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Q & A: David E. Welsh

Q. Why has Executive Education become so increasingly important for organizations and corporations?

The pressure is on for organizations and individuals to stay competitive—the skills required for success in tomorrow's economy are critical to build today. Executive Education is increasingly popular because it allows organizations and individuals the ability to tap into the latest concepts and ideas from some of the greatest minds in academia in a condensed and convenient format. Programs are suited for professionals who cannot afford to take long breaks from work but want to learn from the same professors and experts who are typically found in longer degree-seeking programs.

Part of my job is to stay on top of the latest content, see how it aligns to real business challenges and, working with faculty, deliver that content in a way that is relevant. We analyze the best content and deliver it in a practical, results-driven way, helping HR, talent professionals and individuals get ahead. If you're a CEO or senior leader in your organization, and you have to move your people in a new strategic direction, or add skill capacity, the best and frankly most effective way to do that is to rely on us to quickly customize programs for you. Lehigh has the intellectual capacity across many disciplines, and our ability to develop a program or series sessions specifically to meet your needs is expansive.

Q: You came on board in February 2016. What's your vision for Lehigh's Executive Education program?

Short-term, we are focused on the Northeast region, not just the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, but the corridor from New York to Washington, D.C., and out to Chicago. The focus will be on expanding our short-term Certificate programs—management-level, leadership-level open enrollment programs—and on working with corporations on customized programming—what's their need, what can we do to help them, how can we become their partner and help design something specifically for them, following the client-driven boutique model I described earlier. We will also be creating new opportunities to expand our reach with a video series focused specifically on challenges that leaders face in a constantly changing business environment, and industry and role-related forums—for example, forums on the new business of health care and one designed specifically for talent management and HR professionals.

Longer term, we will be focused on creating a Center of Excellence—around Executive Education. Lehigh becomes a "learning and development destination" for executives, a place where we can create an opportunity for global professionals and organizations to come and develop, explore and create the future of business. You know, we're an hour and 25 minutes from New York, and we're an hour and a half to Philadelphia. We're really in a good location, and it is beautiful here, not to mention the historical aspect of the city [of Bethlehem].

Look, at one point in history we exported the world's steel. We literally help build this country—right here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. That energy is still here. My thought, we can do that again for collaborative knowledge by exporting our thought leadership, business research—the overall intellectual capital of the entire university and others—a direct conduit to the business community and the world. Who knows? Maybe there are partnerships with other institutions, both here and abroad, centers of excellence with companies large and small. The point is, as education and development become more collaborative and collective, we are in a great place to lead—[as an institution]—powerful enough to start and agile enough to get things done!

Q: What are some of the new programs planned?

We have a lot of new programs lined up for this year—everything from Negotiations, Innovation, and Finance to Project Management. One, our new Certificate program, the Lehigh Management Acceleration Program (MAP) is designed for mid-level managers and functional experts to help round out their business skill set—really a great series of programs led by really outstanding faculty, very exciting. We also have a new Certificate in Project Management designed for project sponsors or supporters, those professionals responsible for project outcomes. Both programs are delivered in a convenient format that is experiential and focused on real-world application. The Management Acceleration Program (MAP) will also have a unique team-based simulation capstone, which is designed to test the application of learned skills. Of course, we will have the popular two-day programming in areas like negotiations, finance and innovation, and marketing again. Some of these programs are so popular, especially for engineers and technical professionals, we may be offering them twice this year.

Q: How are you going to identify topics?

There are two parts to that—what we, as academics, think is relevant, but also importantly what we learn in talking to the companies. Business moves fast, so I want to focus on topics that are useful to companies and leaders and align the latest ideas and solutions from academia to that need, present it in a way that is quick and to the point—like everything we do in Executive Education—helping to create that conduit that I mentioned earlier, a direct line for the business school to get some of that ground-breaking work out to the professionals who need it today. That's our job—to be the "outstretched arm" to the business community, staying out front of the talent development side of things—so companies can come to us, and we have relevant, aligned solutions for them.

Q: Executive Education is competitive. What differentiates Lehigh's program?

Its value and prestige. I think people forget to mention that Lehigh University has been referred to as one of the 24 "Hidden Ivies," known specifically for its teaching excellence, which translates into outstanding Executive Education programming. Not many other business schools in this region can deliver both: the boutique level of service and prestige that Lehigh Executive Education can. The value that we can deliver to help executives and businesses succeed is really amazing, and this is just the start!

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Question and answer with David Welsh

David E. Welsh, executive director of Lehigh University Executive Education. Photo by Christa Neu.