From Used with permission

By Ronald Alsop

Can your M.B.A. degree go stale?

That's what Michele Stafiniak, director, sales force administration, for GlaxoSmithKline's U.S. pharmaceuticals business, started wondering last December as she reflected on the past year and looked ahead to 2007. Coincidentally, she opened her mail to find an announcement of a new M.B.A. refresher program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill.

"I was looking for some new challenges and an opportunity to brush up my skills," says Ms. Stafiniak, who received her M.B.A. from Temple University in 1998. "I thought the Kellogg program could differentiate me and open new doors."

Ms. Stafiniak and 13 other students signed up for the inaugural class in Kellogg's Renaissance Post-M.B.A. program. They spent two weeks on campus in April, boning up on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, corporate governance reforms, and outsourcing and offshoring in operations and supply chains. Classes covered such topics as the global economy, hedge funds and leveraged buyouts, information-technology management, and leading and marketing in the "nanosecond culture."

In the fall the class will return to Kellogg for a third week on leadership development that will include such subjects as energizing people, reputation and crisis management, and building trust. "What leadership means to a new M.B.A. graduate at age 28 is very different from what it means to a 40-year-old who received an M.B.A. more than 10 years ago," says Stephen Burnett, associate dean for executive education at Kellogg.

Kellogg decided to split its program into two parts to better accommodate working students who find it difficult to break free from the office for a three-week stretch. In most cases, their employers are picking up the tab for the $23,000 program. "We originally thought our Renaissance program would be less than three weeks, but after talking with faculty, we realized how much material we needed to cover to bridge the gap since the students graduated from business school," Dr. Burnett says.

Other schools also recognize the demand for continuing education. For instance, York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto offers a post-M.B.A. diploma in advanced management. Students enroll in five electives that enable them to update their business skills and acquire more in-depth, specialized knowledge in a particular discipline.

"In this fast-changing, competitive business environment, people need to raise the bar for themselves and update their skills," says Ashwin Joshi, director of Schulich's M.B.A. program. "Post-M.B.A. education is a signal to employers that you are upgrading yourself and making yourself a more valuable asset."

Some business schools give alumni the opportunity to take a few regular M.B.A. classes free or at a discount. Others have created short executive-education courses, ranging from a few days to a week, but unlike Kellogg and Schulich, they limit enrollment to their own M.B.A. alumni.

Kellogg's Renaissance program will evolve to keep pace with business trends and the latest academic research. For example, a lesson on health care's impact on companies will be added to the curriculum for the second Renaissance class. "We are attracting a very global group of students who want to hear the most cutting-edge stuff," says Brenda Ellington Booth, the academic director for executive programs at Kellogg.

For Brett Farrell, program-delivery director at SAP America's consulting services business, the Renaissance program was especially beneficial in its lessons about managing a service operation, protecting "intellectual capital" and taking a customer-focused approach to leading teams. "When I got my M.B.A. a decade ago, the focus was much more on manufacturing than on services," he says. "I really needed to revisit some of the evolving thinking about business concepts and procedures."

Kellogg decided to target M.B.A. graduates at least 10 years out of school. That's a huge market, but not the easiest to reach. Kellogg focused first on cities with the largest number of business schools, including Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, because many graduates tend to work within 100 miles of their alma maters. It also reached out to M.B.A. graduates in Midwestern cities like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis where Kellogg and Northwestern enjoy high familiarity.

For its advertising campaign, Kellogg came up with the slogan: "Know-it-all? Knew-it-all?" to indicate the limited shelf life of an M.B.A. degree. The media schedule included The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Chicago newspapers and some geographically targeted online sites. In addition, Kellogg mailed thousands of brochures and postcards to prospective students and companies that encourage management education. It also believed it could reach plenty of M.B.A.s with big display ads at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

Kellogg expects its next class to grow to about 25 students as awareness of the Renaissance program builds. "We were worried that the number of people with M.B.A. degrees is growing fast, but relatively few M.B.A. graduates take executive-education courses," says Eric Fridman, marketing director for executive education. "From a marketing standpoint, we needed a program that was tailored just for people with an M.B.A. But we want to be selective in whom we admit and be sure we attract people with diverse backgrounds to make the Renaissance program a dynamic learning experience."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.