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Executive MBA program scores points with pro athletes

A new executive MBA program at the George Washington University School of Business is making headlines for being the first of its kind: an invitation-only EMBA designed specifically for professional athletes. The STAR EMBA program and some of its students -- which include active and retired NFL and WNBA players, a retired Olympic gymnast, a professional poker player, and a retired professional baseball player -- were profiled in a Jan. 29 article for The New York Times.

The article references some grim post-retirement statistics for professional athletes, including a quote from the dean of George Washington's School of Business, Doug Guthrie, who states that about 75 percent of NFL players are bankrupt just several years after retirement. In response to this problem, Guthrie says, officials at the school wondered what kind of impact could be made by providing professional athletes with business training and skills.

The STAR EMBA program, which consists of six two-week modules in three cities over two years, began with a focus on the NFL, primarily because of the longer off-season in football. There are currently 14 NFL players enrolled in the program, four of whom are active players.

"With injuries and concussion and all these things happening in the sports world, athletes are starting to realize that our careers are only going to last X number of years and then we need something more than just 'football player' on our résumés," says Brendon Ayanbadejo, a player for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and a current student of the STAR EMBA program, in the article.

Sanjay Rupani, chief strategy officer for George Washington's School of Business, indicates that the STAR MBA model may expand in the future to include artists, musicians, and actors, or anyone with "a strong personal brand" that they wish to build on, says the article.

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