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idea exchange All's Well on the Homefront The Idea Create the "Partners Cohort" to help the partners and spouses of executive MBA students better understand the rigors of the program— and prepare for its impact on their families. Location How It Works Each year, more than half of the partners and spouses of incoming students enroll in the Partners Cohort. The program starts with an orientation session that includes a "crash course" on the EMBA. The school holds four to five Partner Cohort sessions over the two-year program. That number of sessions is meaning- ful to participants, but doesn't put too great a burden on faculty and staff, says Jonathan Darsey, the new EMBA director. Emory University's Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, Georgia Why It Started An executive MBA program can place considerable stress on students, but that stress is compounded when it affects their lives at home, says Steve Walton, an associate professor of information systems and operations management and former director of Goizueta's EMBA program. The average age of Goizueta EMBA stu- dents is 38, a time of life when their home and family respon- sibilities tend to be at a peak. Walton has seen a number of marriages dissolve or become strained because of the pres- sure that students are under. In 2010, Walton launched the Partners Cohort to intro- duce students' partners to the EMBA and involve them in its process. The program is designed to help students and their families support each other during the EMBA expe- rience, not grow apart. 72 September/October 2012 BizEd Partners and their children also are invited, at their own expense, to accompany the students on the program's international capstone trip. At the halfway point of the program, Partners Cohort participants are invited to an all-day Saturday session, where faculty members admin- ister the Birkman Method, a personality tool for busi- ness leaders. The assessment helps students' partners gain insight into their own personal expectations, motivations, and career goals, says Darsey. "After we give the Birk- man test to participants, they share the results with their partners," says Darsey. "That knowledge helps them better relate to each other." Student-Driven Content The Partners Cohort includes a range of events, from the initial "crash course" to social gatherings to academic workshops presented by faculty. The content depends on that year's cohort, says Darsey. "It's important to involve the students and their families in the planning. Each year, we ask former and current students and their partners what the program should include," he says. "Our office coordinates it, but we want the content to be driven by the participants as much as possible. It gives them a sense of ownership and creates a sense of stewardship from cohort to cohort." Creating Connections The school hasn't done a formal survey to assess the program, but Darsey says that feedback has been extremely positive. "Students have told us that it's help- ful for their families to have a connection to the program and see firsthand what they're going through," says Darsey. "The Partners Cohort helps our stu- dents feel like they're not going through this experience alone." STOCKBYTE/GETTY IMAGES

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