Barbara Craft had a clear idea about her next steps after finishing her bachelor’s degree.
“When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree,” says Craft, director of admissions for Wharton | San Francisco and EMBAC Board of Trustees member. “I was very passionate about learning, but I could not afford tuition,” she says.
Craft found a practical way to solve that problem: She took a position at a higher education institution, which provided employee educational benefits and enabled her to take classes for free or reduced tuition.
“I liked the intellectual stimulation of a university environment,” she says. “I loved the constant challenge and heightened energy of a higher learning institution. Working for the university fostered my growth and fueled my curiosity.”
Craft’s position was such a good fit that it turned into a lengthy career in higher education and led her to Executive MBA education. She began her EMBA journey at the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of the team that designed and developed the school’s EMBA Program.
“I was working closely with faculty and administrators on curriculum design and the program format,” she says. In addition, she helped shape admission criteria and processes, marketing, and program logistics. In short, it was a crash course – a fun one for Craft – in understanding the ins and outs of EMBA Programs.
“Launching a new, smaller program in a very competitive market resulted in many lessons about collaboration, teamwork, and the value of creativity,” says Craft. “You have to be flexible, you have to be nimble, and you have to be willing to take risks.”
During her time at Saint Joseph’s University, she served as assistant director of the EMBA Program, and subsequently, director of the EMBA Program. She also fulfilled the educational goal she set for herself by completing a master’s degree in organizational development and leadership.
She also discovered an organization that offered valuable resources, connections, and lifelong friends – EMBAC – during a critical time in its history as it explored a transition from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) umbrella to its current status as an independent organization.
Discovering such value in EMBAC, she quickly became involved, serving on the board from 1995 to 1998 with terms as chair and past chair.
“I found an incredible amount of support from the organization,” she says. “It was so easy to call on other members and they were very generous with sharing their experiences and best practices.” Through EMBAC, Craft met new colleagues and made friendships that have lasted throughout the years.
Later in her career, Craft moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and assumed the role of director of admissions and marketing at the University of California, Irvine Merage School of Business. At UCI she oversaw the admissions and marketing for their four MBA programs. When Wharton decided to launch its San Francisco campus, an EMBAC colleague who served on the board with Craft reached out to her about coming on board, knowing that she had deep experience with EMBA Programs, and also understood the cultural dichotomy of the two coasts.
As an admissions and business development specialist, she helped build brand awareness for Wharton on the West Coast, assisted with the admissions process for the San Francisco MBA Program for Executives, developed marketing and admissions strategies and materials, prepared business presentations, and cultivated relationships, among other tasks. In 2016, she become director of admissions for the school’s West Coast MBA Program for Executives.
Since then, she increased class size by 10 percent; increased the overall diversity of the cohort; and worked closely with the team to execute a marketing, recruitment, and communication strategy, while helping the program pivot during the pandemic.
“One of the most rewarding parts of my role is the transformation that you see happening in students who are going through the program,” says Craft, who observes their growth from the time they express interest in the program to their graduation – and often beyond graduation – noting their career advancement and increasing impact.
“I love that they are in the program to learn,” she says. “I just find them so interesting. They are also so accomplished, but at the same time so humble and generous in spirit. They really are there to continue to grow and learn and stretch themselves.”
Craft also continued to find EMBAC rewarding. She wanted to stay connected and involved, and in 2021, she was elected to the board, returning for a second three-year term to an organization that has grown since becoming independent.
“It’s such a special organization,” she says. “I have benefited from others in the organization in so many ways. I am hoping that I can give back in some way and help people the way I have been helped and benefited from EMBAC throughout my career.”
As part of the EMBAC Membership Committee, Craft is reaching out to schools and programs that might not be aware of the organization’s value.
“I’m excited about continuing to press forward on being such an inclusive organization and focusing on greater outreach to schools that don’t realize the benefits and beauty that this organization brings and the significant value that it offers.
“EMBAC is an organization that I continually champion among my colleagues. I cannot stress enough the value one receives by actively participating within this group.”
Craft also shared the following insights with EMBAC Voice:
- My hobbies include: “Reading, hiking, travel.”
- My favorite city is: “Philadelphia.”
- I'm most proud of: “My children.”
- I'm reading: “Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead.
- I’m passionate about: “Education, equality, military veterans.”
- My next project is: “Home remodeling.”
- You may not know that: “I surf.”
- When I think about the Executive MBA Council, I think: “Relationships.”