In 2005, MU’s College of Business formed a committee of 34 faculty, alumni and students to figure out how to better prepare students for the business world. Over a six-month period, the committee came up with a plan that school officials hope will enhance the school’s research efforts and its collaboration with businesses, alumni and students.
Officials also hope to increase the use of the latest information technology and make the school’s student body more diverse.
The changes come at a time when some leaders in education and business have expressed doubts about the quality of business education in the United States.
In the May 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review, two professors at the University of Southern California lamented the state of the American business school. Graduating students lack the necessary skills and ethical judgment, and wrote Warren Bennis and James O’Toole of USC’s Marshall School of Business, and business schools are “institutionalizing their own irrelevance.”
Others, such as Carl Schramm, chief executive officer of the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, say business schools are stuck in the past because they missed the transformation in the economy that changed the old, bureaucratic capitalist into the new, cutting-edge entrepreneur.
Another problem facing many MBA programs, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, is the lack of professors with Ph.Ds.
But that’s not an issue at Missouri, said Allen Bluedorn, associate dean of graduate studies and research at MU. All of the approximately 50 tenure track faculty at MU have a Ph.D. “We probably wouldn’t even look at someone without a Ph.D. or Ph.D. equivalent, except in the most extraordinary circumstances,” Bluedorn said.
MU’s plan includes major changes in the classroom model. In fall 2008, the school will begin offering a number of 1½-credit hour classes to be taken in seven- or eight-week sessions. Bluedorn said that other schools, including the University of Iowa and Indiana University, require fewer credit hours and core classes than MU. Changing MU’s business programming, he said, will make the school more competitive with those kinds of peer programs.
“Process-wise, this is a radical change,” Bluedorn said. “If we can pull it off, it will create more flexibility, make it easier for students to schedule their courses and complete their degrees in two years.”
Bluedorn also stressed the importance of the college’s collaboration with major companies to enrich students’ experience. In the past, students have taken trips to visit to p executives. Last year, students took a bus trip to Omaha, Neb., to visit Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the second-leading billionaire in the world.
More than 100 company managers and executives are brought onto MU’s campus throughout the year to give students the opportunity to meet and get advice from real-world professionals, Bluedorn said. The executives begin by giving a lecture and visiting classes related to their professions. The list of executives wh o have visited recently includes the heads of Ameritrade and Scottrade, the CEO of Yum!Brands (the company that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, A&W and KFC), and the CEO of Sprint.
“The same week Sprint merged with Nextel, he (Sprint’s CEO) was here, talking about it,” Bluedorn said. “I think it’s a great experience for students.”
The school also puts a premium on hands-on experience, Bluedorn said. Students in the MBA, program have worked on projects with Suzuki of Columbia, IconoPsych LLC and the Missouri Film Commission. The business school also offers students plenty of opportunities through its Speaker Series and personal lunches, during which students meet executives and business people who can become mentors or possibly future employers.
“The best part of the business school is the relationships the school has with firms,” said junior Paul Murray, who came to MU to study accountancy. Murray said he felt the business school would prepare him for life in the real world because “the business school offers many opportunities through events and organizations where I can practice important skills like leadership and teamwork.”
Educators in the College of Business also hope to promote collaboration between students and business executives through the Cornell Leadership Program. Limited to around 50 of the “best and the brightest,” according to Bluedorn, students study in a “special enrichment program.” In addition to being mentored by a Missouri graduate and developing a close relationship with a faculty member at the college, students also engage in activities that take them beyond the classroom. Here, they get the chance to “meet top execs from Fortune 500 companies face-to-face,” Bluedorn said.
So far, the changes made by MU’s business school seem to be working. The Crosby MBA Program, which will soon be featured in The Princeton Review’s “Best 282 Business Schools,” has increased in national rankings collected by U.S. News & World Report, advancing from No. 81 in 2003 to No. 59 in 2007.
Sophomore Jennifer Guenther, an international business major, said the school’s new approach to educating business majors was one of the reasons she chose MU.
“At orientation, they told us that one of their goals is to be in the top 20 business schools in the country,” Guenther said. “That’s something I definitely took into consideration when choosing a school.”