After more than a year of discussion and debate, students entering our Evening MBA program this fall will embark on a revised curriculum. It is not a huge change, but one designed to provide a better defined, more intimate, and more challenging program that students can complete in a timely manner.
Our 48 credit hour program was a bit of a “tweener”: too short to provide students with deep expertise in a particular functional area, but longer than necessary for those interested in developing a well-rounded generalist view of the enterprise and markets. Over the last several years, such programs have become increasingly out of step with changes in the demand for graduate business education. Specialty masters programs (e.g., MS in Accounting, MS in MIS) that provide students with expertise in a functional area of business have become popular among students. Unlike MBA programs, admissions into these programs typically does not require the applicant to have significant prior business experience and many can be completed in just one year’s time. Strong relationships between program faculty and a well-defined body of potential employers can also facilitate the transition from graduate school to a career.
Several MBA programs have responded to this shift in demand by focusing on training generalists: developing people with good quantitative and quality skills that understand how the various functional areas of business interact to produce value for customers and shareholders. Some have tried to do this in just one year’s time, especially for students who have undergraduate business degrees. Other programs have tried to provide this generalist training over a greater number of credit hours, believing that a comprehensive understanding of business requires exposure to a wider variety of topics.
Our MBA program revision is consistent with this later view. The new program is six credit hours shorter than the current program. The specialty tracks have been eliminated and students have a small set of electives that will provide them with some choice in rounding out their degree. Courses have been updated to account for recent changes in how businesses operate and to provide students with strong quantitative as well as social skills.
These curriculum changes will be supported by new admissions and scheduling policies. The revised MBA program will only admit students in the Fall and limits admission to no more than 60 students. These sixty students will be provided with block scheduling of courses so that they can get to know their peers better and faculty can better coordinate student experiences across courses. In short we are making the move from a MBA that offered students a list of courses, some of which they had to complete to get a degree, to a MBA program that provides students with a common set of experiences and skills in a more structured setting that allows them to finish their program in two and half to three years while working full time.