Transform Your Talent W/ Concordia College’s Executive Advancement Program

Written by: Fargo Inc

Photography by Hillary Ehlen

While it debuted a limited offering of courses last summer, Concordia College’s Offutt School of Business is set to launch its full Executive Advancement Program in 2018.

The program, which is aimed at transforming talented mid-level management into higher-level leadership, will feature courses taught by both academic and industry veterans from across the country and will focus on measurable, applicable outcomes.

7 Questions w/ Offutt School of Business Dean Brewer Doran


Is there an application and/or recommendation process for the program, or can anyone sign up?

Brewer Doran: Students do not need a recommendation, but there is a brief application process. We want to make sure the people who are taking the courses have sufficient experience to benefit from the course and participate fully in them at a high level. All offerings are targeted at mid- to high-level executives who aspire to move up in their organizations. Most students are nominated by their managers and attend as a part of their personal professional-development plans.

How many courses must one take to receive a certificate of completion?

B. Doran: These programs are true “executive education.” As such, they are not credit-bearing — although everyone gets a certificate of completion at the end of each successfully completed course. Open-enrollment courses are most often an intensive two days but range from one to three days. Each course covers one content area, so students can choose which ones make the most sense for the individual. Some students take only one course; others take several.

What about the custom course option? (see above for more info)

B. Doran: Custom courses can be any length, as they are designed to the needs of one specific organization and may be delivered either at Concordia or on-site at the customer’s facility. Most custom courses will also be short but may be up to five days. Some companies contract for a cohort of their employees to go through a year-long leadership-development program made up of short segments (two to five days) spread out through the year.

“Too often, managers are highly proficient technically with little ‘human management’ training that will enable them to advance teams and collaborate across silos.”

How did you go about developing the program and the course offerings?

B. Doran: The idea for Executive Education came from a scan of the region to see where there are gaps in educational offerings. It became very clear, very quickly that while there are many undergraduate and graduate programs locally — as well as a number of offerings for early-career professionals — there was a gap in helping companies groom their leadership and rising stars for continued excellence throughout their careers.

Prior to introducing our Executive Education programs, Concordia conducted extensive research, reviewed 21 top-rated executive education programs across North America and traveled to three for further in-depth discussions.

Most importantly, we conducted more than 40 interviews with regional CEOs to determine what they felt were the most urgent needs for talented mid- to senior-level management to advance to senior leadership. Overwhelmingly, these were “soft skills” related to communication, problem-solving, logical case development and conflict resolution.

Too often, managers are highly proficient technically with little “human management” training that will enable them to advance teams and collaborate across silos. Executive presence and communication skills have declined with the onset of technology.

Why did you decide to go with the hybrid model of having both professors and business leaders teach the classes — as opposed to just one or the other?

B. Doran: Our goal has always been to be “great out of the gate.” For us, one important piece of that meant finding the right faculty — both academics and practitioners — who had the experience to bring the highest value to our students. Most courses are taught by both a practitioner and an academic, although a few may be taught by an academic with significant professional experience or a professional with significant consulting/teaching experience. As a result, we’ve been able to bring in nationally recognized leaders in their fields who really inspire the executives in their classes.

There seems to be a particular focus on developing and refining skills that have a highly practical application. Was that an important consideration with regard to “selling” the program to area professionals and businesses?

B. Doran: Practical application was always an important goal for us. Our students are busy professionals and executives who need to see practical ways to become more-effective managers. It is important to us that students who complete a class leavewith new skills, tools, and plans to implement change in themselves and their organizations. We want all of our courses to create impact beyond the classroom by making our students better leaders and more-effective managers.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the program?

B. Doran: One of the most important takeaways from these programs — and one that is often overlooked in advance — is the value created by the cohort of executives who take the class together. While many participants may be acquaintances before class, the shared experience in class helps provide for a long-term group of colleagues who learn from each other — not just during but after class.

We will continue to add to our offerings as demand requires. In some cases, this will mean entirely new courses such as healthcare administration, digital media and pricing strategy. Some ongoing courses will run once a year; some will run twice. Stay tuned to see what we come up with.

Custom Programs

If you’re looking for intensive development for a small group or want to effect change across a larger cohort, the Offutt School of Business will hand-pick a selection of their expert instructors to tailor lectures, classroom experiences and case studies to your specific needs.


“This course had perfect timing for me and gave me the tools and courage to have a candid conversation with a team member to gain desirable action. I feel so fortunate to have been included in this group. A tremendous weight has come off my shoulders.” –Gerri Leach, Executive Director, Jail Chaplains

“My team was ‘uber-motivated’ by the leadership course. They were bouncing off the walls with excitement and discussing what we’re doing right and things we should do differently. I’d like to send more team members to the next course.” –Joel Jorgenson, President, Precision Equipment Manufacturing

Offutt School of Business at Concordia College
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Brady Drake is the editor of Fargo INC!