SUNY College at Brockport next year will join the ranks of area colleges and universities that offer an MBA, becoming the sixth SUNY institution statewide to offer such a program.
“For those that want an AACSB-accredited program, if money or convenience was holding you back, your excuse for not getting an MBA goes away in Fall 2018,” said Joyendu Bhadury, dean of the School of Business & Management at SUNY Brockport. He was referring to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
SUNY Brockport received approval for its MBA program in July and has named Jack Cook as director of the program. Cook has been with the college some five years and previously served as an associate professor in the business school. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, as well as an MBA and Ph.D. in business administration.
Cook said the goal of the Brockport MBA is to cater to individuals in leadership roles at smaller businesses.
“In a perfect world, what we’re doing is helping broaden the skill set of managers who, maybe at the undergraduate level, had a more narrow focus, so that they can better run their businesses,” Cook said. “It’s really designed for those types of individuals who wear many hats based on the realities of their organization, and that may not feel comfortable with all the different types of hats that they wear.”
Now in its 44th year, the AACSB-accredited business department at Brockport boasts more than 10,000 alums, roughly 70 percent of whom have remained in New York State. Bhadury said a large number of those graduates stay in the Rochester region.
“When you couple that with the fact that one year out, our survey shows that students have a 95 percent employment (rate), it points to one basic fact: that we are one of the powerful drivers of the economic engine of the region,” Bhadury said. “We just do it differently by supplying human capital.”
As a regional business school, Rochester is its service area, he added.
“And it became apparent as the economy of the Greater Rochester area has been changing that the growth tomorrow will come from some big employers like Paychex, like Wegmans, like Constellation, but a substantial part of the growth will come from small- and medium-sized enterprises whose needs are different,” Bhadury explained. “And that was the genesis of the idea of the Brockport MBA program.”
Similar to an executive MBA, the Brockport MBA will target working professionals, Bhadury said, with a special emphasis on those in small- and medium-sized enterprises. The idea for an MBA program at SUNY Brockport started as a project in one of the department’s marketing classes to identify regional needs.
From there, focus groups were held and a business school advisory board was established by former dean Daniel Petree, who was instrumental in turning the business department into a business school in 2011.
The fact that the region did not have an AACSB-accredited, SUNY-offered MBA program, or one that served the needs of small- or medium-sized business leaders, led to the advisory board’s thumbs up. From there, business school faculty developed a curriculum and brought in two evaluators to look at what they had developed.
“The thing that appealed to me the most was that it was going to, in both content and structure, put a strong emphasis on the person in the closely held company or in the community organization and what they need to be more effective leaders,” said Gerry Wenzke, a founding member of the business school’s advisory board. “Most (MBA programs) follow pretty much a bread-and-butter type of approach.”
Wenzke—who served as CEO of insurance firm Hatch-Leonard Markin-Shaw and as CEO of First Niagara Financial Group when the company purchased Hatch-Leonard in 2005—is founder of Distinct Strategies LLC, a leadership coaching firm that serves clients in Rochester and in Florida. He is a 1978 graduate of SUNY Brockport.
Wenzke said there is a lot of discussion in academia about the difference between management and leadership and working in the business and working on the business.
“What a lot of MBA programs have is an emphasis on working on the business, not necessarily working in it, not necessarily the day-to-day,” he added. “But in the real world of the closely held company, the leader does both. The leader manages, the leader leads, the leader works on the business, the leader works in the business.”
And while working with the business school’s faculty, Wenzke witnessed the team’s desire to cater to the small-business leader within the realm of the MBA program.
Following the advisory board and evaluators’ advice, a revised proposal was presented and approved by the business school’s faculty members, who presented the plan for approval at the college level. Upon approval by the SUNY Brockport president, a letter of intent was submitted to other SUNY campuses across the state for their feedback, objections and comments. None was received, Bhadury said.
Upon approval of the letter of intent from SUNY system administration, a full-fledged proposal was written that included curriculum details, a financial model, planned resources and course syllabuses. External referees had to approve the final MBA proposal, as did officials from the SUNY system and the state Department of Education.
It was a several-years-long process.
“An MBA is a pretty big program for a school and for a college,” Bhadury said. “It is my extreme gratitude to my faculty colleagues, to my staff and to the members of my advisory board, without whose active help and support this wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground.”
The two-year MBA program differentiates itself from others in the region through not only its focus on those working in small businesses, but also in its modality. Most of the program will be presented online, with two courses offered per semester, in order to allow individuals to receive federal financial aid.
The first class each semester will be a residency, where cohorts of 30 to 35 working professionals will get to meet their professors, learn about the two courses they will be taking that semester and network with their peers.
With 12 courses and three semesters per year, students who join the MBA program in fall 2018 will graduate at the end of the summer semester in 2020.
A group of 12 or 13 faculty are preparing courses in an integrated manner so that a student taking a finance course, for example, can relate back to what he or she learned the previous semester in the accounting course. Collaboration among faculty is one key to the program’s success, Bhadury said.
“The student can clearly see the relationship of the different courses and different business subjects because at the end of the day a business is like a human body,” he added. “The leg and the arms and the brain and the lungs, they all have to work together. And that’s what we are trying to do.”
The business school has a number of criteria for admission. In addition to a GMAT of 500 or higher and an undergrad GPA of 3.0 or higher, prospective students must present a personal statement of educational objectives, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and they must have two years of prior work experience.
“We have these standards because we are trying to recruit the right kind of student, which goes back to the genesis of why we are doing this, to serve the needs of the region: Working professionals with an eye toward small- and medium-sized enterprises and their needs,” Bhadury said.
The last two semesters of the MBA program will require students to do a capstone project.
“The idea there is the student, or if it’s a team then a group of students, are going to select their own company and if they don’t want that, then an industry … identify a problem in the company, the solution to which or the study of which will bring value to the company or organization.”
Under the supervision of faculty, students will study the organization’s problem, and, based on their knowledge and their research, will provide an analysis and solution or recommendations.
Cook noted that most MBA programs in the region do not require capstone projects, and in that way Brockport’s program will stand out from others.
“We expect that our students will deploy and utilize what we teach them before they leave our program. That’s unique,” Cook said.
Cook noted that he has incorporated some aspects of his master black belt in Lean Six Sigma to the MBA program.
“The way I expect this is going to happen is that if I was coaching someone for their master’s project I would visit with them at their place of business, I would talk to their management, we would come to agreement on their project and I would be there to … guide them in the educational process as they apply what we teach them,” he said. “That’s unique. I think it’s exciting to know that you’re going to have faculty that will become more engaged in the business community.”
Bhadury noted that in some cases businesses may sponsor their employees as students, paying part or all of their tuition.
“The end goal is to create something of value to an organization and also the student,” he said.
Bhadury acknowledged that the Rochester region has a number of excellent AACSB-accredited programs, from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester, to St. John Fisher College to Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business.
So what is it that the Brockport MBA will bring to the table?
“The value proposition is that we represent an excellent opportunity to maximize the return on your investment of your time and money,” Bhadury said.
That comes in the form of quality and cost, he added.
Indeed, the total cost of the Brockport MBA is estimated to be less than $24,000 at today’s SUNY tuition rates. Comparatively, a Saunders MBA is $41,804 per year, while a Simon School MBA is $46,000 per year. Tuition at St. John Fisher is $1,090 per credit hour.
The application process for SUNY Brockport’s new MBA program is live now and already the school has had a number of inquiries.
“We haven’t done one lick of marketing,” Bhadury said, grinning. “I have answered over a dozen inquiries already and there’s one person who has actually already applied. So, how soon can they apply? How about five minutes from now?”
Bhadury’s excitement is palpable. He said the school takes its regional mission very seriously and wears it like a badge of honor.
“I think if things go right and we are able to do what we dreamed of doing as an institution, as a college, an MBA like this could be very impactful towards regional economic development,” Bhadury said. “That, at the end of the day, is our signal contribution to the state and the region. That is really what we want.”
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