WMU News

MBA will prep non-business students for corporate life

April 6, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Trudy Verser knows what it feels like to enter an MBA program without a business background. Now the associate dean for external affairs in Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business, Dr. Verser launched her business studies after earning a bachelor's degree in organizational psychology.

"It was culture shock," Verser says of her early MBA studies. "I encountered a completely different environment, where people interacted in a very different way than I was accustomed to. It took quite awhile before I felt comfortable in the business college."

Today, Verser is helping to launch the Haworth College of Business "Cooperative Master of Business Administration Program," which is designed to ease the process of earning an MBA for students whose bachelor's degrees are in non-business fields. The college is recruiting students both from the WMU undergraduate ranks and from liberal arts and historically minority colleges.

College officials expect to have a first class of 20 to 25 students enrolled by fall. A six-person committee from the college will be working to support them from day one. Their 21-month MBA studies will begin with an orientation program that will introduce them to the business culture and encourage strong bonds between participants.

"These students will form a kind of support group," Verser says. "They will take classes together and meet on a regular basis, so they'll always have access to others with a similar background."

The first of five semesters will include an intensive introduction to business studies, including courses in accounting, finance, economic analysis and global business. During the second and fourth semesters, the students will undertake full-time internships in concert with one electronic course, to be supplemented with additional classroom work during the remaining two semesters.

The focus on internship training is to introduce students to the corporate world, according to Dr. David Burnie, professor of finance and commercial law, who is helping to spearhead the program.

"At WMU, we have a very high percentage of employed people in our MBA program," says Burnie. "And traditionally, even full-time MBA students usually have several years of work experience behind them. In order for these non-traditional candidates to be competitive in the job market, they need some solid work experience behind them."

College officials expect the MBA students to come from fields as diverse as social work, biology, journalism and mathematics. Verser believes that graduates of the program will offer valuable combinations of skills to potential employers.

"I see these MBA graduates doing some really interesting work," she says. "For instance, someone who has an undergraduate degree in music might combine that experience with their MBA work to become an executive in the recording industry, or perhaps take a position with an Internet music company. And I envision that some of the students from social work backgrounds will gain the skills needed to run an effective nonprofit agency. The possibilities are limitless."

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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