach for the Japanese company and the state. When it was time to present their proposal, Adams and his team experienced first-hand the dynamic nature of pitching ideas to corporations and the benefits of creative preparation and flexibility.

“Through our interactions with these Japanese executives, it was clear we had not swayed them to relocate their manufacturing process to Arkansas. Still, they were very open to other business development opportunities here,” said Adams. “The executives provided the team with a complete financial overview, the areas where they see the greatest growth and the possibilities of new business ventures in Arkansas. We were highly successful in our initial meeting with this company because of what we learned about Japanese business and business culture and as of today, the team is still in contact with this corporation regarding projects in Arkansas.”


Cultural Experience

The goals of the travel experience go beyond simply business. Another key objective is immersion into a global culture, to introduce students to lived experiences that may differ wildly from their own.

“Japan is a country where history is everywhere you look,” said Adams. “We visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and had the opportunity to visit various historical sites and temples that date back a thousand years or more. We have history in the United States, but nothing like what they have there. Every day was a history lesson and a new experience. We were also very fortunate to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony where we enjoyed watching the meticulous preparation of the tea before we were taught how to accept the bowl properly and enjoy the tea.”

In Chile, Eby’s group experienced several cities and regions.

“During our trip, we started off in Santiago and then we traveled to the Colchagua Valley and experienced the wine culture there,” she said. “Then, we ended our time in Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar.”

The port city of Valparaiso was especially impressive, with its street art and the way it has embraced technology.

“It was so different from where I was born and raised in Kansas City.” Eby said. “There’s not a port to be found. But we were able to visit the EPV Puerto de Valparaiso, their main port, and learn about the technology they’re using. Every single private company that comes in and docks at the port has to use that product.”

Differing cultural norms brought new and interesting experiences for the students, like the Chilean focus on health. What she found looking for American brands at the markets surprised Eby.

“Sugary cereals for example,” she said. “It was actually Chilean law that you had to cover up anything that would tantalize children into wanting to eat more unhealthy products. So, they actually imported cereal and then went through and put stickers on, like the crossword puzzles or the cute little characters on the front, because that’s a big health initiative in Chile. They don’t want to market unhealthy foods as fun or as addicting to children, so that was really interesting in terms of a product perspective.”

In Japan, Adams found a friendly and often openly helpful culture.

“One thing that really stood out to me,” he said, “was I was lost in the subway because that subway system over there is unbelievable. If you couldn’t find your way and someone saw that you were struggling, they would come up and ask you, ‘Do you need directions?’ And you would say ‘yes,’ and they would even walk you to where you needed to be instead of just pointing different directions.”


Making Connections

While the students had a range of memorable experiences traveling abroad, each had a takeaway that they personally felt was the most important part of their trip.

For Eby, the experience was a great opportunity to build bonds and connections.

“I think the highlight of the trip honestly was being able to travel with my cohort,” she said. “We do get to see each other once a month. But when you’re traveling together for two straight weeks, you really get to bond and kind of get to know each other on a deeper level. Being able to be in a different country, experience the culture, but then also have your colleagues who are now becoming really good friends was really, really enjoyable for me. I think that’s how I would want to do a trip like this again.”

“For me, it was being successful overall,” said Adams. “It was difficult to convince and then successfully set up a meeting with executives in a foreign company with a language barrier. We also had logistics issues because we were staying in Kyoto and had to travel via public transportation to Osaka. Luckily, there are Apps to help with translations while trying to get a cab from the train station to our final location. The meeting was successful, and we left with a solid plan to DO something in Arkansas that was different from our original proposition. It’s very satisfying to have a vision, plan it, and go do it successfully with a group of people you have never worked with before. They were outstanding; we just put our heads together and finished it.”


The hybrid nature of the EMBA program, along with the Global Immersion trip, make it unique among the University of Arkansas’ online program offerings. The majority of online degree programs offered by the Walton College, College of Education and Health Professions, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law and Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences are delivered 100% online. Students never have to visit Fayetteville unless they want to walk at commencement or come to an athletic event, for example. But online students are Razorbacks, regardless, with classes taught by the same faculty who teach in on-campus programs and graduates’ names appearing on Senior Walk.

As working professionals, both Eby and Adams had some thoughts to share on their experiences.

“I definitely would recommend the Executive MBA program, for sure,” said Eby, “especially if you have some work experience after graduating with your undergraduate degree. They do a really good job of incorporating past work experience and allowing people to talk about what they’re going through at work and tying it to some of the principles that we’re learning. I felt so fortunate to be able to be in this program and have the experience that I do.”

Adams has already recommended the program to several upcoming students and colleagues.

“If I didn’t believe in the program, I wouldn’t do that,” he said. “I do like it. I’ve learned a ton.”

He also spoke on the approachability of the professors and networking opportunities.

“I had breakfast with Dr. (Tomas) Jandik and Dr. (Raja) Kali,” Adams said. “We had a great conversation. It’s not only that I’ve learned something; I’ve generated new contacts, new associates, and new mentors that I can lean on and ask questions. There are people in our cohort that are in Cincinnati; they’re in Memphis. So now I’ve created contacts in more states than I had before in different business sectors that I’ve never had before.”


Offering Advice

For students considering the program, or something similar, they had some advice to share.

Eby said a tipping point for her in the choice over a fully online program was feeling like the networking opportunity was worth the travel.

“One of the key factors of an MBA program is your colleagues and getting to know them and getting to grow in your careers together,” she said.

Adams also had some practical advice to share.

“Don’t get behind,” he said. “Stay ahead, network with your cohort, and talk to your instructors. I’ve not come across an instructor yet in our program that if I picked up the phone they wouldn’t answer the phone, you know, so contact your professors. Make inroads with your cohort, and don’t get behind because if you get behind, you’re never gonna catch up.”

“I’m enjoying school now more than I ever did back when I was an undergrad,” said Eby. “I’m making the most out of these two years for my master’s program, so I would definitely recommend the Executive MBA to anyone who is considering it.”

To hear more stories from the EMBA Global Immersion program, check out Hattie Shelton’s experience on the University of Arkansas ONLINE’s Student Success page.

Online Learner Blog Home


Executive Master of Business Administration

Designed for students who are already working as managers or executives, the Sam M. Walton College of Business blends the flexibility of online coursework with the engagement of face-to-face learning.

Program Page


Related Articles