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For business professionals of today, versatility is the name of the game. Employees are expected to excel at more than one skill, while most managers will oversee projects and people from a number of different functions across the company. And even those who are not working directly with technology and data are expected to be able to communicate and effectively work with those who do.
With all of this in mind, the new MBA curriculum at Saint Joseph’s Erivan K. Haub School of Business is all about allowing students to choose the unique combination of specializations that fit their current job and career goals. Launching in January 2021, the curriculum emphasizes speed-to-degree, the emphasis on ethics and sustainability that has always made a Haub MBA stand out, and flexibility through stackable “micro-credentials” that allow students to continually show their progress. The new curriculum builds on Haub’s and Saint Joseph’s strong reputation within the Philadelphia market and business community for training job candidates who go on to make a difference within their respective companies.
“We were looking to create a transformational new MBA model that would allow students to create a program to enhance their careers and their capabilities, as well as provide value to their employers,” says Haub School of Business Dean Joseph A. DiAngelo, Ed.D. ’70. “Our mantra was ‘Let’s find a way to help companies find solutions in their organizations,’ so they would be encouraged to send their employees to the Haub School. This new MBA model will do that for our corporate constituents. And it will allow students to garner new skills to provide value to their companies.”
The new curriculum was created by a cross-functional team at the school, including current and former students, alumni, administrators and representatives from each academic department.
“We had a nice mix of voices and opinions,” says Associate Dean Vana Zervanos, Ed.D. “We started off with data and benchmarking, looking at our competition – local, national, Jesuit – and at cost structures. We did all of those exercises first and then got into more creative discussions and exercises about how we could innovate with this new curriculum.”
The task force also surveyed and collected feedback from students, both those who chose St. Joe’s as the place to earn their MBA, and those who applied but ultimately decided not to attend.
We were looking to create a transformational new MBA model that would allow students to create a program to enhance their careers and their capabilities, as well as provide value to their employers."
What Makes the Saint Joseph’s MBA Stand Out
One data point that was key to the discussions is companies’ reticence across the board to pay for employees to pursue their MBAs, a trend that began with the 2007-2009 recession and has remained despite an increasingly competitive labor market. Just 49% of respondents to a 2018 Society for Human Resource Management survey said their employers offer graduate educational assistance, down from 61% in 2008.
Part of the fabric of Philadelphia, Saint Joseph’s is well connected and well respected in the region among employers, students and ranking organizations and contributes to the region’s business community. Haub’s new MBA model, which can be completed entirely online, makes the case for employers’ to upskill their workforce through a “stackable” model of three certificates – a core certificate with foundational courses in management, finance, accounting and marketing and then two specialty certifications of the student’s choice: marketing, finance, data analytics, data management, data science, leadership, real estate, accounting or human resources management.
“You can focus on complementary areas of focus, or choose things that may not intuitively go together – leadership and finance, HR and accounting,” Zervanos says.
The new structure also responded to student feedback expressing a desire to earn “micro-credentials” or to get regular reinforcement along the way to earning an MBA, says Nicolle Clements, Ph.D., associate professor of decision and data sciences and a member of the task force.
“Students didn’t want to wait two years to be able to update their credentials on their LinkedIn profile or to tell their manager they had achieved mastery in a subject,” Clements says. “This curriculum allows them to earn a certificate to show what they’ve learned throughout their time in the program.”
Another change aimed at increasing speed-to-degree, Zervanos says, is that students without undergraduate degrees in business, who would have previously needed to take several foundational courses in a traditional format, will now be able to do them asynchronously at their own pace and at a fraction of the cost. The new curriculum also reduces the number of required credits to 36, creating a faster and more affordable path to a degree.
Students didn’t want to wait two years to be able to update their credentials on their LinkedIn profile or to tell their manager they had achieved mastery in a subject. This curriculum allows them to earn a certificate to show what they’ve learned throughout their time in the program.”
The Data Skills All Employees Need
Among the available MBA certificates that will be offered are two new and one updated certificate focused on managing and working with data. Clements says there has been increasing interest in recent years in all of the academic departments to add components to coursework about working with data specific to different industries.
“You have to be conversant in data, you have to be able to be a data consumer,” Clements says. “These certificates really hit on that. It’s enough to be able to make you conversant, to ask intelligent questions and get what you need from people working on the data side.”
João Neiva de Figueiredo, Ph.D., a management professor, says the new MBA curriculum capitalizes on the flexibility that has always played a large part in Saint Joseph’s undergraduate curriculum, with some students opting to have both a double major and a double minor.
“It’s a very clean structure, easy to understand and easy for a potential student to figure out what appeals to them,” he says, noting that the curriculum also plays to the granularity of skills companies now want managers to have – rather than just having a background in general management, there is a now a desire for expertise in managing in specific sectors or departments, or overseeing different sizes of teams.
“Companies want the skills acquired in any MBA program to be directly applicable to what they do, and to be more applicable you have to dive deeper,” he says.
Companies want the skills acquired in any MBA program to be directly applicable to what they do, and to be more applicable you have to dive deeper."
A Grounding in Our Jesuit Mission
While data and technology are strongly represented in the new certificate options, reflecting the demands that many employers are looking for in potential hires, Zervanos says the process also made clear that companies still place a lot of value on graduates who are good communicators and agile team members.
“Business schools still have an obligation to facilitate that,” Zervanos says. “An attractive candidate for a job must know how to work with others and inspire others to perform. Leadership has become a catch-all phrase, but we really put our students to task when it comes to honing their leadership acumen.”
Saint Joseph’s Jesuit mission will also continue to be at the heart of the program. Zervanos says the stackable MBA will also allow for training and resources from the Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Center for Business Ethics to faculty incorporating ethics content into MBA offerings.
“Social impact is something we are really committed to doing and we want to support that and make sure that work is happening because our students are also committed to this,” Zervanos says. “We’re seeing students turn down really terrific positions at companies because those companies don’t take a firm stance on social responsibility.”