Libby Newport

Elizabeth “Libby” Newport didn’t have the opportunity to walk in commencement in 1994 when she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She’ll make up for that Saturday at UMSL’s commencement. As the student marshal, Newport will lead all the other graduates into the gymnasium at the Mark Twain Athletic & Fitness Center.

Newport, who will receive a master’s degree in business administration during the ceremony, is one of 15 students earning their MBA through a special cohort of existing Express Scripts employees. They were selected by the company’s upper management to participate in a unique Express Scripts-focused section of the university’s Professional MBA program, which is a hybrid of online and in-class courses.

Newport, who maintained a 4.0 grade point average, is the senior director of pharma and retail strategy at Express Scripts’s headquarters on the UMSL campus. Since starting with the company four years ago, she’s been interested in earning her MBA. She even went as far as to look into taking classes at UMSL. But with her demanding work schedule and family life, she couldn’t seem to find the time.

“Then one of my supervisors, knowing I wanted to earn my MBA, nominated me for this new program,” she said. “And it couldn’t have been more convenient. The classes were taught right here in (an Express Scripts) conference room.”

Thomas Eyssell, associate dean and director of Graduate Studies in the College of Business Administration at UMSL, established the program with Express Scripts, which currently has two cohorts of 15 students each. The first cohort will earn its degrees Saturday.

“These participants are really some of the best students I’ve taught in my 30-plus years of teaching,” he said. “I’ve never had classes like these, where every student is a star. They really are all extremely motivated.”

Eyssell said he credits the company for part of that. “That really is the company culture there. All of our ESI PMBA participants have been very bright and motivated.”

In addition to the amazing students in the cohorts, Eyssell said the program has been a success because of the great support it receives. He especially credits the work of Express Scripts employees Melanie Curtis and Loretta Zemel, who help organize the cohorts.

“Support for this goes all the way to the top,” he said. “Everyone at Express Scripts supports this in every way. From the nominations, which are made by management and identified as high performers, to the flexibility given to the participants to take part in the monthly onsite classes. All of these components really have been the key to the program’s success.”

Initially, Eyssell thought creating a specialized program for only Express Scripts employees might take something away from the experiences of the Professional MBA program.

“I’ve always said that the PMBA really fosters a high level of comradery among the cohorts and with the creation of the Express Scripts program, we were concerned that because each person was from the same company, it could change that,” he said. “However because each individual has such a diverse background and unique experiences, that really only made the cohort stronger.”

Newport agreed. She, too, was concerned about the lack of networking opportunities among her peers since they all worked within the same company. The program did, however, give her the opportunity to meet individuals within the company that she might not otherwise have known or worked with. Newport now has a better understanding of what other areas within Express Scripts do and how she can work better with them.

Additionally, she felt the program, which was specialized toward Express Scripts, gave her a great advantage to pull from the classroom and use the knowledge in everyday life.

“One of the great things about this specialized MBA programs, was that faculty were able to gear their courses toward Express Scripts and give us the chance to use our knowledge and really see how it relates to our company,” she said.

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton