The Career Accelerator for MBAs

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The MBA degree has become more and more commonplace, with thousands of students looking forward to graduation in a very short time this spring. Academic institutions concentrate on learning, delivering the academic fundamentals that create a foundation within the workplace. Isn’t there something more beyond the classroom?

For one Dallas-based institution, “higher learning” has turned into higher program rankings – and an improved student experience as well.

The New York Times reports that academic rigor has changed, particularly in the undergraduate environment. The “new rigor” ain’t all that rigorous, as seen here in “The Default Major – Skating through B-School”, another great article in the New York Times. Consider these quotations:

  • Business programs also attract more than their share of students who approach college in purely instrumental terms, as a plausible path to a job, not out of curiosity about, say, Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm.
  • “Business education has come to be defined in the minds of students as a place for developing elite social networks and getting access to corporate recruiters,” says Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard Business School who is a prominent critic of the field. It’s an attitude that Dr. Khurana first saw in M.B.A. programs but has migrated, he says, to the undergraduate level.

What can schools do to create an enhanced experience, and distinguish the value of the business degree?

SMU_Award with Dean Niemi and Chris WestfallOne school that seems to “get it”, and understands that the MBA degree is more than just an instrument (or means to an end) is Dallas’ own Southern Methodist University. Founded in 1911, the school celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, as well as a longstanding tradition of academic excellence, particularly in the Edwin L. Cox School of Business. But what’s most impressive is the school’s commitment to expansive teaching, from the Dallas business community. Spearheaded by Dean Al Niemi, the Business Leadership Center is led by Paula Strasser, a twenty-year SMU veteran with close ties to the Dallas marketplace. Paula has assembled a team of 67 experts from the DFW area, to assist in the real-world learning of SMU MBA students.

“The Edwin L. Cox Business Leadership Center (BLC) develops strong leadership skills that are fundamental in the world of business”, according to the BLC brochure.

I’m proud to be a part of this organization, and join an elite group of 67 business pros who care about SMU, the MBA degree, and the greater Dallas business community.

Approximately 92% of Cox graduate students actively participate in the BLC elective programs – meaning, MBA students invest their time with no grade or credit hours as a ‘reward’. The learning and exposure is, in itself, the value equation – and students report that the experience is impactful, and necessary. The students see the value, and make a real investment in their education – an education that is enhanced outside of the classroom. For many students who choose SMU, the BLC is a deciding factor in their choice, since the BLC is unique among graduate business schools and MBA programs.

Congratulations to Paula Strasser and her team at SMU. And, to Dean Al Niemi, who continues to support this valuable program (now in its 20th year) – I am honored to be a part of this outstanding organization.

How does your college or university connect with business expertise from the surrounding community?  What are they doing right – and what could they do better?

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