Triad Business Leader Magazine (May 2008):
Impact: Barnes worked in the health care field for 20 years before she obtained her own executive MBA from WFU. She worked as both a neurology and vascular nurse, and in 1988 started the vascular lab at Moses Cone Health Systems. After receiving her MBA, she was assigned the task of starting a managed care workers compensation program for Moses Cone. She has held her current position since 1998. “I was surprised by the similarities between health care and education,” she said. “Adult students who go to school and work full-time need a lot of support, just like patients in a health care setting. It was really a natural fit for me. Also, because I had gone through the program, I understood that the culture and philosophy and attention to customer service were consistent with my values. So that was a good fit as well.”
Talk with a Leader: Jamie Barnes
Q: Please describe Wake Forest University’s EMBA program?
A: “We have a program that targets individuals with a minimum of five years of management or project management experience. Our average enrollee has work experience ranging from 11 to 13 years. The program meets every other week for 17 months, and it has a general management focus. Our students come primarily from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.”
Q: How long have you been with the program?
A: “I was in health care for about 20 years. In the mid-90’s, I went through the EMBA program; I graduated in 1996. After I finished the EMBA program here, I was so enthused about the experience that I had and how it had changed my life. When this position became available 10 years ago, I applied. I was sort of surprised when I got it, and I asked what the tipping point in my hiring was. They said, ‘We figured that if you could work with cardio-vascular surgeons for 20 years and still be smiling, then working with faculty should be a piece of cake.’”
Q: What is the most important impact you feel you’ve made on the program?
A: “I think that this would be keeping the program consistent with the culture at WFU. Our motto is ‘Pro Humanitate,’ which means ‘for the good of humanity,’ and it really fits with my personal values. I feel like I’ve done a good job putting our teams of six together. I’ve done a good job of communicating the pro humanitate culture and managing our teams so that they are collaborative.”
Q: What leadership style do you employ?
A: “I have very high standards, and I believe in empowering the people that I work with. I believe in a high level of collaboration and accountability; I’m definitely not a micromanager. I set the agenda, and the people I work with choose the best way to accomplish what they need to get done.”
Q: What makes the EMBA program stand out?
A: “I think, right off the bat, that we have a national reputation. Wake Forest brings a high level of academic rigor to the program. I think the small class sizes are crucial; in our EMBA programs, we have about 35 students in a class. That gives folks a great amount of time to discuss and debate in the classroom and have a high level of interaction with the faculty.”
Q: What are your program’s biggest accomplishments?
A: “In early 2000, we changed programs from 21 months to 17 months; we have also added a management practicum, where our students take everything they’ve learned and use that to demonstrate the skills and knowledge that they’ve learned. If a student has an entrepreneurial idea, they are able to use the management practicum to develop that idea with the help of our faculty.”
Q: How has the education industry changed in the time you’ve been in it?
A: “I think there are many more options available, such as online options and self-study options. Also, there are many more programs than there used to be. The flexible options are great for people who don’t want to spend the time to complete an entire program, but perhaps just need to brush up their skills.”
Q: What future trends do you see affecting the industry and your university?
A: “One of the things we’ve seen over the past couple of years, is that employers are providing less educational reimbursement than they have in the past. At some times, such as when our cyclical economy is struggling, one of the first benefits to get cut from a company is the educational reimbursement. That is very crucial to us, because half of our students pay their own way, and the cost of our program is $70,000. Also, workforces today are very, very lean. To have the flexibility to go to school as well as do all the necessary work is a challenge. There is definitely less flexibility in the workplace than there used to be.”
Q: What are your program’s greatest challenges?
A: “Well, our undergraduate and MBA business school are receiving a new dean, Steve Reinemund, on July 1. He served as the CEO of PepsiCo until a year ago, and he is an amazing leader. He has a remarkable track record of success growing organizations and people. I think that despite any challenges we may have had, he’s going to have such a fresh perspective on how we deliver our education.”
Q: What milestones do you expect to reach in the next few years?
A: “Well, we’re training global leaders. One of the things that is really critical is that we have to make sure that our material is relevant and applicable. I think that having a dean who has operated a global company will help to make sure our curriculum is shaped to meet the needs of corporations and help us to stay competitive in a global economy. We also have a need for excellent faculty; there is a definite shortage of business school faculty, and we need to have success in attracting and retaining them.”