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Corporate executives go back to school at SEP


145 senior executives have gathered to participate in the 60th annual Stanford Executive Program (SEP), a six-week management program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB).

SEP costs $58,000 per student and features a general management curriculum that covers a wide variety of topics. According to GSB Director of Programs and Marketing Kriss Craig, SEP connects senior executives from global companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations spanning 40 different countries and 30 different industries.

“Classes take place in classrooms and auditoriums on the Knight Management Center Graduate School of Business campus,” Craig said. “All of the executives in SEP are housed at the Schwab Residential Center. With the exception of special off-site events, all meals are served there as well.”

In a matter of six weeks, SEP quickly covers a wide range of topics, including finance, organizational behavior, risk management and corporate governance. According to Craig, executives are engaged in program activities for five to seven hours a day. Participants also spend time outside of classroom sessions reviewing and preparing material in study groups.

Even by a professor’s standards, the vast amount of course material makes the program challenging. According to GSB finance professor Iyla Strebulaev, this course’s breadth is necessary for the growth of participants.

“What’s really important is the well-rounded approach we take that allows [participants] to develop a change in themselves in so many ways,” Strebulaev said. “Participants get the most recent and fundamental insights in so many subjects that are directly relevant to what they do. It enables them to broaden their perspectives.”

SEP’s curriculum also helps executives re-evaluate and better understand the strategies which they have used for years in their fields, according to program participant Carlos Terres, the commercial director of Holcim, a building materials company.

“When you come to the program, you’ve usually already been working for 15 years,” Terres said. “We often don’t know the why behind what we work on and develop. The content exposes us to the theory and science behind what we do and helps us push our strategies forward in a much more effective way.”

The program also hosts guest speakers like former Intel CEO Andrew Grove and former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and George P. Shultz.

“Our guest speakers are experts in their fields or top executives in their organizations; they bring relevant and immediate insight to the participants,” Craig said.

While Terres attests to the quality and efficacy of the program, it is not just the content that gives SEP its high reputation in the corporate world, he said. According to Terres, the program is unique and renowned because of its emphasis on giving its participants the valuable opportunity to meet and interact with people from all around the world.

Strebulaev agrees that the interaction between participants is a crucial and valuable component of the program.

“The program allows [the executives] to actively participate in group discussions, to learn from and network with other participants,” Strebulaev said. “They can exchange opinions and thoughts and help each other.”

Upon completion, participants will receive a certificate of participation and be considered alumni of the GSB, making them eligible for lifetime membership in the alumni association.