Influential program, formerly at UC, Davis, puts spotlight on university
ROHNERT PARK — Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute is expanding its reach nationally and internationally, first by making certificate courses available online for far-flung professionals then as one of a three business schools worldwide to be a host site for a traveling wine MBA program.
Sonoma State has forged a partnership with the Bordeaux School of Management to host a cohort of up to a couple dozen students for two weeks of intense coursework and on-site visits to wine operations throughout the North Coast.
The 137-year-old French institution started a wine MBA program in 2001, and it will expand to include the spirits industry next academic year. In addition to classes in Bordeaux, the students travel to partner schools in several countries. For a few years beginning in 2002 and again last year, the U.S. stop for the students has been the University of California at Davis.
Starting in January 2012, it will be Sonoma State University.
“About 10 years ago when Bordeaux was setting up the wine program, they originally approached Sonoma State University about becoming a partner, but we were not ready yet,” said Liz Thach, Ph.D., professor of management and wine business.
Sonoma State’s wine business education program in the School of Business and Economics has been around for 15 years. However, the institution’s wine MBA program, the only one in the U.S. and one of a handful globally, started offering classes only three years ago. Today, the Wine Business Institute has 120 undergraduate students, two dozen in the MBA program and hundreds who take the four-hour Professional Development Series courses annually.
In February 2010 while Dr. Thach was in New Zealand to present an overview of U.S. wine sales at the Fifth International Conference of the Academy of Wine Business Research, she was talking to two Bordeaux School professors. They mentioned that the timeframe for the cohort agreement with U.C. Davis was ending.
“It worked very well, with U.C. Davis delivering very good content, but at quite a high cost not sustainable for us,” said Hervé Remaud, the Bordeaux School of Management wine MBA academic director since May.
Last fall, Dr. Thach introduced Dr. Remaud to Ray Johnson, who had just been named director of the Wine Business Institute. The two started talking about hosting the Bordeaux School’s cohort at Sonoma State.
“It’s a great opportunity to expose our program around the world,” Mr. Johnson said. “This really helps to bring a spotlight to what we’re doing.”
The development of the Sonoma State’s undergraduate and graduate wine business programs and a “strong” research team published in academic and trade journals made the university a good choice as a host site, according to Dr. Remaud. The Wine Business Institute also organized the 2005 Academy of Wine Business Research conference.
“Overall, SSU possesses all the competences that would be required for partnering in the wine and spirits MBA,” Dr. Remaud said. “This makes that university far more attractive than any other university in the entire U.S.”
The Wine Business Institute also plans to increase its reach around the country and around the world with the launch this fall of the online Wine Business Management Certificate Series. [See related story.]
The 20 students currently in the Bordeaux School’s wine MBA program come from the U.S. capital, New York, Houston, Sweden, Denmark, England, Lebanon, Finland, China, Portugal, Canada, France, Japan and Argentina.
For the 2011–’12 academic year, they started with two weeks of instruction in Bordeaux in January, followed this month by five days at Hong Kong University and 10 days at University of South Australia at Adelaide. Wine Intelligence Ltd. will host the group in London for 16 days in October.
From Jan. 6 to 20, 2012, the cohort will be at Sonoma State for coursework on finance, management, marketing, human resources, strategy and entrepreneurship plus three days of visits to wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties to talk with vintners about their business approaches and experiences.
The Wine Business Institute is lining up winery sites for the tour, and so far Paul Hobbs Winery in Russian River Valley and Jackson Family Wines have expressed interest in being involved, according to Mr. Johnson.
This summer the institute will be courting sponsors for the cohort program from throughout the wine industry supply chain.
The French school’s wine and spirits MBA course ends in April 2012 with 16 days back in Bordeaux and defense of dissertations there that fall.
Bordeaux School of Management started in 1874 and now has 3,200 students, 12 diploma programs and 110 partnerships with schools in 40 countries.
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