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Western MBA program seeks to meet heightened demand

A challenging regional and national economy has placed heightened emphasis on building academic foundations to compete in a highly competitive jobs market, and a growing number of students are pursuing that objective by enrolling in Western’s Master of Business Administration program.

Professor of Management Dr. Fred Tesch, coordinator of the Ancell School of Business MBA program since 1997, observed during a recent interview that the university’s MBA admissions have risen steadily over the past several years. For the 2011 calendar year through mid-September, MBA admissions already had reached 24 students, and he projected admissions could rise to around 30 by yearend. That would mark a substantial rise from MBA admissions totaling 20 students for calendar 2010, and 17 for 2009.

Rising interest in Western’s MBA program has been accompanied by heightened demand for financial assistance from applicants who are currently unemployed, or whose employers offer limited or no subsidy to staff for covering job-related educational costs, Tesch noted.

“I’m getting more inquiries from applicants to the program about financial aid,” he said. “There is a real need.

“The situation has changed over the past three or four years,” he added. “Some employers are no longer offering any tuition assistance; others have significantly reduced the amount they make available for tuition help to their employees. So now we find a prospective MBA student sometimes will tell us, ‘I have to do this on my own, and a scholarship would make it possible.’”

Since its establishment in 1987, Western’s MBA degree program has focused primarily on offering a curriculum designed to address the instructional and scheduling needs of working professionals who are seeking to strengthen managerial and business skills, and who must balance part-time studies with full-time employment. Degree requirements include a 24-credit cluster of prerequisites, open to waiver in part or in full if satisfied by appropriate prior courses taken, and a mandatory MBA course plan of seven required courses in management, marketing, information systems, finance and accounting as well as three electives. Most MBA students complete their degree within two-and-a-half to four years, though it is possible with full waiver of prerequisites to complete degree requirements in less than two years.

The current MBA program enrollment of approximately 60 students evidences a wide diversity of ages, backgrounds and career objectives, ranging from veteran professionals seeking a new career direction to students who enter the MBA curriculum directly after completing a bachelor’s degree, Tesch remarked.

“Some students in the program are looking to enhance their academic credentials for their job search,” he said. “Others are career changers looking for help to move out of their current situations as, say, a teacher who has decided to pursue a career in business. We have a fair representation of students who work for nonprofit organizations, and our program serves their needs as well.”  

A reflection of the diverse professional experience that students bring to the Western MBA program is evident in the team of four MBA students who earned the $10,000 top prize in a nationwide case competition this spring to design a leadership volunteer institute for the American Association of Retired Persons. Rachid Chtioui serves as a financial systems corporate manager at Pepsico, with more than 16 years’ experience in information technology applications in business and finance. Kathleen Lindenmayer is a captain in the U.S. Navy who retired in 2010 after 26 years’ active service, primarily as an intelligence officer. Thomas Loughman is president and trustee of the Barden Foundation, and served for 28 years in executive positions including controller and chief financial officer for corporate divisions of the Schaeffler Group. Stacey Miller provided support services to consumer products firms in her eight-year tenure at the Nielsen Company and now serves as on-site client manager at Heineken USA,

A lackluster jobs market also has contributed to a rising number of applications from undergraduate students who plan to continue their studies to earn an MBA degree.  Western’s required MBA courses are taught by full-time faculty members of the Ancell School of Business. Tesch cited quality instruction in small classes conducive to discussion, team-building exercises and faculty accessibility as solid draws in attracting students to the program.

In addition to taking advantage of Western faculty relationships with regional businesses, students also stand to benefit from opportunities for networking made possible by the diverse backgrounds among their peers. “In one of our MBA cohorts,” Tesch noted, “the 25 students in the group represented 22 different employers. We’ve had students who network with one another to learn about job opportunities that can help them in making career transitions.”

Pictured in photo above: MBA student team who won the AARP case competition in May, (Front Row, L to R) Stacey Miller '11, Kathleen M. Lindenmayer, Thomas Loughman CPA; (Back Row, L to R) Rachid Chtioui, faculty advisor Dr. Karen L. Koza  

Thumbnail photo on homepage: Two team members during the video conference presentation to AARP, Kathleen M. Lindenmayer and Thomas Loughman CPA


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