Temple Times Online Edition
    OCTOBER 6, 2005
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Revised M.B.A. mixes in real-world learning

The revamped courses and new features are designed to keep Fox grads competitive

Photo by Tommy Leonardi
Professor of accounting Christian Wurst works with students from different Fox School M.B.A. programs: M.D./M.B.A. student Surabhi Gaur, international M.B.A. student Michael Parry, and full-time M.B.A. student and MBA Student Association president Jared Stauffer. The Fox School has significantly revised its nationally ranked full- and part-time M.B.A. programs by redesigning courses, adding real-world learning and incorporating an emphasis on leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

Globalization, rapid advances in information technology and entrepreneurship. At breakneck speed, these trends are helping to shape our global economy. In response, The Fox School of Business and Management has significantly revised its nationally ranked full- and part-time M.B.A. programs by increasing the rigor, adding real-world learning and incorporating an emphasis on leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

“Today’s competitive business environment requires M.B.A. graduates to be more innovative and entrepreneurial in the way they do things,” said M. Moshe Porat, dean of The Fox School.

“We need to make sure students understand how to apply real solutions to real problems in real time, know how to work effectively on teams and demonstrate a strong sense of professional ethics. This is why we re-engineered our M.B.A.”

The redesigned program, coming as a result of an intensive self-study and market research, reflects transformations taking place in business in general, as well as the increasingly talented students that Fox has been recruiting.

Admissions standards for Temple’s M.B.A. programs are the second-highest in the region, said Robert F. Bonner, assistant dean of the M.B.A. and M.S. programs. “Students in the Fox M.B.A. program average in the top 12 percent in the world on the GMAT, and our professional [part-time] students are among the top 20 percent in the world on the GMAT. Students in both programs come to Fox with excellent work experience.”

The redesigned curriculum’s signature program is the Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC) project. The EMC, which evolved from Fox’s award-winning Global Entrepreneurship and Technology program (GET), requires that second-year students work on consulting projects presented by participating firms. While other schools are eliminating their consulting projects, Fox is expanding its program and involving real companies.

According to Bonner, companies are eager to have Fox students consult for them.

Porat explained the benefit for students: “Actual projects are messy and don’t have pre-set solutions. The learning that takes place is at a higher level.”

To prepare for the program, full-time students begin with an intensive three-week pre-term called “M.B.A. Essentials.” There, they take an accelerated course in quantitative business methods; participate in leadership, communication and team-building activities as well as a case competition; and they begin mapping out their career strategies.

“I didn’t anticipate the intensity and value of pre-term,” said M.B.A. student Kyle Hutchinson.

“We were in class every day, had networking activities in the evening and had an ‘Outward Bound’ leadership experience.

“The experience was amazing. I feel like I have known my classmates for years, and this is important as we tackle a rigorous course load requiring significant teamwork.”

After pre-term, full-time students began an aggressive schedule of five classes this fall. These challenging classes, and the entire M.B.A. program, are integrated — meaning cases, assignments and coursework are woven together so students get the most out of the program.

“It is critical that our students analyze problems from multiple perspectives and see how these areas come together in a corporation,” said Arvind Parkhe, academic director for the M.B.A. program.

According to Bonner, The Fox School has an edge over other M.B.A. programs that have tried to integrate their courses. Its large size makes possible the high level of organization required for successful course integration.

In addition to the academic rigor of the program, students in the M.B.A. and professional M.B.A. programs participate in co-curricular activities such as the Leadership Development Program.

Here, with the help of faculty and staff, students develop individualized Leadership Development Plans (LDPs) aimed toward their career and professional development goals.

Far from a one-size-fits-all approach, the LDP is customized individually, taking into account each student’s admissions profile, previous work experience, career goals and other relevant information. “By virtue of being accepted into our programs, our students are high-performance leaders, so we wanted to make this tool accessible to them,” Bonner said.

Hand-in-hand with the LDP in helping students achieve their goals is the new option for specialization. To gain in-depth knowledge, students take five specialized courses in their area of choice — finance, healthcare management, information technology and more. Students also can customize their specialization by creating a portfolio of courses that meet their specific goals.

Recognizing that sound decision-making skills grounded in ethics have never been more important to companies recruiting new employees, the redesign also includes an increased focus on ethics. That focus includes a required course in ethics and the integration of ethics across the program.

Many programs, Bonner said, focus on ethics in a single course and never speak of them again.

“We wanted our faculty in each discipline to incorporate ethics into their classes. A lot of M.B.A. programs have rushed to put ethics into their curricula, following the breach in business ethics evidenced in companies such as Enron and Tyco. The ethics requirement for M.B.A. students at Fox has been in place since 2000, before the redesign.”

All in all, the redesigned M.B.A. program is intended to give better students a better business education.

“We re-engineered our M.B.A. programs to ensure that the talented students who earn their M.B.A.s at Fox are positioned in today’s competitive environment to achieve their career goals,” Bonner said.

- By Mike Benner

How it happened: GET to EMC
A key to The Fox School of Business and Management’s redesigned M.B.A. program is its new Enterprise Management Consulting Program (EMC), an innovative, hands-on learning experience where teams of M.B.A. students get invaluable experience working on a real project with a real client company.

The EMC grew from the outstanding success of the Global Entrepreneurship and Technology (GET) program. “We realized that the GET was a very valuable experience for students,” says T.L. Hill, faculty manager of the EMC. “Students who go through it talk about it extensively in job interviews and it’s on students’ resumes. So we decided to take the GET experience and make it into a capstone that is required for all students. Now, we’ve developed the EMC program, which is the new umbrella under which GET now sits.”

The EMC program partners three or four students in a team using a questionnaire designed to weigh different characteristics, such as experience, age and writing, communication and quantitative skills. The students are then placed in groups and assigned to live consulting projects with real companies.

“Over the course of the years, companies saw the quality of the work done for our consulting projects,” said Robert F. Bonner, assistant dean of the M.B.A. program. “They’re excited to work with our students.”

The companies couldn’t agree more. “As a direct consequence of the students’ research and introductions,” said Richard Davis, CEO of MedStaff Carolinas LLC, “we reoriented our strategy to become trusted advisers rather than service providers. The work from the Fox students was far superior and less expensive than similar work from at least two of the largest business consulting firms.”

As for the students, the consulting project is often the most valuable part of their M.B.A. education.

“I find myself using the tools that I learned in my consulting project quite often in my job,” said Tara Newman, international M.B.A. class of 2002. “I left a full-time job to attend the I.M.B.A. program. By the time our consulting project rolled around, I was ready to go back to work. It really helped me to get my mind focused back in the business world.”