Redesigned MBA Updates Students for Modern Workplace

Key School of Business players in redesign of the Master's Degree in Business Administration, (left to right) William Danko, MBA Program Director, interim School Dean Donald Borque, and John Levato.

When first-year Masters of Business Administration students began classes at the School of Business on Aug. 28, they found themselves in a program unlike most other MBA programs in the country and substantially changed from the program taken by last year's entering class.

"Our MBA program was originally designed to be the student's first professional degree in business," said Donald Bourque, the School's interim dean. "In the '60s and '70s, most of our students came to us without business backgrounds — their undergraduate degrees were in various liberal arts fields. As more and more students enter the program with experience in the business world or an undergraduate degree in business, it's become necessary to tailor the program — especially the first year — so that experienced students won't feel they're getting a lot of repetition and those who don't have a business background won't feel lost."

The first year of the program is now divided into four, seven-and-one-half-week quarters instead of semesters, said Bourque. This structure allows the School to offer more variety in the first-year courses. Students with appropriate backgrounds can opt out of some beginning courses in which they are already proficient and, instead, concentrate on team building, database management or other areas they haven't been exposed to previously. New courses, including Presentations Skills, Managerial Skills, Global Business, and Database Management, have been added to the first-year curriculum.

"We feel that these changes will benefit all of our students as well as their future employers," said Professor William Danko, MBA program director. "Businesses are demanding a more skill-based education that allows new hires to bring a higher degree of proficiency to the workplace."

The second year of the program will continue to be highly specialized, allowing students to become proficient in a particular area of concentration such as finance, marketing, management information systems or human resource information systems, according to Bourque. The variety of electives has been broadened, and students are encouraged to "cross over" and take electives from other disciplines.

"We will continue to produce graduates who are in high demand with the big consulting firms such as Andersen Consulting, Deloitte Touche, Towers Perrin, and Price Waterhouse as well as companies such as Goldman Sachs, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Citicorp, Merk Pharmaceuticals, Morgan Stanley and Microsoft," said Borque. "That's because, unlike most MBA programs which produce general managers, we produce specialists who can design a system, analyze a market or build a comprehensive financial model in their first jobs — but who also have the general management orientation that will allow them to grow into more general positions as they progress through their careers."

Judy Genshaft, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, praised the move. "As a University Center in a major state university system, we have a special responsibility to provide our students with an education that will serve them well in tomorrow's business world," she said. "The School of Business is once again demonstrating the kind of flexibility that helps us live up to that responsibility."

The School's part-time program has also been redesigned so that it can be completed over a three-year period. Courses are offered in the evening during the fall, spring and summer semesters. "The University's School of Business has been and continues to be committed to providing quality business education to the working adult," said James Cramer, director of executive education. "Our new program, which includes a summer semester, continues that tradition. Courses continue to be taught on a semester basis to take into consideration the needs of the working adult."

The School also plans to offer certain classes in a format that will allow students to attend two-day intensive classes on weekends two or three times during a semester.

"The revision is an example of adjusting our offerings to meet the needs of our students in a changing business environment," said Interim President Karen Hitchcock. "I applaud the paradigm shift that this move implies."

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