Practice + Exceptional Faculty = MBA Success

Practice + Exceptional Faculty = MBA Success
Friday, January 31, 2014

According to Dileep Rao, Forbes contributor, business schools need to start having conversations about “the right balance between theory and practice in business schools,” and there needs to be a push to “bring more reality into business schools.”

As he sees it, “the current tilt towards theory, and away from reality” happening in some schools across the country is a problem. In his words, “it is time for America’s business schools to develop the right balance of research and practice, and measure success in real businesses and jobs.”

Rao is exactly right that a business curriculum dealing only with research misses the mark. Effective courses must address both the theoretical underpinnings of businesses disciplines, as well as their real-world application as sustainable business practices.

At Midland, we’re already striking that balance in three ways. 

First, we recruit faculty who have impressive bona fides, but who are active practitioners of their trades. Students in our Management & Ethics course, for example, learn about competing theories for motivating workers and establishing an ethical corporate culture. When they have questions about how it really works, they get to ask their professor, Terry McClain, SVP and CFO of Valmont Industries, how he’s been helping to do both at Valmont for the past 40 years.  

They also get to ask practical questions of Bill Bennett, Senior Manager of Finance & Strategy at Walmart who teaches Finance at Midland; Avi Atholi, Senior Associate for Treasury Risk Management at First National Bank of Omaha (and formerly PepsiCo), who teaches Economics; Dawn Thiem, who leads process improvement efforts at BlueCross & BlueShield of Nebraska (and formerly at Mutual of Omaha); and a host of other highly qualified and successful practitioners.

Having faculty who understand that students need to know how to put their education into practice—in addition to what is “supposed to work” according to the textbook—is a tremendous asset to Midland students.

The second way we ensure that students are earning practical business knowledge while in school is by requiring each student to engage in a globally-focused consulting project for a company with operations overseas during their final term. This capstone project draws on all the courses students have taken through the MBA program, as well as their individual strengths, as they work in teams to frame, research, and report findings on a real-world problem for a business today in a formal setting. 

This does not just give students the opportunity to practice putting their skills to work; it gives them the opportunity to establish personal connections with businesses in their area of interest.  They accomplish this while being of service to the organization, and broadening their experience dealing with live-action business problems outside their normal purview in their careers. 

Finally, by nature of being a hybrid program, students earning their Midland MBA have the opportunity to practice what they are learning in real-time because they are full-time, working professionals while in school. This means that students don’t have to wait 18-24 months to use a new skill. They can begin to develop in their careers immediately (and many of our students have told us that they do).

The balance of theory and practice in the curriculum, and of being a student and working professional during the program makes for a powerful combination that allows students to maximize the career gains they get from going back to school. We are delighted to hear additional voices like Rao’s calling for expansion of the kinds of principles Midland has embraced in the MBA program, and hope to see more institutions follow this path soon.

If you’re interested in learning more about the layout of the Midland MBA and how it can help you accelerate your career, let us know by reaching out to us directly in the comments, via LinkedIn, through Twitter @MidlandMBA, or by phone at 402-941-6517. We look forward to the conversation!

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photo credit: TheImageGroup via photopin cc

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