Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA Program

Kellogg-WHU Celebrates 25 Years of Executive Education

Dr. Rolf Friedewald shares his memories from the first cohort.

Dr. Rolf Friedewald
Dr. Rolf Friedewald

Since its launch in 1997, the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA has attracted an array of leaders from all around the world, looking to revitalize their career goals or discover new knowledge. This year, Kellogg-WHU welcomes its 25th cohort, celebrating another anniversary of transformative leadership from the joint program that is now home to one of the largest and most immersive EMBA networks in the world.

New perspectives.

Alumnus Dr. Rolf Friedewald was one of 43 students who joined the very first Kellogg-WHU cohort. Growing up in both Washington DC and Germany over the course of his formative years, he went on to study and train as a lawyer whilst living in Bonn. Realizing that he wanted to develop further in his career, he searched for an MBA to step beyond the confines of his role in law. With some connections already to the WHU in particular to Professor Horst Albach, an honorary professor at WHU who also played a large part in the establishment of the school, Kellogg-WHU felt like a natural choice. “I studied law from 1980 to 1985 alongside an illustrious cohort of students who are now very successful, from ministers to CEOs, and the heads of global banks. I studied corporate law which is where I met Horst Albach and I admired him for the knowledge he had of strategy and finance.”

It was while working some years later with RWE, a leading energy supplier as legal counsel, that he read about the new Executive MBA launched at WHU. “It was part-time which was an aspect I was looking for so I could continue with my job and WHU had a strong reputation as one of the best German business schools. I wanted to do an MBA because I knew that simply being a lawyer would not provide me with the push I needed to advance in my career."

A lifelong network.

The global EMBA network is the backbone of the program and has a lasting effect on many of its alumni. It is this network that has continued to have an impact on Rolf throughout his career. “I met very intellectually stimulating people during the program and I was part of a small team for our group work who I still am connected to and talk to today. Even now (Rolf is Managing Director for the Institute for Law and Finance at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main), I can find internships for my students because I have these links to executive board members who normally would not pick up the phone to anyone else! What is important is that we all have a genuine interest and connection to one another. Those independent views and opinions of people you learn to trust, are of immeasurable importance for decisions you make both in business and in your personal life. Together, we were and are stronger. I believe networking and such lifelong friendships are key to personal happiness and professional success.”

Another element of the new program that was particularly attractive to its first cohort was the module abroad, where students spent time at the Kellogg campus in Evanston. “The international outlook of the program and immersion with people from all over the world was very special to us and was highlighted by the module abroad. We learned from professors who are at the leading edge of their expertise, so you gain some powerful insights. We experienced a common Kellogg spirit, irrespective of our nationalities or which partner university we came from.”

Professional progression.

As a result of the Executive MBA, RWE gave him the opportunity to step up to the management level for a group of companies. “I was not only in charge of legal matters but also head of a division and managing director in a new business sector. I was responsible for 700 people – something that wouldn’t have been possible before! The program strongly influenced my professional success by giving me versatility and a wider scope of business.”

For those considering the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA and for those who will join the 25th cohort this year, Rolf offers some final words. “Live your dream, don’t dream about your life! Any goal is achievable if you plan with discipline, determination, and devotion. The high expectations I had for the Executive MBA with regards to the academic scope and learnings I wished to take away for my own working environment were surpassed. You truly learn from, and with, the best.”