Qiagen offers free MBA degree program to top-performing employees

November 18, 2012

Company: Qiagen.

Location: Germantown, Gaithersburg.

Employees: 1,000 locally; 4,000 globally.

In her master’s thesis presentation in October, Rowaida Gaffar made the case for implementing a paperless lab notebook system at a biomedical company.

That company, Qiagen, is her employer, and she had spent the past two years studying for a degree in business administration on its dime.

Now that she has graduated, her project is becoming a reality: From Qiagen’s Gaithersburg office, she’s working to enact a transition in her division to electronic recordkeeping.

“They invested in me, and now I truly am committed to putting what I learned to good use,” Gaffar said.

Qiagen, which is based in Hilden, Germany, selects 20 top-performing employees a year to participate in a two-year MBA program. The curriculum is offered through the University of Wurzburg in Germany, in partnership with Boston University and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Employees continue to work full-time at Qiagen, but are able to obtain their degrees through a combination of distance-learning activities and regular trips to Germany.

The company not only covers the cost of tuition, it pays for travel, hotels, meals, textbooks and other related expenses. In exchange, the employee must agree to stay with Qiagen for two years after finishing his or her studies.

“We have a lot of individuals who are now much more educated about what it takes to run a business and what it takes to run a company,” said Paula Green, vice president of global human resources services.

Gaffar said one of her favorite aspects of the program is its cross-cultural nature. Having had classmates from Beijing, Singapore, Valencia and other cities, she feels that she learned to work more effectively with a wide range of people.

That sentiment, Green said, is in line with what she has heard from many other participants.

“I think what they found very exciting and challenging was that they were able to learn in an international setting,” Green said. “They had a large cultural experience in addition to their educational experience.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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