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Changing tides

Thought-provoking plenaries

In pursuing innovation during this ever-changing time of crisis, EMBAC has organized a menu of plenary sessions to address the wide spectrum of industry issues.

From the inspirational and innovative to the practical nuts and bolts of empowering leadership to candid looks at the state of the EMBA industry, explore the offerings below.

Harnessing your power to create change
Derreck Kayongo
Founder, Global Soap Project
Former CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
It All Comes Down to Leadership
Ken Lamneck
President and CEO, Insight
How Will It End?
Elmer Almachar
Senior Director, Executive MBA Global Network, Northwestern University
A New Way of Working and Learning
Andrew Crisp
Co-founder, CarringtonCrisp
Working Professional Education – A Broader View
Jamie Breen
Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, University of California, Berkeley
Stephan Kanlian
Professor and Chair, Master’s Degree Program, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management, School of Graduate Studies, Fashion Institute of Technology
Ying Zhao
Managing Editor,
Michael Desiderio
Executive Director, EMBAC
Inclusion and Diversity Panel – What Can We Do?
Erika James
Dean, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
D. Keith Pigues
Founder and CEO, Luminas Strategy Chair, CEO, and Co-founder, CulTRUE
Barbara Singer
CEO, Executive Core

Keynote sessions

Consider yourself inspired when you take part in Monday’s keynote session and follow that up on Tuesday with practical insights about empowering leadership.

Harnessing your power to create change

Derreck Kayongo

Keynote speaker Derreck Kayongo’s soap story offers both lessons in inspiration and innovation.

Born just before dictator Idi Amin seized power in Uganda, Kayongo quickly became a child refugee. He later immigrated to the U.S. to attend college. On his first day in America, he noticed all the different soaps in his hotel room. He wondered what happened to the partially used soaps and discovered hotels threw them away.

That observation formed the basis for a transforming business. Kayongo founded the Global Soap Project, building a multimillion-dollar venture that reprocesses discarded and unused soap from hotels worldwide and distributes it through global health programs to people who lack access to soap.


The project demonstrated his creativity and innovation, making him a leader in both global health and environmental sustainability. As an internationally recognized visionary and humanitarian, Kayongo also served as CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and was named a CNN Hero. Now he shares his story to help instill the spirit of entrepreneurship and creative problem solving, as well as motivate others to invent their own successful paths that help change the world in small and big ways.

His business tale offers many lessons for the EMBA industry as it moves forward with the next evolution of EMBA. Please also note that Kayongo will present live at two different times, which offers access to all parts of the world.


It all comes down to leadership

Ken Lamneck

On Tuesday, take the inspiration from day one and add insights on ways to empower your team and strengthen your own leadership skills, all thanks to a cutting-edge CEO who embraces championing people, leadership, and culture as a key priority.

President and CEO of technology solutions provider Insight, Ken Lamneck will share his approaches in the session, It All Comes Down to Leadership.

In recent years, Insight shifted to a more contemporary method of growing leaders. Lamneck will talk about the reasons behind the Insight evolution to a behavioral-based leadership development model that emphasizes teammate empowerment, simplicity, communication…and neuroscience. As a result, Insight has built an organization with distributed decision making and routine challenges to the status quo at every level, as well as one that casts aside the fear of failure and encourages all to think like true thought leaders.


Lamneck doesn’t believe in settling for the present. He is fascinated with the future and technology, and the way each inspires the other. This interest and vision have driven him from the West Point Military Academy to Insight.

After five years in the U.S. Army, Lamneck began his civilian career as an IBM engineer. But he found that sales and marketing better suited his competitive spirit and the servant leadership principles he learned while in uniform. He honed his technical knowledge and people skills rising through the ranks at Arrow Electronics. As president of Arrow’s Industrial Computer Products business, he was drawn to the rapid pace of innovation in the emerging IT industry. He moved to Tech Data Corp., where he directed its growth and operations across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.

In 2010, Lamneck joined Insight. His approachable, hands-on leadership style can be seen in Insight’s corridors every day, as he motivates teammates and aligns their efforts with the Next Big Thing.


State-of-the-industry sessions

EMBAC shines the spotlight on the state-of-the-industry in these sessions, looking closely at what the current uncertain and rapidly changing environment might mean for the EMBA industry.

How will it end?

Elmer Almachar

Elmer Almachar, senior director, Executive MBA Global Network, Northwestern University, tackles this question by taking a long view to look forward and to help programs prepare for the world as it changes.

Within the last 15 years, two extreme global disruptions – the financial crisis of 2008 and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic – have rocked the EMBA world. In the session, Almachar will focus on the meaning of “end” as both a set of possible, if not exhaustive, outcomes and unprecedented opportunities.

Rather than try to predict the future for certain, this session will help you shift from a mindset of trying to make your program or school future-proof to making it future-resilient. It will cover what future resilience could look like in the EMBA industry and how it might position you and your team to be opportunistic in uncertain times.

A new way of working and learning

Andre Crisp

COVID-19, economic crises, and the uncertainty behind it all.

Recent events only serve to accelerate the pace of change for all, bringing with them a new world of work, new ways of learning, new types of learners who need a new set of skills, and a new style of business school.

How will the future of work change, and what does that mean for working professionals and business education?

This plenary looks at the shifting world of working professionals and their organizations, based on a recently completed EMBAC-funded research project. Andrew Crisp of CarringtonCrisp will talk about findings from the project, shaping a picture of the changing nature of work, the evolving nature of lifelong learning, and ways business schools can adapt to stay in the picture.

Crisp founded CarringtonCrisp with Mary Lou Carrington in 2003. Since then, the business has provided consulting, creative, and research services to more than 180 business schools and universities in 35 countries, helping them change for the better.


CarringtonCrisp research projects for business schools include The Business of Branding, GenerationWeb, Tomorrow’s MBA, Tomorrow’s Masters, Executive Education Futures, and Alumni Matters with findings featured in media such as the Financial Times, The Economist, The Globe & Mail, and Poets&Quants.

CarringtonCrisp also conducts a range of bespoke research, strategy, program, and communication projects with clients throughout the world, including Columbia Business School, INSEAD, Saïd Business School Oxford, Cambridge Judge Business School, CEIBS, Miami Herbert Business School, Rotterdam School of Management, UNSW Business School, LinkedIn, and King’s College, London.

Crisp has presented for many organizations, such as AACSB, GMAC, the Chartered Association of Business Schools, EFMD, and the Association of Asia-Pacific Business Schools (AAPBS). He also serves on the editorial board for the AACSB publication, BizEd.

His career includes work at a branding agency, as the employment correspondent for The European newspaper, and as the marketing director for an internet business.  In addition, his experience in corporate communications involved projects to develop advertising campaigns for Andersen Consulting and Citibank, produce newsletters for Johnson & Johnson, and help rebrand the London Business School.   


Powerful panel sessions

These plenary sessions bring experts with diverse viewpoints together to explore issues of importance to the industry and beyond.

Working professional education – a broader view

From part-time MBA programs to specialized master’s programs to EMBA, working professionals today enjoy a wide range of educational options.

What does the working professional market look like? How are programs for working professionals faring in this year of uncertainty? Is there enough room in the market for expansion of programs? Will part-time and EMBA markets remain separate and distinct or increasingly blur? What do growth in offerings and changes in the working professional marketplace all mean for EMBA?

This panel takes a broad perspective on the working professional market for graduate business education. Panel members will discuss the challenges and opportunities for the working professional space and their implications for EMBA and other programs.


Jamie Breen, Assistant Dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, University of California, Berkeley

Jamie Breen

Jamie Breen currently serves as the assistant dean, MBA Programs for Working Professionals, at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, with responsibility for two of Haas’s MBA programs, the Evening & Weekend MBA Program and the MBA for Executives Program. Breen leads initiatives to expand the programs’ reach, improve the student and career experience, and identify and introduce new courses. She is also a founding Advisory Council member of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at Haas and is a member of the EMBAC Board of Trustees.

Before joining Haas in 2014, Breen spent more than 30 years in industry, primarily management consulting. As a consultant, she focused on implementing large-scale change initiatives with a wide variety of clients. She worked as a partner at Booz Allen & Hamilton and, for more than a decade, as a partner/managing director at Accenture. Breen received her AB in economics and government from Harvard University and her MBA in finance from New York University Stern School of Management.

Stephan Kanlian, Professor and Chair, Master’s Degree Program, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management, School of Graduate Studies, Fashion Institute of Technology

Stephan Kanlian

Professor Stephan Kanlian serves as the founding chair of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) master's degree program for emerging leaders in the cosmetics and fragrance industry, known as the beauty industry’s think tank.

Guided by an industry advisory board of corporate partners from throughout the sector, the program has produced more than 350 graduates since 2002, who now hold senior industry leadership roles.  The FIT master’s program has organized business conferences, seminars, panels, and speaker series on topics including luxury branding, marketing, retailing, leadership, and business innovation, in cooperation with leading firms that include Target, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Estée Lauder, LVMH, Disney, Mastercard, Google, The Wharton School, and IDEO.  Each year, the program’s graduates present innovative solutions to industry issues before an audience of more than 700 business executives. 

Kanlian has served on the board of directors, Strategic Initiatives Committee, and Annual Meeting Committee of the Personal Care Products Council based in Washington, D.C., and as a judge for the Fragrance Foundation’s annual editorial awards.  He received graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and Durham University in Great Britain. His honors include the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Ying Zhao, Managing Editor,

Ying Zhao

Ying Zhao serves as managing editor and publisher of, a leading media platform that allows prospective students to search and compare business education course information in and beyond China.

With more than 20 years of experience in media management, marketing communication of business education, and business and economics journalism, Zhao has worked in TV, radio, print, web, and app and streaming development, as a TV producer for the Chinese National TV Station Business Channel, and as a frequent column contributor to Forbes China, Business Review China, and airline on-flight magazines. She has delivered the course, Knowing China from Insider, to EMBA students from outside of China.

She received her MSc. in media management from the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom. A DBA candidate at Emlyon Business School in France, she focuses her research on learning transformation in the digital age.

Moderator: Michael Desiderio, Executive Director EMBAC

Michael Desiderio

Michael Desiderio became the first full-time executive director of the Executive MBA Council in 2007. His experience includes executive leadership roles in industry and education. Before joining EMBAC, he served as director of strategic partnerships for the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. He also founded Enigma Professional Services, a firm that offered business consulting and speaking services. Desiderio received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and attended the Executive MBA Program at the W. P. Carey School at Arizona State University, earning his MBA in 2001.

Inclusion and diversity panel – What can we do?

Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance, as diversity advocate Verna Myers famously highlighted.

What can you do to attract a more diverse student body and build a more inclusive environment for students? Where do you start? What do you need to understand?

This plenary session shines a spotlight on inclusion and diversity. Panelists will explore gender and race issues at work, at home, and in communities and share their own experiences with bias in education, racism in society, and gender inequality. The candid discussion will work toward a greater understanding of inclusion and diversity issues, barriers to change, and ways to overcome those barriers.


Erika James, Dean, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Erika James

In July, Erika H. James joined the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as dean, the first woman and person of color to hold the post in Wharton’s 139-year history.

James previously served as the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School from 2014 to 2020. Her areas of expertise include crisis leadership, workplace diversity, and management strategy.

An award-winning educator, accomplished consultant, and researcher, she has helped pave the way for women in education and corporate America in many ways. In recognition of her leadership, Black Enterprise named James as one of the Top 10 Women of Power in Education, and Ebony named her one of the “Power 100.” Numerous media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, and, among others, turn to her as a thought leader.


As a board member, she contributes to a number of organizations – including SurveyMonkey, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, and Save the Children – and to several academic institutions, as an advisory board member to Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and as an executive board member to the Indian School of Business.

Trained as an organizational psychologist, James received her Ph.D. and master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California.


D. Keith Pigues, Founder and CEO, Luminas Strategy Chair, CEO, and Co-founder, CulTRUE

D. Keith Pigues

As founder and CEO of the consultancy Luminas Strategy, D. Keith Pigues helps organizations grow, and as chair, CEO, and co-founder of CulTRUE, Inc., he helps organization make data-driven strategic cultural shifts that improve business performance.

He combines his corporate leadership experience, which also includes previous roles as a senior marketing executive at Honeywell International, Cemex, RR Donnelley, and ADP Dealer Services Division (now CDK Global), with leadership in higher education. He served as Professor of Leadership at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and as senior academic and administrative officer, dean of the School of Business, and tenured management professor at North Carolina Central University.

A member of Executive Leadership Council, he received the Frost & Sullivan Marketing Lifetime Achievement Award and contributes as a board member to ReflektMe, Inc. and MAU Workforce Solutions. An advocate for women’s leadership and diversity in technology, Pigues has presented at countless companies and organizations worldwide, including as an annual speaker for Google for Entrepreneurs Black Founders Exchange since its 2016 founding.  He also co-authored Winning with Customers: A Playbook for B2B.


Pigues received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Christian Brothers University, where he was the first recipient of the university's Distinguished Young Alumnus Award, and his MBA from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.


Moderator: Barbara Singer, CEO, Executive Core

Barbara Singer

As the founder, president, and CEO of Executive Core, Barbara Singer leads a group of more than 150 global professionals whose mission is to more quickly innovate professional development globally for corporations and business schools alike.

In the last 15 years, Singer has worked with thousands of high-potential leaders throughout the globe at critical turning points in their careers. She has dedicated her career to developing leaders who remain focused on the business priorities, anticipate the future, and remove obstacles. She is passionate about future trends in learning and has been researching predictors of executive success for nearly two decades.

Singer has conducted research on global influence, and executive coaching for nearly two decades, and has worked with three of the five largest international executive search firms responsible for placing a large majority of C-suite executives. She and her team also collaborate with the international Executive MBA Council and many business schools throughout the world to help better prepare leaders for senior roles. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.