Howe Executive MBA Program

Exelis Taps School for Leadership and Career Development

The Howe School recently graduated a cohort of 22 professionals from its Executive MBA program as part of a dynamic career development undertaking by Exelis, a U.S. defense firm and former division of ITT with annual sales of $5 billion.

Exelis, which has looked to Stevens Institute of Technology and the Howe School in the past to deliver corporate leadership programs, extended the relationship to include the Executive MBA program as part of a dedicated effort to strengthen core leadership. The initiative began in 2011 shortly before ITT spun off the company and Exelis began to think about its future as an independent firm and need for strategic planning skills.

“We had taken leadership courses with Stevens in the past, but now began looking at specific development needs of our future leaders and managers,” says Sally Hanna, Senior Manager, Learning and Talent Development. “We realized we have great engineers and great leaders, but did they have the business acumen that the new company would require? The company identified high potential employees to help us prepare. Since we had worked with Stevens before it was a natural to go to the University for business.”

The company identified 22 senior and executive leaders and high potential employees to participate in the Executive MBA program and covered tuition costs for them. The commitment to career development and succession planning is an often times overlooked aspect of business strategy.

Support and development

“This program reflected a corporate commitment to supporting and developing its people,” says Murrae Bowden, Distinguished Service Professor and Academic Program Director for the MBA program. “This is the long-term thinking that is all too often lacking in Wall Street driven, short-term culture.”

Stevens faculty conducted all classes onsite at the company’s Clifton, NJ, offices. Classes ran one day a week with courses in the afternoon and evening, punctuated with a break for dinner. Each semester ran 13 weeks and the graduating class completed the 52-credit program in 2.5 years.

“We were able to leverage the technical strength of the partnership between

Stevens and Exelis, which had delivered engineering and program management certification with us,” says Bowden. “Recognizing that all businesses today depend on technology to achieve business success, Stevens brings the vital technology component to this mix along with business and leadership expertise.”

Getting ahead with a graduate certificate program 

The combination of technology and business was just what the Exelis team needed.

“The program gives you the full picture of how a business is run,” says Hanna, who participated in the program. “When you are working in business you really have to understand how your decisions affect the financials and strategy and how strategy defines the financials. We put teams together with senior leaders on each team, which proved to be a great team-building experience. For many of us, learning about finance, inventory and materials was so important.”

'The learning piece'

But the “a-ha” moment for many in the group was the capstone simulation. “That was the learning piece for all of us,” she says. “Putting into practice what we had learned throughout the two years helped us set strategy, operations, identify new product opportunities and look at inventory, materials, sales and marketing with a much more analytical approach.”

Since the program wrapped up in May, Exelis has already promoted two of the program’s graduates into key positions. A newly appointed general manager of the Clifton office had been a program manager throughout the MBA program and a former engineer was promoted to become a director.

This fall, Stevens is delivering a graduate Master’s program at Pfizer for a Master of Science in Management. The program, which involves a cohort of 25 students, is expected to run four years. Stevens and Howe have partnered with other companies including Citi, Prudential, Verizon and Verizon Wireless to deliver a Stevens business curriculum to their workers.

“When you are working in business you really have to understand how your decisions affect the financials and strategy and how strategy defines the financials.”

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