Sonoma State revamps part-time MBA

ROHNERT PARK -- Sonoma State University welcomed the first group of students into its newly revamped part-time MBA program last week, the newest iteration of a 25-year-old program that was updated to include the latest teaching methods and input from the North Bay business community.

[caption id="attachment_60387" align="alignright" width="360" caption="New MBA students learn about the Insights Discovery personal development model during the inaugural "eMBArk" weekend. (Credit: Sonoma State University)"][/caption]

Leaders at the university's School of Business and Economics said that a cohort-driven approach will help graduates to be effective in an increasingly collaborative professional world, with courses that emphasize the practical skills demanded by today's employers.

"You need students that are ready to contribute to the organization and start producing results," said Dr. William Silver, dean of the business school. "It's one level of education to teach people how to read financial statements. It's another thing to teach people to make decisions based off those statements."

The new structure, developed over 18 months, follows a so-called "4-3-2-1" model -- four core courses during the first year, three required theme areas with multiple course offerings, two electives and a final capstone. The cohort remains intact through the first year, and the changes also extend to the Wine Business MBA.

The approach differs from prior years, when students were allowed greater flexibility in the order that courses were selected. Yet in mandating a common progression through the core of the MBA, the program joins a wave of cohort-style reforms to MBA programs around the country.

"We really wanted to drive-in the ability to work in collaborative situations," Dr. Silver said. "If you add the collective experience of the cohort together, you have hundreds of years of business experience in the room."

Those changes incorporate what the school refers to as "best practices" from the executive MBA, another cohort-style program launched in January 2010 that caters to current executives.

The inaugural 20-student group began the program with a newly developed immersion weekend known as "eMBArk." Students met with notable alumni during the two-day event, along with mentoring, planning and networking activities.

Events like the eMBArk weekend represent a greater focus on learning outside of the classroom, a co-curricular approach that has been implemented with success in the school's executive MBA, Dr. Silver said.

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