Feature Stories


Shaping a Low-ego, High-impact Program

The Kellogg-HKUST EMBA enables business achievers to thrive with academic and emotional support, explains Kellogg-HKUST EMBA’s Academic Director, Professor Jaideep Sengupta.

The quality of the students has played a key role in the consistent attainment of a world-topping ranking, according to the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA’s Academic Director, Professor Jaideep Sengupta. This quality is achieved, thanks to the Program's demanding admission criteria and its faculty and curriculum's soaring reputation, he says.

“The curriculum we offer is extremely rigorous, and it combines this academic rigor with practitioner insight,” Professor Sengupta explains. The Program content is practical, topical and enables the students to take the insights they have gained during the weekend modules and apply them back at work during the week, he adds. 

The professors teaching this curriculum come from either a high-class research background, or directly from practice, at CEO-level or similar. “All the faculty, myself included, make a very conscious effort to stay up to date and relevant, in terms of course content and adding new courses,” Professor Sengupta says.

Broad, deep and cutting edge

“A couple of years ago, there was a great demand for entrepreneurship courses, and we got in a practitioner from Kellogg to teach a ‘New Venture Discovery’ course, which has gone extraordinarily well,” Professor Sengupta notes. “This year, Professor Hui Kai Lung of HKUST (Chair Professor, ISOM) is offering a course combining two highly sought after elements, FinTech and Big Data Analytics.”

In line with the usual process for additions to the curriculum, Professor Hui first ran a half-day workshop. This was so well-received that it was an easy decision for Professor Sengupta to give the go ahead to a full course.

However, developing a fully-fledged course takes time, and the Program has three other methods to keep students abreast of current developments. First, faculty from a range of departments present specialist workshops, and, second, practicing CEOs are also regularly invited in to talk. “A third way is through company visits - such as the recent visits to the Tencent headquarters in Shenzhen and the Google headquarters in Singapore,” Professor Sengupta explains.

The range of courses open to Kellogg-HKUST EMBA students is broadened even further through the global network of business schools, which allows them to take electives at Kellogg and any of the six other partners around the world.

Professor Sengupta believes there are other organizational elements to the EMBA Program that, as busy executives, the students value. One is the weekend structure.

“This allows them to spend only about 40 days away from the office in order to complete this Program," he says. "We have also started experimenting with new pedagogical techniques, including hybrid courses. These require the students to take an online module prior to class, which allows them to then maximize their classroom interaction.”

A partnership between equals

Professor Sengupta is proud that HKUST bears equal responsibility, along with Kellogg, for ensuring the academic excellence of the joint Program. He points to the annual Best Faculty Award, voted for by the EMBA’s students, as proof of this. “Over the 20 years we’ve run this Program, this award has been evenly split between HKUST and Kellogg faculty," the professor says. "This is one of several such indicators which shows that our partnership is a case of two very strong faculty teams coming together.”

Professor Sengupta was already a winner of the best faculty award himself, when he was invited last year to become Academic Director of the Program. Now he has the chance to get to know his fellow faculty much better, and to sit in on classes. “Frankly, I’m impressed at how amazing my colleagues are," he says. "These are committed people, and it’s been fascinating for me to see the diversity of techniques that they use on the path to pedagogical excellence.”

He says he is also proud that teaching at HKUST combines cutting-edge research knowledge, that may only be seen in textbooks five years later, with practitioner insights.

“Both HKUST and Kellogg have outstanding research reputations – and many of the faculty teaching in our program leverage that research excellence in the classroom. At the same time, bringing in the practitioner viewpoint, several other professors are ex-CEOs or partners at consulting companies, Professor Sengupta says. "So we have, for example, Harry Kraemer offering a course on leadership, and he’s the ex-CEO of Baxter International. We have James Root offering a course on International Growth, and he’s a partner and director with Bain & Company.”

The student culture

Another very important aspect of the program, Professor Sengupta explains, is the team culture it fosters amongst the students. This starts right from the admissions process – candidates who win a place in the program, are not only highly accomplished and intelligent, but also possess a certain humility.

“The phrase we like to use is 'high-impact, low-ego individuals'. They are willing to share their knowledge and, even more, they are willing to learn from others.”

The culture on the Program is collaborative not competitive. “The student’s study group becomes their family during the course of the Program - a source of academic and emotional support.”

Learning as a two-way process

Finally, for Professor Sengupta personally, teaching in the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA represents the pinnacle of a career that has seen him teaching at top-class business schools all over the world, over a period of more than 20 years.

This, he adds, comes back to the sheer quality of the students. “They are incredibly engaged and they can take an idea thrown out in the classroom and really run with it and flesh it out," the professor says. "It has never been more true, for me, that we learn from our students, than in the Kellogg-HKUST classroom. To sum it up in one word, the KH experience – for the teachers as well as the students – is inspirational.”