STAR EMBA brings star success

The STAR EMBA program, which stands for Special Talent, Access and Responsibilities, is an executive M.B.A. program tailored toward those with strong personal brands — like Olympian Dominique Dawes, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Isaiah Stanback and numerous others — helping them turn their professional success into business success.

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Dawes is the perfect example of what GWU looks for: a three-time Olympian who has, since retirement from gymnastics at age 23, made a career out of her brand as a motivational speaker and also served as a media analyst for various TV networks, among other things. 

“I’ve been a businesswoman now, since I was pretty much 18 years old, but had not earned my M.B.A.,” Dawes said in an interview. “And when Janet Hill, who is [NBA veteran] Grant Hill’s mother, sold me on this program, it was just a no-brainer, because I’ve always wanted to go back to school.”

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Dawes wants to start a number of businesses. Since she already has her undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, an M.B.A. through the STAR EMBA program would help her develop the skill sets needed to enhance her business endeavors.

She is not alone.

Samari Rolle, a retired Baltimore Ravens cornerback and former NFL Pro Bowler, has his own patented invention — the Power Thrust — which will improve upon the block sled currently in use in football camps nationwide. The prototype is being finalized and Rolle is preparing to target consumers. 

The inaugural class is a mix of 22 current and former athletes, entrepreneurs, coaches and even a poker player, all of them extremely motivated to apply the lessons learned in the program to their careers.

Those in the program include pro poker player Michelle Lau, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, WNBA veteran Yerushia Brown and Vice President of the Off the Field Wives Assocation Octavia McDougle.

The STAR EMBA program was launched on June 20.

“Initially, we thought a lot about how to customize executive education,” said Doug Guthrie, dean of the GWU School of Business. “We spent a lot of time thinking how you actually do that for degree programs, and it’s a very interesting opportunity to serve niche occupational populations that are not typically served.”

According to Guthrie, statistics show that 78 percent of NFL players, despite successful careers, end up bankrupt within five years of retirement.

“But then there is also a tremendous need for society in terms of actually helping them become powerful citizens and being successful philanthropists and such,” Guthrie said.

Participants and their spouses can earn their degree by taking six two-week modules over the course of at least two years. All courses are friendly to their schedule. 

In June, they were in Washington for the first module.

Since then they have gone their separate ways but are still thoroughly involved in the program.

Some students are currently taking classes in accounting, financial literacy, ethics and organizational leadership.

The program — which will be offered in various locations, including Washington, New York and Los Angeles — is no walk in the park.

Professors from the Wharton School of Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Columbia University and Harvard University will be teaching the courses. But students say it is manageable.

“You can do the work. You just have to apply yourself,” said Danisha Rolle, founder and editor in chief of SET magazine and the spouse of Samari, who is an executive consultant for SET. 

However, students have plenty of help, as personal mentors and tutors surround them.

Athletes who have already attained the undergraduate degree, like Dawes, would immediately begin their program.

But students who put their degrees on hold to pursue their athletic careers have the opportunity to work with staff to finish their undergraduate degree at GWU before beginning the specialized M.B.A. program.

Derrick Dockery, a prospective student for the February module and a Washington Redskins guard, said that the program presents a “tremendous opportunity” for him and his wife, Emma, and he is “excited for the opportunity.”

“Growing up, I always wanted to be like John Madden,” said Dockery, who has also been in the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp — another program aimed at helping NFL athletes with their post-NFL careers, which gave him experience in TV and journalism.

Fans are used to seeing images of their favorite professional athletes psyching themselves up for the big game. Now it might become easier for fans to imagine them preparing for life.


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