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Executive MBA Goes into Orbit

Where could space buffs enroll in MBA programs? For starters, they could travel to the Alsace region of northeastern France.

The International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg offers professional development and master's programs for students interested or already working in the space industry. In March 2011, ISU is slated to welcome its second executive MBA class. The first class of 12 students graduated in November 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal report "Beyond Rocket Science, a Space MBA."

ISU Dean Walter Peeters explains that the involvement of private companies, including those focused on commercial tourism and satellites, in what traditionally was a public activity has changed the space-sector landscape. "That means for people (in the field) a completely different way of thinking," Peeters tells The Wall Street Journal. "They have to think about profitability, they have to talk to bankers, they have to think about equity and debt."

Therefore, ISU has expanded its education programs to include the executive MBA. ISU already offered a Master of Science in Space Studies, a Master of Science in Space Management, a Space Studies Program, and an executive Space Course. Since it opened its doors in 1987, ISU has also been organizing conferences to promote space development among public officials, businesspeople, professors, students and some 3,000 alumni.

MBA programs: ISU's astronomical MBA

In the brochure for the ISU's executive MBA program, Dean Peeters quotes aerospace engineer Werner Von Braun as saying that there are two obstacles to overcome when launching objects into outer space: gravity and budget restrictions. As a result, ISU's MBA combines technical and business training to make sure scientists and executives leave the program properly trained to accomplish complex and costly projects successfully.

The upcoming 18-month executive MBA program is divided into six modules, all lasting 2 weeks except the final two modules. The fifth module is conducted online and the last module lasts one week.

  1. In March 2011, students are scheduled to meet for the first time at ISU in France for an introduction to business and space industry fundamentals.
  2. In June 2011, students should reconvene at the International Business School in the Isle of Man for space commerce and economics training.
  3. Project management sessions are slated for October 2011 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
  4. At the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., students should learn about international policy and law during February and March 2012.
  5. During the spring and summer of 2012, students should work on their final research projects.
  6. Project presentations are scheduled for September 2012 at SES-IUS in Luxembourg and France.

The goal of the space MBA program is to prepare professionals to make "informed, strategic decisions based upon sound management principles," according to Vasilis Zervos, ISU's EMBA leader. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and at least five years of relevant experience. They should also be proficient in English and focused on developing space careers. Tuition for the program is currently 33,000 euros.

From MIT to space business school

In 1985, Peter Diamandis, a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering; Todd Hawley, a graduate of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University; and Bob Richards, an engineer, physicist and former assistant of astrophysicist Carl Sagan, created the Space Generation Foundation. They started to discuss such ideas as the creation of "Space University," which garnered the support of prominent individuals in the space sector.

During a 1987 event at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT), ISU was introduced to the public. It held its first summer session at MIT the following year. In 1994, ISU moved to its current location in Strasbourg, after the French city was selected as the headquarters for the ISU central campus. However, intent on attracting students of all nationalities, ISU holds programs around the world.

The strategy to host programs worldwide produced a pleasant surprise for ISU in South America in 2000. ISU participants in a summer program in Chile developed texts for a Chilean Space Agency. Impressed, the government of Chile created the agency. Traditionally, Latin America had been underrepresented among ISU students, as well as Southeast Asia and Africa, except Nigeria. The space university's students typically hail from the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan and, increasingly, India and China. Women have been underrepresented as well, and ISU is working to raise the proportion of female students and professors to 30 percent.

Overall, ISU remains focused on its initial goal: providing up-and-coming space professionals with the technical and management tools to accomplish space projects in an environment where cultural and funding challenges can be formidable.