For Alaa Elhawwari, no distance was too far to travel for a great business education. Fortunately for the Dubai resident, he didn’t have to travel a single mile to earn a premier MBA through the iMBA program at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business.
“As a person who lives outside the US, let me tell you studying in the States is one of the big things that might happen in your life,” said Elhawwari, a regional instructor at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “So, to be able to live in Dubai and yet study in the States for a price that is affordable is a dream for me and for many other people. I can study with a state-of-the-art business curriculum with American and global citizens. It is a dream that is now achievable.”
That dream turned into an immediate and tangible return on investment. Elhawwari earned a promotion at his company during his time in the iMBA program; it was a promotion he attributes directly to what he learned in class.
“I was doing a very important presentation at work, proposing a project costing a couple of millions of dollars. I did exactly what I learned in class. I followed the steps, and we got the project,” recalled Elhawwari, who is among the 53% of iMBA students who receive a promotion, job offer, or accept a new job during the program. “This shows you how we can apply what we learn at work and the consequence of it. The teaching at Gies is practical. It’s not just theory.”
Elhawwari says he found the Gies online program better than any on-campus alternative. Always referred to as “the technical guy” at work, he had been looking to sharpen his financial and management skills. He wanted an MBA, but he traveled too much for work to be able to balance a traditional, residential program.
“When I’d sit in a management meeting and decisions were being made, it was like they were speaking another language. I didn’t want to be like that. So I decided to do my MBA to understand all the disciplines in business,” he said. “I needed to understand why the finance people do what they do or why the marketing people decide to cancel a brand from the market. So now I can see and understand the bigger picture.”
It’s not only the “big picture,” but also the global network that has Elhawwari head over heels for the Gies iMBA program. The Egypt native, who works in Dubai, once pulled together a spontaneous iMBA meet-up in the Philippines. And that’s not uncommon, considering the iMBA includes students in nearly 100 countries.
“The family feeling you have here is exceptional,” he said. “When you see the people that you connect with online in real life, it’s like an exponential factor for your relationship. We meet online, we work online, we stay late nights online. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s like real life. It’s totally worth it.”
Read more about Gies on our Partner Publisher page.