CEO Initiative Brings the Classroom to the Workplace

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The Medline DePaul MBA cohort takes classes at the company’s Mundelein, Ill., headquarters through a partnership forged by DePaul’s CEO Initiative.

A new university initiative is giving employees at large Chicago corporations another way to attend DePaul. Thanks to DePaul’s Corporate and Employer Outreach (CEO), instead of hopping on a bus or train and commuting to campus, employees can head to a classroom or conference room at their workplaces to earn degrees.

“The flexibility of being able to walk down the hall and start a graduate degree right after a busy workday is a real benefit to the employee,” says Suzanne Depeder, DePaul’s associate vice president for Graduate Admission in Enrollment Management and Marketing. “Employers benefit as well because talent development is a key driver of organizational growth and success.

They are able to offer their employees an onsite degree program and tuition reimbursement as part of a strategy for improving their talent and keeping them from moving to competitors.”

The CEO Initiative partners with area corporations to identify and customize degree and certificate programs that help employers develop their workforces. The partnership involves DePaul offering scholarships to employees, who then either take courses through an onsite program or attend any of the 150 undergraduate or graduate degree programs offered on campus. DePaul lets employees know about potential degrees through onsite information sessions, as well as lunch and learn seminars featuring professors.

For companies that choose onsite programs, it’s a significant benefit that employees don’t have to commute to campus. One such company is Medline, a major manufacturer and distributor of healthcare supplies that is headquartered in Mundelein, Ill., near the Wisconsin border. The company launched an MBA cohort in 2014.

“The CEO Initiative helps DePaul reach a broader prospective student base, in that we can connect with students who might not have considered us simply based on location,” Depeder explains. “The Medline cohort is a great example of how this initiative has allowed us to expand our geographic reach.”

Associate Professor of Management William Marty Martin says he appreciates what the programs offer to all parties. “The benefits to students and alumni are invaluable, from securing employment to moving up the ladder. For DePaul, we get exposure and placements for our students,” says Martin, who has spoken at onsite lunch and learns about DePaul’s Health Sector Management MBA concentration and other degrees.

In its first year, the CEO Initiative recruited two onsite cohorts, bringing in 70 students. Depeder expects the program to grow because of its utility to students and corporations alike. “Employers are looking at things they can offer to their employees as benefits, so the fact that we are able to offer a flexible delivery model is attractive. Plus, it’s a good retention strategy for their employees,” Depeder says. “It’s much easier to figure out how to give people professional development and benefits to keep them than to recruit all over again.”