16. January 2018

Interview with Prof. Dr. Jenewein, Academic Director EMBA HSG

After 20 years on the Executive MBA at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jenewein has decided to step down from his position as Academic Director to spend more time on research and teaching. Against this background, and on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the EMBA at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), we have invited him to an interview to talk about the history and the future of this programme.

What was it like in your early days on the EMBA? What was your experience of this programme at that time?

I started on the EMBA in August 1996 – or the postgraduate degree in Corporate Governance (NDU) as it was still called back then. I was the course leader, fresh out of uni, incredibly motivated and doing a doctorate at the University of St. Gallen! It meant a great deal to me.
As the then director, Prof. Dr. Dubs, inaugurated the course, I was nervous. I’d prepared myself for everything, had my best suit on and felt like a little manager. After the class had been introduced, he said: “This is Mr Jenewein, our general dogsbody.” Of course, he said it with a wink, but I came back down to earth with a bump.

I led two courses as Programme Manager, wrote my doctoral thesis and was then able to become Director of Studies. Back then, the NDU was still very topic-based. The programme depended on the professors and mentors. A great deal of knowledge was imparted during course time by icons of their subject. A lot has happened since then. We have worked on the programme constantly and have developed it. It became the EMBA and the modules were shortened as no-one is able to invest 120 days in such a short period in these hectic times. Above all, this monolith of modules has turned into an integrated concept that no longer has the delivery of subject content as its sole focus, but increasingly includes personality development.

So there’s been a change of emphasis. The focus now lies much more heavily on the participants and the process. Is it still the same EMBA and is the idea behind it still the same?

They are not two worlds, even though it’s evolved enormously. We are now in a very competitive environment with many players who are all fighting for market share. The huge pressure in the market has motivated us to always keep one step ahead.

It’s not a different programme. It’s the evolution of a very successful model that was first developed over many years by Prof. Dr. Dubs and then later constantly redeveloped by Prof. Dr. Manella. Today, the focus lies primarily on the digitisation of the back office aspects (accounting, staff, etc.), as well as in the front offices where we now submit all documents digitally on an iPad, run online courses and have also developed a digital coach for the participants.

What do you consider to be your legacy? Where have you made your mark?

Legacy is a strong word and I don’t want to judge my work myself. I believe that all of the directors before me – Prof. Dr. Dubs, Prof. Dr. Timmerman, Prof. Dr. Manella – have taken the EMBA in the right direction and each of them has their own contribution to this success story. I was lucky enough to be able to work for this institute for 22 years and I hope that, when people look back, they will take the view that I also had a part to play in its success. What always drove me was the desire to develop people and help them to grow as personalities. From this, we have also developed our brand promise of “Your success is our passion”. Based on this philosophy, we then developed various processes such as career coaching, leadership coaching and personality coaching.

We want to develop people – not sell courses!

What is your wish for the future of the EMBA?

From my successor, I hope above all that the digital post-processing of courses can be developed further, so as to make the impact even stronger. The transfer of learning can be supported in a more sustainable way and hugely reinforced by current methods.

In addition, the EMBA in future has to work with companies even more closely than it has done so far to develop use cases. How can EMBA participants create added-value for their company even during their degree course? Our participants are highly qualified people who are able to work actively within organisations and in an advisory capacity to drive issues forward and to form think tanks and best-practice groups. The link between the EMBA and the corporate world even during one’s studies is what I see as one of the next big steps.


Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jenewein has worked for the Executive MBA at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) since 1996 and has been its Academic Director since 2011. He is also a Professor of Business Management and Director of the research institute for Customer Insight at the University of St. Gallen. He is also a lecturer at the University of Toronto and at RWTH Aachen University. Coach and consultant to various large corporations at board level on the subject of Leadership and Cultural Development. Research interests: Change Management, Cultural Development, as well as Purpose Driven Leadership.