Higher Education

Master of management program marks 40 years

Aquinas College has graduated 1,800 students from graduate business degree program that focuses on leadership skills.

October 13, 2017
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Aquinas College started its master of management program in 1977 in response to demand for more specialized leadership training than what an MBA program could offer.

Now in its 40th year, the Catholic liberal arts college program has graduated more than 1,800 students looking to advance up the ranks within their own companies or adapt to new career paths.

The program’s 2016 enrollment was 54 students, down from 68 in 2015. Its cost per credit hour is $570 — the median price for area graduate business degree programs.

Over the years, the program has adapted to demand, adding and subtracting various concentrations. It currently offers three tracks: marketing management, organizational leadership and sustainable business.

Cindy VanGelderen, interim director of the master of management since May and chair of the accounting department, said the evolution has been in response to changing philosophies of management.

“Management science and leadership have developed over time, so we keep those current,” she said. “We’ve always had leadership, group dynamics, teams and project management. We’ve always had a focus on what would be the skills of managers and leaders in an organization.”

The program requires students to have a minimum of two years of management experience prior to enrolling, whether post-undergrad or during, and most students are established professionals who want to take on greater leadership roles.

“It’s a great combination of theory and practice, so students feel they can implement what they learn in the work environment right away,” VanGelderen said. “There’s no cohort, so you can finish as quickly or slowly as you choose. We have a seven-year window, or students can finish as quickly as 16 months.”

Most of the courses are taught on-site at the Jerecki-Lacks building on Aquinas’s campus. But some are online and some are a hybrid of both.

Courses include “The Global Economy,” “Ethics and Social Responsibility of Management” and “Research, Analytics and Decision-Making.”

VanGelderen, who teaches an accounting class in the program called “Managing Financial Decisions,” said data analytics is one of the biggest topics being discussed in the master of management over the past few years.

“(We are seeing) data analytics and data-driven decision-making, management theory and what’s happening with best-in-class companies, the role of social media and digital marketing,” she said.

She said the “Research, Analytics and Decision-Making” course focuses on changes that are common to all industries right now, “in terms of access to information.”

One of the strengths of the program, she said, is students are able to bring their awareness of what is going on in their own fields to the table.

“We have very diverse backgrounds, which adds a richness to the classroom,” she said. “We have students from for-profit, nonprofit, governmental jobs. Students value the insights from other students.”

VanGelderen said many students come to the sustainability track not necessarily looking to specialize in that field but in hopes of influencing their current organizations’ sustainability practices. One of the pillars of the concentration is the college’s Innovations Lab, which is part classroom discussion, part hands-on practice projects.

“A lot of organizations have target sustainability goals. Master of management sustainability students are looking at that or are looking at sustainability practices in their organizations. If they are going to switch organizations, they will go to sustainability positions,” she said.

“There are a lot of sustainability positions in organizations, like hospitals. Target in Minneapolis has a sustainability group,” and she said plenty of Benefit Corporations (B Corps) are popping up, which are for-profit corporations certified by the nonprofit B Lab and committed to positive social, environmental and economic impact.

“We bring sustainability conversation into a lot of what we’re doing (throughout the program),” VanGelderen said.

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