UMSL Business Blog

Everything You Need to Know About the UMSL DBA Program

By Katelyn Chostner


The University of Missouri-St. Louis has so many fascinating aspects about it, but recently I just found a major part of our university that blew my mind. UMSL offers a Doctor of Business Administration program to senior executives from all over the U.S. This means that people from companies like Boeing, Humana, USDA and more are choosing UMSL to get their DBA!

The DBA program started in November 2017 with 12 people in its cohort. The reason this program is so awesome is that it’s an executive program. This means that all of the students in the program are senior executives from different companies. Once a class starts, they meet once a month on a Friday and Saturday. Right now, there are a total of three cohorts and the first group will be graduating in 2020.

This program is run by Director, Doctor of Business Administration Ekin Pellegrini; Administrative Director Francesca Ferrari; and Program Manager Rebecca Leathers. When they first started to market the DBA program, they collaborated with the Executive DBA Council (EDBAC). This led UMSL’s program to be named one of the top 20 DBA programs in the world. This is in our backyard!


When I was speaking with Pellegrini and Ferrari, I started to get a sense of just how elite this program is. Executives fly in from 12 different states in the U.S., their farthest being from Alaska.

“Honestly, we were so surprised that people were actually choosing us over programs in their own cities,” said Pellegrini. Most of the students in the program have DBA programs in their home states, but UMSL’s was the one they chose.

One of the things that set UMSL’s DBA program apart from others is the close connection with EDBAC as an accredited institution.

“We’re very closely connected; we need to go to conferences and be visible in the community and help them out. We volunteer; EDBAC has a journal and I’m on the editorial board. So, we help them [EDBAC] a lot and so then, they help us back,” said Pellegrini.


Another thing that makes the program so inviting to execs is the connection that they have with faculty.

“The first cohort round is already over a year and a half into the program…It’s a big family, even if they struggle, they feel like they can reach out to us if they have something,” said Ferrari.

As we talked, I realized that the students in the class weren’t just any executives; they were CEOs, CFOs, and COOs from large renowned companies. Pellegrini showed a video of their first cohort and started pointing out the executives shown. “This guy is the CEO of Nidec… When we say ‘executive’ people just throw out that word, but this is a real executive.”

She went on to show several other people featured in the video who are leaders of large companies. For this November’s new cohort, they already have an applicant from Seattle. The applicant is with Amazon is the director of the global supply chain and has 450 people reporting to her. I cannot stress this enough: people from HUGE companies are choosing UMSL to get their DBA in!

Pellegrini and Ferrari wanted to know exactly why people started to choose their program over others, so they asked their students.

“One thing that they all tell us is that we’re not trying to sell that we care. They all say, ‘I honestly felt that you care about our education and you care about our experience’ so that personal touch and that care to make sure that they make the right decision shows that we really care about them,” said Pellegrini.

It’s important that UMSL makes this care a priority for students in the cohort because it is a three-year program they are enrolling in. This means that students will be taking a rigorous education course load and UMSL gives them the investment they need to succeed in this program.

“[Students] want to go to a program that they know, for three years, will care about them and they are not just seeing them as a revenue force. I think [students] really make that connection with us and they feel that we’re going to be there for them after they enroll in the program as well,” said Pellegrini.

Everything in this program is due to the great team effort that is applied. Pellegrini handles the recruitment while Ferrari maintains the academic program with the help of Leathers. UMSL is competing with 20 other university programs that have a lower retention rate. Most of them have a retention rate of 80 percent while UMSL has succeeded in keeping a 100 percent retention rate out of all three cohorts.

Students are able to add to their extensive education with courses that help them deal with real business issues.

According to the DBA program website, “The program follows a lock-step cohort model and is designed to train practitioner-scholars beyond the MBA curriculum. The DBA program will help you develop proficiency in applied research by improving your methodological and analytical skills.”

All of this planning and execution has taken several years to set up. With the approval of the program and curriculum, this has not been an easy road by any means, but it has definitely been rewarding. UMSL has created this amazing program for senior executives to attain the best education they can get along with care and investment from a great team.

If you are interested in extending your education with UMSL’s DBA program make sure to take a look at their website and see if it’s right for you!