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Miami University Develops Mini-MBA

Curriculum Planning and Development

Miami University Develops Mini-MBA

At the turn of the 20th century, the master of business administration (MBA) degree was developed to encourage the use of scientific approaches to management as the industrial revolution hit its zenith and demanded these new approaches to business. Now, a century later, institutions are responding to market demands by developing “Mini-MBA” programs that allow students to gain critical business knowledge without the time commitment of pursuing a full MBA degree. One such institution launching a program is Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Miami is well known for its undergraduate business education delivered through the Farmer School of Business, and it also has a robust slate of graduate offerings. However, the Mini-MBA lets the institution reach a different market while effectively using existing institutional resources.

Brad Bays is director of Miami’s MBA program; he notes that developing a program that is designed to be responsive to the market requires a different approach than that traditionally used when developing a new degree program. “Academia comes at programs as ‘here’s what we do well,’” he says, contrasting this with the development process for the new Mini-MBA. “We’ve done market research, and we went to companies and benchmarked with other schools in midsize markets.”

The program, which is holding its first session this spring, meets in downtown Cincinnati, allowing the opportunity to be accessible to business professionals who may not be able to travel to the Oxford campus. It meets every Monday night for 14 consecutive weeks, each week addressing a different business topic. Topics include accounting, financial management, supply chain basics, strategic planning, and business law, among others. The program ends, as do many traditional MBA programs, with a case competition.

The initial enrollment was targeted at 25 to make activities like the case competition possible. “An MBA [program] is a contact sport; you have to get the people in the room,” Bays says. Early indications are that the institution has succeeded in reaching its target market, as it received around 40 applications for space in the program. Most of these applicants had between 10 and 15 years of experience in business, which will add a great deal of student expertise to the discussions.

The variety of program topics means that Miami could draw upon its existing Farmer School faculty and other business professionals affiliated with the university without asking any one of these experts to commit to a full teaching schedule or take time away from their duties in Oxford with the undergraduate program, an issue that is always tops in the minds of Miami administrators, who treasure the school’s reputation for undergraduate teaching. “This is a resource-light program,” Bays says, an important factor when launching an initiative such as this one.

Bays notes that the program had to be well designed from the start since it had a limited number of main campus faculty to draw upon and needed to be designed to be sustainable and able to grow over time. “We had to look at how we could deliver without a big investment,” says Bays. “We had to make money from the get-go.”

The program offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for both the students and the university. Students get an overview of a wide range of business topics in a very manageable time frame, paying $3,000 for the course while earning four continuing education credits. Should they then decide to enroll in a Miami MBA degree program, they can apply their tuition to that program. Students will have the benefit of putting a program from Miami University and the Farmer School on their resumes, an achievement that carries weight in the region and increasingly across the country.

It’s also a boon for the university, because special sessions of the Mini-MBA can be tailored to specific community needs. The university can take the program, in total or in part, into companies that want to provide this training for their employees. It can also offer the program at various locations; Miami has already reserved space in Cincinnati for a fall session of the Mini-MBA, and it may expand to offering a session at its Voice of America campus, which is located halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton.

Bays believes the Mini-MBA represents an evolution in the demands on higher education. The Mini-MBA fills a gap in the offerings that range from the full graduate-level MBA down to the single course from the Farmer School while responding to a trend that favors knowledge even beyond credentials. “Degrees are becoming less important than the learning,” he says. “Here are ways [students] can pick up layers of education.”

Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti is managing editor of Academic Leader.

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