Deadline this week for new GVSU MBA

February 14, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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Grand Valley State University has been accepting applications for several months for the second cohort of its new Full-time Integrated Master of Business Administration degree; the application deadline expires Wednesday.

There is no other MBA program like it in Michigan, according to Sridhar Sundaram, chair of the GVSU finance department and academic director of FIMBA.

"We are looking for emerging leaders," said Sundaram. "As we do the interviews, we are trying to identify people who we believe have that leadership potential."

The program guarantees each student some study abroad, a paid fellowship and a stint in Washington, D.C. The 14-month program is unique in several ways: It is designed for recently graduated business students, but unlike traditional MBA programs, it uses the full business cycle as a framework for lesson plans, according to GVSU.

The faculty will team teach the classes so that issues such as raising capital, product launch and operational management are actually integrated into the coursework.

Each student is guaranteed a paid fellowship for 12 months of the program, which runs parallel with classes. Students work 20 hours per week for one of the partner companies for most of the course, working full-time the final two months of the summer. This provides students an opportunity to immediately apply the knowledge they've gained through their studies.

Students attend the Washington Campus Program in Washington, D.C., to gain knowledge of the inner workings of the American political system and deepen their understanding of the relationship between business and government. Each student also will study abroad during the part of the course that is focused on international business. There is no extra fee; the cost is built into the tuition.

Sundaram said the first cohort of 12 students began classes in late June 2011 and will graduate in August this year. At the end of February, the class leaves for China, where students will spend 10 days learning about the processes of international expansion and overseas sourcing. Sundaram said the students will visit the locations of some West Michigan companies that have partnerships in China, plus some Chinese companies. One of the locations with a West Michigan connection is RoMan Manufacturing, which builds electrical transformers at its joint venture in Shanghai.

Another joint venture the class will visit involves Twisted X Boots, a Texas-based cowboy boot company with manufacturing in Dongguan. One of the owners of Twisted X is Prasad Reddy, who began his career with Wolverine World Wide in the 1970s and lived in West Michigan for years.

The FIMBA program has a number of corporate partners involved, including X-Rite, American Seating, Consumers Energy, Priority Health, Mill Steel, Fifth Third Bank, Almond Products in Spring Lake and Steelcase. About half are sponsoring two fellowships this year; the others are sponsoring one.

Last fall the students spent a week in Washington, D.C., which Sundaram said is unique among MBA programs. "This is part of the program; they get to see how things work inside the Beltline, as part of the public-private partnership," he said.

In operation for more than 30 years, the Washington Campus Program is a nonprofit university consortium of 17 graduate business schools from major universities across the United States. Participants come face-to-face with public policy officials who teach from experience and help those outside the nation's capital understand how Washington really works, how legislative and regulatory changes really get made, and what new challenges or opportunities will evolve as the result of likely policy changes, according to the organization's website.

For the typical part-time MBA program, which takes two years to complete, GVSU accepts professionals who normally already have three to five years of experience working in their professions. For FIMBA, GVSU seeks "very non-traditional" students, he said.

"We're looking for someone with one to three years experience" working in their profession, "or sometimes no experience," said Sundaram.

He said the Seidman College of Business at GVSU expects to receive about 30 to 40 applicants for the second cohort that begins in late June. About 20 will be accepted, he said.

The first cohort was launched very quickly, according to Sundaram, which is why it only has a dozen students. The planned increase in the second cohort reflects the university's desire to grow the program in a very controlled process, he said, because it includes a paid fellowship.

"We want to make sure we get quality students and quality positions," he said.

The selection process is different from other MBA programs, too. A preliminary requirement is a minimum GPA of 3.3 and minimum GMAT score of 550. Those selected for interviews undergo a videotaped interview (in some cases, via Skype or other online medium). The taped interviews by university personnel are then shown to the partnership companies.

"We want to be sure that for anyone we recruit, our corporate partners feel comfortable employing them in the fellowships," said Sundaram.

The FIMBA is less expensive for students than the normal MBA program, said Sundaram, because the paid fellowship earns each student from $20,000 to $25,000, and also, because it is an accelerated 14-month program instead of two years, there will be lower living expenses.

Sundaram said GVSU officials are certain demand will continue to increase for admission to the program.

"It is a very unique curriculum that truly brings integration into all the things that we do" at the GVSU Seidman College of Business, said Sundaram.

He expects that after the third year of the FIMBA, "we will be well-known throughout the state and region."

Students interested in the program should call (616) 331-7400 or visit

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