Florida's business school deans talk about their MBA programs
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA | Gainesville
John Kraft is the dean of Florida business school deans. At the helm of University of Florida's Warrington College of Business for 30 years, he has overseen huge growth in MBA programs. The future, he believes, is all about flexibility.
UF offers full-time residential programs primarily for those in career transitions, but it also offers six weekend MBA options, some live and some online. The weekend programs can be completed in 12 to 24 months, while still maintaining cohort-style team learning. The online programs are the largest and fastest growing of UF's MBA offerings. In total, 800 students are enrolled in UF's highly ranked MBA programs.
"We offer a significant number of electives so students can pick and choose what they think is relevant for their career option. They can take analytics; they can take negotiations; they can take international business — and bundle them together in a curriculum," says Kraft, who is retiring this year. "I like to think that what we do is teach students how to make decisions."
Kraft has also seen tremendous growth in starting salaries — now more than $100,000 for full-time MBAs. "We encourage international experience, several internships and participation in experiential learning, all of which makes them more competitive when they are interviewing.”
UF has resisted the trend of specialized MBAs, such as in health care, Kraft says. “We train people in skills that can work in any industry. They have a good idea where they are going. Now many of them want to stay at their companies — they don’t get an MBA to change jobs.”
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY I Tallahassee
“It is important for us to get the college out of Tallahassee,” says Michael Hartline, dean of Florida State University’s College of Business since 2016.
That means group road trips. The college raises funds so students can travel to business centers like New York and Chicago. Some return with an internship or job in hand, says Hartline, who has held faculty and leadership positions at FSU since 2001.
“We’ll put our supply-chain students on a bus or van to Jacksonville and visit CSX and tour the port. We are taking a group of students to Wall Street to interact with investment bankers. We take our real estate and insurance students to major conferences.”
Here are a few other ways Hartline says FSU’s MBA programs, which enrolled 455 in the fall 2019, stand apart:
Length of Program: “A lot of full-time programs around the country are two years. That’s a lot if you are asking someone to give up their day job to move to a different community for the full-time program. Come here, get it done in a year and move on.”
What Employers Seek: “Analytics, analytics, analytics and a growing interest in health care.” FSU added a Business Analytics MBA in 2018, and enrollment nearly tripled in a year. A health care MBA is being considered.
Same Faculty In Person and Online: “Our online MBA is ranked 16th among public universities. It is one of the best programs in the U.S. for veterans, and if you are an out-of-state student, our online MBA program is a bargain compared to most others. Tuition out-of-state is below $31,000 — very reasonable.”
UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA I Orlando
UCF’s College of Business Dean Paul Jarley says he has no plans to add an online MBA anytime soon.
“We could certainly increase enrollment that way, but we continue to focus on face-to-face delivery because it offers the best value to our students. Most of our students stay in Central Florida. It is where they will do business, and they want the opportunity to network and build critical professional relationships with their fellow students, faculty and our alumni. So rather than go online, we look for ways to increase the flexibility of our offerings through weeknight and weekend classes while helping to build these important connections.”
Because the Orlando university sits amid a defense industry cluster and close to Cape Canaveral, the MBA was originally created to get engineers their first jobs in management. Lockheed Martin, Harris, Siemens, Disney, Universal and Adventist Health are among area companies that woo today’s MBAs. “There isn’t a day that goes by in this college where we don’t have an employer speaking to students about something,” Jarley says.
Even though many MBA students are engineers, Jarley’s a generalist: “Technology is increasing so quickly it is hard for universities to keep up. We emphasize fundamental skills, realizing that people are going to learn a lot on the job.”
“An MBA program is really different from an undergraduate experience,” he tells prospective students. “You are going to learn at least as much from your classmates as you do from your instructors, so who else is in the program really matters. You want to think about that.”
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA I Tampa
“I have lived and worked on four different continents. The one degree that is recognized wherever you go is the MBA,” says Moez Limayem, dean of University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business since 2012.
Unfortunately, many of these programs have become static, he says. “The worst thing that could happen is we wake up one morning and our MBA program is like Kodak. We become irrelevant. What we are trying to do is disrupt ourselves.”
For example, as important as stopping money laundering is, universities in the region weren’t providing talent in this area, so in 2017 USF created an MBA focused on compliance, risk and anti-money laundering, says Limayem, who joined USF from the University of Arkansas College of Business and previously worked in the private sector as a systems analyst and computing consultant. Responding to employer needs was also the reason Muma College focused MBAs on business analytics and cyber-security and created programs for physicians and pharmacists. It’s now looking at an MBA specialization in financial technology, including blockchain technologies and health care analytics, he says.
The college matches local business professionals with MBA students for ongoing mentorship. It offers full-time, part-time, executive and online programs. A weekend MBA is on the way.
Enrollment is up 8.2% on average year over year for the last three years, so USF is bucking national trends. International application growth is the fastest, despite tighter immigration controls. Across USF’s three campuses, 997 are enrolled in MBA programs. Most graduates remain in the Tampa Bay region.
“We work hard at being an outlier. You always have to crack the code,” the dean says. “With an MBA program, it’s truly not the destination; it’s the journey.”