Bob Lowry (


AUBURN -- More than two dozen students in Auburn University's College of Business will spend a week during spring break in Paris and Prague, but they won't be on holiday.

The students -- members of Auburn's first Executive Track MBA Program -- will be completing one of the residency requirements of the new program.

"The overall guiding theme for this trip is to look at European unification, to understand what's happening in those markets and understand some of the implications that it will have for American businesses," says Daniel Gropper, head of Auburn's MBA Program. "We have a mix of company visits and lectures from experts in Paris and Prague. I think it's going to be a very rewarding experience."

The students -- who will depart March 19 for the one-week trip -- will be accompanied by Daniel Butler, professor and head of the Department of Marketing and Transportation; Don Flowers, director of the Center for Management and Executive Development; Kim Kuerten, assistant director of the MBA Program; Sharon Oswald, professor of management; and Gropper.

Oswald has worked previously with the Czech Management Center in Prague, one of Europe's leading business schools, Kuerten made arrangements with Groupe Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Grenoble, a French graduate school of business.

The class will spend four days in Prague and three days in Paris.

Kuerten joined the College of Business' Central European Studies Program last summer to familiarize herself with study abroad programs in advance of the EMBA trip overseas.

"Going to Europe in advance with an established program gave me the opportunity to learn how to coordinate this program for the maximum benefit for our students, and also to select European partners who we can trust to meet our standards," she said.

Gropper says the international exposure is "critical" to Auburn's efforts to build a "first-class executive MBA program."

"Everyone talks about the internationalization of business -- that's something we built into the (EMBA) curriculum," says Gropper. "Even though this is the one course that focuses on the international trip, in several other courses we've talked about some of the economic issues in this area -- how our central bank and Europe's central bank do things that influence each other. We pick that up in classes even before we go.

"(Finance professors) Jim Barth and John Jahara are doing a global financial market course in the summer that will pick up on some of the things we see in Europe," Gropper added. "So it's something that's really integrated throughout our curriculum."

The Executive Track MBA Program, which accepted its first students in September 1998, permits fulltime working professionals -- with at least eight years experience -- the opportunity to earn a fully accredited MBA degree in 18 months. Most importantly, they can do it without taking time off from their jobs.

The EMBA is a combination of the established on-campus and video outreach programs. During the 18-month of coursework that includes video-based and Internet classes, the EMBA students must complete four one-week residences on the Auburn campus. The fifth residence is completed in Europe.

During the on-campus residences, students take on an intensive study of one subject, centered around instructional time, special lectures and teamwork. In the video-taped portion of the coursework, on-campus classes are taped and mailed to the EMBA students.

Auburn is a proven leader in accredited distance education degree programs. Since 1990, more than 200 people have earned master's degrees through the university's Graduate Outreach Program.

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CONTACT: Gropper, 334/844-4060 (; or Kuerten, 334/844-4060 (