Busy food and wine professionals who’ve wanted to work on their master’s degree but haven’t had the time now have more flexible options for hitting the books.
Two new master’s degree programs are launching this year — one at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa and the other at Sonoma State University. Both programs are carried out primarily online.
Class is in session starting Nov. 3 for SSU’s new Hybrid Executive MBA in Wine Business program, which takes its cues from its popular Executive MBA in Wine Business, integrating its existing 14 courses into five sessions conducted both online as well as in-person, according to John Stayton, executive director, graduate and executive programs, School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University.
“The hybrid program is geared toward executives, senior managers and owners of wine businesses,” Stayton said.
Qualified applicants must have eight or more years of professional experience. A few students who have between five and eight years of experience also will be accepted if they are progressing rapidly in their careers and can contribute to group learning. Those students are required to take the GMAT exam.
The program mixes project- and case-based online learning over the course of 16 months. Studies are broken down into five 3-month sessions with distinct focuses: Foundations; Wine Value-Chain Strategies; International Brand Management; Growth Strategies; and Capstone, which comprises the final projects, presentations and graduation. Four of the 3-month sessions also include leadership studies — two take place at SSU’s recently opened Wine Spectator Learning Center, as well as a 10-day trip in France and another in Australia.
The program begins in an innovative fashion: on sailboats in San Diego.
The school contracts six boats, each stationed with one faculty member and four students, along with an expert skipper who is skilled at teaching and facilitating, Stayton said.
The point, he said, is for students to learn about teamwork and leadership in a high-pressure environment, and come away knowing how to chart and implement a course of action and how to lead a team.
“Very few students have any sailing experience at the start,” Stayton said, adding that by the end, they can sail on their own and even do synchronized sailing.
“It’s intensive, exhilarating and quite transformational for the students,” Stayton said. “All of our executive MBA programs do this. It’s been so successful that we wanted to make sure our hybrid program does this as well.”
Another aspect of the hybrid program is to ensure it is diverse in multiple ways, including but not limited to, age, gender, culture, religion, personality and industry knowledge.
“That’s where they’ll get the most learning,” he said, including how to communicate well “with people who are different from you.”
The two international aspects of the program, in France and Australia, are each 10-days long—from Friday to the following Sunday night — and had to be carefully planned.
“We had to schedule this around harvests in two hemispheres,” said Stayton. “We wanted to do that so people in production could also participate.”
Courses are taught by professionals who have deep experience both in the wine industry and teaching graduate education, he said. The first class is expected to have 20 students; applications are being accepted through September. The total cost for the program is $64,500, Stayton said, adding that the school is able to offer some scholarships and interested people should inquire.