This August, Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business welcomed an inaugural class of 15 students to its new executive master’s of business administration program.
Featuring a unique Sunday schedule with a focus on ethics, the EMBA program seeks to prepare business professionals and managers heading for high-level positions to lead organizational change and develop strategies to help their businesses thrive in a world of global competition. In addition to coursework that is designed to integrate skills and methodology from a broad range of business areas, each student will build a personal development portfolio tailored to his or her career objectives and aspirations and study with experienced entrepreneurs, executives, scholars, authors, and researchers.
Classes are held over 14 Sundays each semester and one weekday evening per month. The program also includes two international residencies: study in Israel during the first year and an emerging market country in the second.
“We are emphasizing skill-building in key areas that are critical for successful leadership in the business world, especially in today’s complex and demanding global marketplace,” said Dr. Steven Nissenfeld, clinical professor of management at Sy Syms and director of the EMBA program. “Possessing leadership and entrepreneurial skills, in addition to a strong foundation in ethics, will give our students the competitive advantages that modern executives need to demonstrate.”
That ethical lens will be developed throughout the two-year program in monthly seminars led by Dr. Moses Pava, dean of Sy Syms and the author or editor of more than 16 books in the field. The program will also feature a host of guest speakers in courses such as “Ethical and Legal Environment of Business” and “Jewish Business Ethics.”
“We’ll look at cases from the perspective of Jewish ethics, but also contemporary and secular ethics as well,” said Pava. “We’re hoping to provide students with state-of-the-art technical skills in the fields that are critical to every executive, such as finance and management, but we also want to communicate something more. We want students to graduate from this program with the knowledge that it’s possible to earn high profits while being part of the solution, not part of the problem—that there’s a connection between corporate social responsibility, ethical behavior, and traditional profit.”
“In the business world, leaders are confronted every day with challenging situations where they have to make judgment calls that may on the one side offer financial reward and on the other side have potentially unethical or questionable impacts on behavior, and having that balance and compass is necessary to avoid the mishaps of the past decade,” said Nissenfeld. “There has been much criticism of EMBA programs that connects a lot of the failings of business executives over the last several years to a rather narrow focus on the financial aspects of management without the guiding light of what is right, what is wrong, and what is good for society. There’s a tremendous need to build up new executives who weigh all their decisions, their analysis, and their application of their market skills with a very strong commitment to what is ethically sound or right for our society.”
Orlee Guttman, senior development executive for American Friends of The Hebrew University and former director of operations for the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, chose to pursue her EMBA at Sy Syms because of the school’s emphasis on contributing to the global community. “After 15 years as a nonprofit professional, it is clearly evident to me that a background in business could have enhanced the impact of my own work,” she said. “Never before have the worlds of business and philanthropy been so intertwined. Principles of business are being used to generate change, there is a recognized need to professionalize the organizations that ‘do good,’ and the field of social entrepreneurship has taken on a life of its own, breeding excitement for solving the world’s problems using entrepreneurial philosophies.”
She added, “The demands on philanthropies have also shifted, requiring greater accountability, corporate governance, metrics, tangible results, and a focus on return investment. Sy Syms’ reputation as an excellent business school, along with its strong sense of ethics, provides an incredible environment to learn these skills.”
Dr. Adebola Adedimeji, assistant professor of epidemiology and population health at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found the program’s cultivation of leadership techniques especially compelling. “It’s my long term goal to broaden my skill set so I can utilize a social marketing or business strategy to advance public health programs on a global level,” said Adedimeji. “I researched EMBA programs across the country and compared notes with friends in other programs. The way Sy Syms has structured and designed their EMBA, with the option of Sunday courses, the leadership seminars, and the international residencies, enables you to experience how theory and practice apply in the real world.”
For David Berk, a Yeshiva College graduate and chief executive officer of a start-up company that designs robotic technology for hospitals, the program’s Shabbat-friendly schedule put a longtime dream within his grasp. “My degree is in computer science and I have a technical background,” he said. “I really wanted a formal business background, and over the years I thought about New York University or Columbia, but that was all I could do—think about them—because the classes were all on Fridays and Saturdays. I always felt like I had my nose to the window.”
When Berk heard that Sy Syms would launch its EMBA program this year, he enrolled right away. Now he is looking forward to the cohort’s trip to study the high-tech start-up environment in Israel next summer. “It’s an exciting program and it’s obvious that the Syms leadership is dedicated to making this the best it can be.”
Learn more about the Sy Syms Executive MBA program at www.yu.edu/syms/emba. v