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By Liz Warren-Pederson

The Eller College took a page out of its own textbook in launching Eller Executive Education — a newly-reorganized unit offering custom non-degree and certificate programs. “For years, Eller has been a leader in teaching entrepreneurship,” said Stephen Gilliland, associate dean of executive education. “Now we are following the path of so many of our former students in launching a startup for the Eller College.”

Public Sector Leadership participants

Students in Eller Executive Education’s Foundations of Public Sector Leadership five-day program engage in teamwork, presentations, and more.
Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

The reorganization emerged from a task force charged by dean Len Jessup to find ways to grow the College’s existing executive education programs. “We are building everything from scratch,” said Gilliland, who spent the summer developing a formal business plan for the unit and working with attorneys and others to develop organizational policies, operating procedures, financial systems, and more.

Now, Gilliland and Paul Melendez, assistant dean of executive education, have established Eller Executive Education as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, an industry best practice for public business schools. “This structure gives us a much more nimble and responsive organization that is better able to serve client organizations, provide additional compensation for faculty, and generate net revenue for the Eller College,” Gilliand said.

For example, established channels and procedures at the University level make client contracting a multimonth process; as a separate nonprofit, Eller Executive Education can develop client contracts within days. The organization is also structured to take in payments of various types — from a single organizational check to individual credit cards from participants — that UA systems are not set up to manage. “It’s as if we have a speedboat to help our partner clients, whereas before we were trying to move a cruise ship,” Gilliland explained.

Eller Executive Education remains closely knit to the University, much in the way that the Alumni Association and UA Foundation are structured, Melendez pointed out.

“As a land grant university, the UA has an important outreach mission for the state of Arizona,” Gilliland added. “We see our primary mission as helping the UA achieve this outreach mission.”

Eller Executive Education recently held its first board meeting. Its seven-person board of directors includes Jeff Goldberg (dean of the UA College of Engineering), Mike Proctor (vice president and dean of the UA Outreach College), Rita Martinez-Purson (assistant dean of the Outreach College), Jeff Rein (former CEO of Walgreen’s), Cathy Ries (vice president of human resources, Unisource), and David Smallhouse and Base Horner (both with Arch Partners and other local organizations).

Stephen Gilliland

Associate Dean of Executive Education Stephen Gilliland.

“In addition to providing oversight for Eller Executive Education, board members will serve a valuable role in connecting the organization to the UA community and the business community,” Gilliland said. “Already, I have talked with Jeff Goldberg about running some engineering professional development programs through Eller Executive Education and Mike Proctor has expressed interest in running some outreach programs through the organization, as well. Our goal and part of our affiliation agreement is to use Eller Executive Organization to

serve more than just the Eller College — other University colleges can run non-credit outreach education programs through Eller Executive Education.”

Paul Melendez

Assistant Dean of Executive Education Paul Melendez.

Melendez points out that one difference between Eller Executive Education and most other business school programs is that it is administered directly by faculty. Gilliland agreed: “As professors, we are quickly able to meet with clients, identify needs, and propose programs and curriculum to meet those needs.” Under previous models, the process was iterative, with a professional director meeting with clients, then meeting with relevant faculty to develop a curriculum, which might require multiple meetings to refine. “We can do all of this in a single meeting,” Gilliland pointed out. “And, we can keep our eyes open for research opportunities that might arise from programs. As we also teach in programs, clients through their interactions with us get assurance that faculty can relate to business professionals.”

Eller Executive Education is already providing leadership development programs for Arizona businesses, government agencies, and health care organizations, such as the new custom program with Tucson Medical Center HealthCare. “Eller Executive Education advances the mission of the UA, helps strengthen area businesses and organizations, provides addition compensation for faculty, and generates net revenue for the Eller College,” said Gilliland. “That makes it a win-win-win-win.”

Learn more about Eller Executive Education and non-degree executive programs.