GVSU to launch full-time MBA program

November 14, 2009
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The full-time master’s of business administration program now under development at Grand Valley State University would put students on the fast track.

Aimed at students with freshly inked undergraduate diplomas, the new program would take 14 months to complete, with two summers sandwiching an academic year, said Sridhar Sundaram, chair of the finance department at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business and head of the committee developing the new program.

GVSU’s part-time MBA program, with classes offered in the evening to accommodate working adults, takes about 16 months to complete. It has 255 students and will remain on the menu. Some 2,055 students are enrolled in the Seidman College of Business as undergraduates.

In mulling the challenge from Seidman College of Business’s Dean H. James Williams to review options for graduate programs, Sundaram said college representatives considered several options before settling on the accelerated concept for students with relatively little professional experience.

Sundaram said two major factors went into the decision: suggestions from the business community and competition.

“We’re seeing different universities set up shop here in Grand Rapids, whether it’s Western or Michigan State or even Central. So, clearly, we wanted to address: How do we respond to this competition that’s here in the marketplace?” Sundaram said.

“The majority of our students end up staying in West Michigan. We wanted to offer the opportunity for our graduates who are still here in West Michigan a full-time opportunity to continue.”

Sundaram said the full-time program also could be more attractive to women as a way to continue their education prior to having a family. He said participation by women students is higher than if their only option is to work during the day and attend classes in the evenings while taking care of children.

“Right now, the MBA program has only about a 40 percent participation rate by women. We have some very bright students, and this may well provide them an opportunity to continue their education on the management side,” Sunaram said.

“And, given the economy, we thought this would be an opportunity for our students to enhance their level of education before things improve, and they’ll be well-placed at that point in time.”

In the new full-time program, which is expected to accept its first 30 students in 2011, students will work their way through the curriculum as a cohort, he said.

“What we are looking at is not a traditional two-year MBA, but an accelerated program of 12 to 14 months,” Sundaram said.

For example, at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where the full-time, two-year MBA program clocks in at nearly $100,000 just for tuition, the average student is 28 years old and has five years of on-the-job experience.

Sundaram said GVSU’s advisory board of area business professionals was enthusiastic about introducing an attainable program that would serve their talent needs.

“We are also looking at a nontraditional market, students who have either little or no experience, and then give them a very different exposure. We can take them and give them a very broad understanding of business per se,” Sundaram said. “And the business community — this is what they want from these grads. We’re going to infuse that with a significant amount of professional development along with practical experience.”

He said the business school intends to develop a set of “corporate partners” who will work with students through the 14-month program. The program’s second summer will be devoted to internships, an important part of today’s business education, he said.

The business school is still working to pull together the curriculum, which requires approval from the university before being presented to prospective students.

While the goal is to work with existing faculty to adjust workloads to accommodate the new program, there may be hiring in the future.

“If we see significant growth in the future, if we are able to grow this and it’s a successful program, we will be looking at additional faculty,” Sundaram said.

He said the college plans to seek accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. GVSU’s current programs already carry the accreditation.

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