College of Business - Real Life. Real Business.

Real Life. Real Business.

Jan. 7, 2009

Chuck Williams 200Dear Alumni and Friends,

Happy New Year from all of us at Butler's College of Business Administration: May 2009 bring you personal happiness and professional success! Don't be discouraged by the economy. Business downturns bring opportunities. Applicant pools grow larger and more talented. Assets, from technology to acquisitions, get cheaper. And resistant market share suddenly softens as competitors shrink or weaken. So keep your chins up, your attitudes positive, and your eyes and ears open to new possibilities and opportunities.
In my last few letters, I've described the details behind the CBA's mission to provide our students an experiential real life, real business education. In this month's letter, I'd like to tell you more about the Butler MBA. The turnaround of our MBA program is a great success story, one which recently caught the eye of the Indianapolis Business Journal (see below). Since I always share this story in my face-to-face meetings, I figured it was time to share it on a broader basis with you via my monthly letter.

Redesigning the Butler MBA

After several years of declining enrollment due to increased competition in Indianapolis, the MBA program was redesigned in 2006 with input from key stakeholders. We formed two teams: a core work group (faculty and staff), and an advisory group (local business executives, Board of Visitors, alumni, current students and faculty). In addition, a group of Leadership Development executives from Eli Lilly & Company reviewed the curriculum and provided input. The core recommendations from these groups were to: (1) substantially increase the program's flexibility and convenience, and (2) add more real business experiences to the curriculum.   

Increasing Flexibility and Convenience

Why increase the MBA's program flexibility and convenience? Because our market is working professionals, we needed to find ways to accommodate students' long work weeks, travel schedules, and family responsibilities, all without sacrificing academic rigor and integrity. 

This was accomplished by condensing the introductory-level courses into a sequence that could be completed in one semester on a part-time basis via six-week and Saturday course modules. This change shortens the overall program for those who didn't take undergraduate business courses, which is typically more than half of our students. Combined with our flexible scheduling policy, which allows students to progress as fast or slowly as they like, you have an attractive option for busy working professionals. Indeed, when I ask our students what they find attractive about our MBA program, they always mention its flexibility.

Adding More Real Business Experiences to the MBA Curriculum

At the advice of local business executives, our Board of Visitors, MBA alumni, current students, as well as Leadership Development executives from Eli Lilly & Company, we built real business experiences into the MBA program in the following ways: MBA Gateway, MBA Capstone, the Butler Business Accelerator, and course work team-taught by faculty and business executives.    

The Gateway Experience course was developed as a one-day introduction to the graduate sequence and was designed to immerse the students in a business problem with a local company. Student teams are given a task in the morning, gather data onsite, and then make recommendations to business executives by early evening. It's an intense, challenging and fun way to begin the MBA program. The inaugural Gateway Experience course was held in August 2006 with its first partner, Steak n Shake. Since that time, Gateway students have worked with Aero Technologies, HH Gregg and Adidas. We've captured the Gateway Experience on video - click here to watch. 

An ending Capstone Experience was also added to the curriculum, resulting in an immersive, semester-long case with a local business. It's similar to the Gateway Experience as it's designed to give students a chance to apply what they've been learning. Capstone students have worked on projects for Second Helpings and worked with Rolls-Royce in fall 2009 to conduct a market analysis for its jet engines division.

MBA students also have the opportunity to intern with the Butler Business Accelerator and provide consulting services to local, mid-market companies. Many MBA students work with Accelerator clients through unique collaborations that bring live cases into the classroom.

Finally, by having specific classes team-taught by faculty and local business executives, we ensure that our students learn how to apply business theory to real life business problems. Theory without application is hypothetical. Solving business problems without a theoretical framework and understanding is just learning from experience. Courses team-taught by faculty and local business executives hit the educational sweet spot by bringing theory and real business experience together.

Outstanding Results from the Changes

In addition to these changes, we hired a new director of graduate programs with significant business experience. Bill O'Donnell does significant outreach into the local business community to build partnerships. We also launched an aggressive advertising program in February 2007 that includes radio, billboards and online ads.

The market is paying attention and the results have been dramatic. Applications increased 58 percent from the 2006-2007 to the 2007-2008 academic year and admits increased by 63 percent over the same period. Total headcount/enrollment increased by 55 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2007 and by 50 percent from spring 2007 to spring 2008.

Enrollment is now capped at 300, which is current capacity. As a result, a new, more selective admissions process is in place. The program is attracting more high-quality candidates than before; the average GMAT of the entering student has increased from 540 last year to 590 for the fall 2008 class and to 600 for the spring 2009 class. These are sizable and significant improvements in the quality of our entering students. For comparison, take a look at BusinessWeek's evening MBA program ranking and click on "Avg. GMAT Score."  While GMAT score is not the only criterion used to determine the rankings, the increased quality of our students as measured by GMAT scores put us among top 15-25 evening MBA programs in the United States.

Another indication of the quality of our program is that we have consistently been included on the Princeton Review's Top Business Schools list. To read , Click here to read what MBA students are saying in the Princeton Review about Butler.

The turnaround in the Butler MBA was recently highlighted in an article in the Indianapolis Business Journal. Click here to read the full article.

While we're very pleased with these improvements and attention, please know that we are taking additional steps and developing new plans to further improve the Butler MBA. You'll be hearing about those in the months to come.

Get Involved with Real Life, Real Business

As you can see, the CBA provides an unparalleled educational experience for our students - both undergraduate and graduate. To make this work, we need the involvement of local companies and dedicated alumni. If you would like to partner with Butler MBA through the Gateway or Capstone Experiences, or by bringing a live business problem to an MBA class, please email me directly. I'd be happy to discuss the ways in which we can involve your business in the Butler MBA.

Chuck Williams, Dean
College of Business