News & Features

Better Foundation

posted Jan. 18, 2008

MBA Programs

by Jennifer Russ

Ladue News

January 4, 2008

Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, founded in 1900, was the first to offer a master's degree in the commercial sciences, the forbearer of the modern MBA. Today, the MBA is one of the most popular master's degrees to obtain, with programs offering the degree found on all six continents. In part because of their popularity, MBA programs tend to adapt to their student pool, usually full-time professionals. We spoke with three educators in the field to find out what's going on in the local MBA scene.

"Our MBA is a true MBA, focusing on the four business principles: marketing, management, accounting, and finance," says Jerry Bladdick, associate vice president for graduate and adult education at Fontbonne University. Something new Fontbonne has been experiencing, Bladdick reports, is that 15 to 20 percent of its graduates are returning for a second graduate business degree, usually in accounting or management. Fontbonne also has seen more and more women enrolling in its Options MBA program, he says, so they now comprise 42 percent of the student body.

Since employers hiring Fontbonne graduates are looking for people with strong communication skills, the University builds communication skills into every course it teaches, including finance and accounting, Bladdick says. Another Fontbonne feature is the laptop that upon successful completion of the two-year evening program students are loaned, which is theirs to keep upon successful completion of the two-year evening program. Fontbonne also offers a weekend MBA for students who can't attend in the evening. After finishing any of its MBA programs, Bladdick says students are "primed for middle to upper management positions."

"With a lot of companies now there's a feeling that exists that it's hard to move beyond a certain level without having that graduate education under your belt." says Evan Bouffides, assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Washington University's Olin School of Business. The school has seen a huge trend in younger students wanting to enroll in its full-time MBA program. Students can also attend Olin's part-time program, which for a working student takes an average of three years to complete.

Olin doesn't require students to declare a specialization of any kind, although these are offered. Every student takes a set of required classes at the beginning of his or her program, then chooses from a wide array of electives, including courses in marketing, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship and strategy.

Bouffides maintains that the MBA is as useful as it is popular. "There are business people who are successful without graduate or even undergraduate degrees, but it's pretty rare," he says. "We're providing people with a toolkit for solving problems, a social network and a business network. We have a lot of very strong alumni who become part of that network as well."

Dr. Pam Horwitz, dean of the John E. Simon School of Business at Maryville University, notes that, in a growing trend, nearly 50 percent of Maryville MBA students come from the liberal arts or the medical professions rather than an undergraduate business background. Over the last 10 years, students have also looked more and more to applying theories and skills they learn. "In a way, the work environment has become an extension of the classroom, and faculty use that as part of their instruction methods. Students go out, come back and apply things," says Horwitz. "It's a multi-loop type of learning."

As at W.U, most Maryville students choose not to specialize intensively but instead select from a host of electives, many of which focus on newer areas, such as project management and global business. New this year at Maryville is a course where students have the chance to run a business through computer simulation. Horwitz also has noticed an increased interest in entrepreneurship classes recently.

Maryville's program usually takes a little longer than two years for evening students to finish. Ninety-eight percent are hired or employed on graduation, Horwitz says. "Does [the MBA] guarantee you a job? No. But it does make you more attractive both in terms of your knowledge base and also in a commitment to being at the front of what's happening in business," she says.

"To me, getting a graduate degree is an exercise in determination," Horwitz contends. "It shows employers that you're willing to continually learn. We have lots of people who come back and tell us how they've succeeded. The MBA provides them with a background some of their colleagues just don't have."

with permission, copyright (2008), Ladue News