Vision For Exec Ed
Actually, that was a challenging time. Not only are we trying to brand our undergraduate, but undergraduate programs take three-and-a-half to four years, so you will not get to see the fruits of the labor until a longer time period. So part of executive education role was to quickly get buy-in from corporates, because when our kids graduate, they will need companies to want to accept them. But the companies have to have a sense of who we are. So executive education is actually a very strategic component because we want to get up-front and close to the corporates early. And they need to experience what it's like to have a piece of the learning experience in SMU, so that they themselves can appreciate that the final product that they are going to recruit must be good, because they themselves had the experience of having been to classes. So it was meant to be a very powerful buy-in from all the top companies.
Unfortunately, all the top companies have already been sending their executives to incumbents or to even bigger brand names, so we were like literally asking ourselves, why would they come to SMU? We don't even have our first batch of degree holders. The taxi drivers are still mixing us up with SIM [Singapore Institute of Management] because we were all along Bukit Timah Road. And we literally had to tell people, do you see that signage, do you see that lion-faced logo, could you make sure you turn in? And it's such a long walk in, into a beautiful, scenic, garden campus. So the only way that we could pitch is we need a big brand name as a partner.
So we were shameless, we leveraged on our Wharton partnership. We wanted to tell people, we must have sufficiently wonderful faculty for Wharton to be willing to lend their name to us on the open-enrollment programs. So, we did not use Wharton for many of the custom programs, partly because they are not physically here, and so they could not sit with me to speak to the client and do a lot of customisation, so I have to represent the face of SMU. But to the public out there, they need to know that SMU is in this game, that SMU is already an active player in executive education.
So, we are really grateful that Janice [Janice Bellace] was our president then and Janice opened the door for me to have conversations with my counterpart in executive education in Wharton. And we were very specific we did not want all the Wharton programs we wanted those programs where we have sufficiently high-level faculty where we could play a partnership role. We do not want to be the little sister, even though we are little sister. We want to say we are equally on equal standing, and if it's a six-day program, Wharton will do three days and we will do three days. And whatever certificate of attendance that comes out for the executives, it should have the two logos side by side. So we are very proud to be an equal player.