When Franco Cusipag was looking to further his education, he turned to the Carlson Executive Education website to review courses. He knew that the programs offered targeted subject matter from top instructors all in a compressed amount of time. When he noticed the scholarship opportunity, his interest was piqued even further.

"We're a small, growing company; so funds are limited," says Cusipag, the VP of finance at Netgain Technology, a healthcare information technology provider based in St. Cloud, Minn. "I came across the scholarship and I knew that if I were to get that, it would be easier for management to support me taking a course. So I applied."

To Cusipag's delight, he in fact did get the scholarship and joined nine others as inaugural winners of the 2010 Carlson Executive Education scholarship, a program designed to offer assistance to small companies and nonprofit organizations that need additional business knowledge to survive and thrive in the current tough economy.

"It was one of my prouder days as an employee, as an academic, as a person," Cusipag says of receiving his scholarship award letter. "I showed it to our CEO right away and got excited."

Cusipag, a University alum, opted to utilize his scholarship toward Mergers & Acquisitions - Creating Shareholder Value, a topic he says is very active in the medical technology field.

"I was fairly excited going in, especially knowing the subject matter was exactly what I needed," he says. "I was pleasantly surprised by the people that attended it. They've got a great mix of people with different perspectives. They had venture capitalists, they had strategists, they had the right industry experience and it made for good discussion.

"I know that the experience was unique and valuable. I got to meet a lot of great people, stayed connected with a handful, and will probably be doing business with some of them."

Mark Kizilos, assistant dean of Carlson Executive Education, says he's very pleased that the scholarship has helped so many Minnesota-based companies.

"Just seeing how this scholarship has opened up opportunities for Franco and the other nine winners is very rewarding," Kizilos says. "Our hope is that this educational opportunity will not only help grow the winners' businesses, but, in turn, the Minnesota economy as well."

Scholarship or no scholarship, Cusipag says that the education he received is well worth the price of a Carlson Executive Education course.

"I would have paid for it, in hindsight, because of the value that I got out of it," he says. "If someone is thinking about continuing their education, consider Carlson Executive Education. It's well-run, it's organized, and I think the quality is outstanding."

Those who are considering continuing their education might be able to do so with the help of a scholarship as Carlson Executive Education has re-launched the program for 2011. Minnesota small companies and nonprofit organizations can apply by articulating how attending a Carlson Executive Education open enrollment program will enable them to overcome challenges or capitalize on opportunities. Carlson Executive Education will again award 10 scholarships for up to $3,500 for one program registration.

To apply, please visit the Carlson Executive Education scholarship website.