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Yvonne Sertich

Back to School: Industry Leaders Take Time Out For Learning

Even though the bulk of students have left for the summer, the campus is still brimming with academic pursuits. Starting June 5, the Utility Executive Course will bring a unique group of leaders who will become students for the next three weeks.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for utility leaders to come to a retreat setting to focus on course content and professional interaction,” says Yvonne Sertich, director, executive education. This year, 58 participants from 36 companies are coming to campus for the program.

As the flagship executive education program in the College of Business and Economics, UEC provides a three-week course for mid- and upper-level leaders in the utility industry. More than 2,200 people from more than 100 companies and 17 countries have gone through the program in the 58 years it has been running.

The course provides comprehensive analysis of the industry’s challenges and opportunities, and of its general business environment, as well as training for executives to enhance industry knowledge, leadership abilities and professional effectiveness – taught by industry leaders and University faculty.

Perhaps though, Sertich says, the overarching benefit is building an extensive professional network in the utility industry. Not only do participants make contacts, University students also help out with the program and are able to meet industry leaders.

UEC is just one of several executive programs offered by the College of Business and Economics.

To expand upon the Utility Executive Course groundwork, the new UEC Summit -- a three-day course focused on critical issues shaping the industry’s future -- launches this year. The summit runs concurrent with the third week of UEC, which gives both classes an opportunity to meet for a final banquet in Coeur d’Alene. The summit will take place in Coeur d’Alene June 20 -23.

“For many years, we’ve had requests from the utility industry for an update course,” says Sertich. “We developed this course in response to expressed industry needs.”

Another component to the executive-level education experience is the Executive Masters of Business Administration, designed for working professionals. The program was developed in response to a request from Dennis Pence, CEO of Coldwater Creek.

“We believe in stakeholder-centered executive education. We strive to provide relevant and stimulating learning experiences for business professionals,” says Sertich. “We work to stay connected with our counterparts in industry.”

EMBA classes meet as cohorts in Coeur d’Alene for three intensive days a month over 22 months. Sertich says participation requires balancing work, school, and home. Employer and family support is critical.

As executive education program director, Sertich also helps the college facilitate short courses in northern Idaho, like the “Bears, Bulls, and Blowups – Understanding the Financial Crisis” session in 2009, and custom-designed programs such as the Energy and Utilities Intelligent Utility Network Learning Track for IBM.

“The University’s reputation for delivering premier utility executive education experiences has led industry leaders to seek our expertise,” says Sertich.

The Legislative Energy Horizon Institute, to be held in Portland, Oregon, in July will educate 60 U.S. and Canadian legislators on the North American energy infrastructure and delivery system. Partnering with the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Department of Energy, the University is building off an initial program held in 2009. 

Building on the success of continuing education and good business practices, Sertich says the executive programs are self-funded and designed in response to our alumni and industry leaders.

“We listen and respond to our stakeholders,” says Sertich.