Where once MBA programs catered to recent college graduates seeking a higher degree on their way to a job on Wall Street or at a Big Four accounting firm, today MBA students are more likely to be 30-somethings with a few years of work behind them.
“There are full-time students around the country, but those numbers have gotten smaller,” says Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for extended campus graduate programs at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business. “The majority of undergraduate students would prefer to get employment first and have a few years of work experience before pursuing the MBA.”
In response, schools now routinely offer an assortment of program options to meet students’ scheduling needs. At Virginia Tech, those include the Professional, Executive and Evening MBA. The three call for the same number of credit hours and confer the same degree, but admissions requirements, time commitments, mode of course delivery, international residency opportunities, class size, and even tuition and average student age vary among them.
Although the job market was saturated with MBAs just a couple of decades ago, today it’s making a comeback, says Ghandforoush, particularly in the national capital region, where unemployment is low and companies are once again recruiting.
“Just about every one of our students who graduates has a job or was already employed,” he says. At the same time, there are lingering effects of the economic downturn, including a slowdown in hiring by defense contracting companies, as well as reductions in employee tuition reimbursement at the Department of Defense and the State Department. Compared to 15 years ago, says Ghandforoush, employer support is minimal, but schools have been innovative in their responses to that, with some — including Virginia Tech, George Washington University and the University of Maryland — adding niche programs in areas such as health care information technology, global health innovation and entrepreneurism.
“The movement is toward business intelligence and business analytics because of data mining, databases and cloud computing,” says Ghandforoush. “Engineering and technology-based schools such as Virginia Tech have found the opportunity to focus in those areas, as opposed to marketing or general management, which were the drivers 20 years ago. Now, innovation and technology drive our offerings.”
Jessica Gulick was already working in cybersecurity when she enrolled in the Virginia Tech Executive MBA program, but the degree allowed her to move from an analyst position to that of a manager; today, she’s a marketing director for CSG Invotas.
“The MBA helps me because my expertise in cybersecurity is communicating with the chief information security officer and helping them with their communications strategy up the chain and throughout the organization, and making two- and three-year plans,” says Gulick, who is also vice president of the Virginia Tech MBA advisory board.
Rich Twilley (see more below), another graduate, absorbed the EMBA’s global focus, and says that for him the biggest takeaway was the notion of how to conduct business with other cultures, which he saw firsthand during his program-sponsored international residency in Brazil.
“In decades past, when Americans did business abroad, we’d project our business practices onto other countries, other markets,” says Twilley. “But they’re not us — they’re a different culture, and in order to succeed there you really have to understand that.”
With fewer international students interested in attending U.S. MBA programs because of the challenges of finding appropriate jobs after graduation, that kind of lesson in globalization is essential.
Gleefully bringing home an oversized stuffed dog for his toddler in 2013, Rich Twilley sat back and watched as his son rejected the toy. Twilley, who had just completed the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at Virginia Tech — including a couple of weeks in the slums of Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo, Brazil — had something of an epiphany.
“Right then I realized, ‘I don’t think he needs more toys; he needs more meaningful toys,’” says Twilley. “I needed to provide different experiences to communicate my values to him.”
The result was Roughy Toys, whose slogan, “One 2 One,” means that for every toy purchased, another is donated to a child in need. The toy in question is a plush monkey named Alex, whose magical balloon ride around the world is detailed in an accompanying book, “Adventures of Alex,” which Twilley wrote with his wife, Grace.
To date, more than 1,500 monkeys have been sold and more than 2,000 donated to pediatric patients and organizations in the United States, Africa and the Middle East, including Carilion Clinic pediatric units; Johns Hopkins Children’s Center; Ronald McDonald houses in Virginia and New York; San Francisco’s Children of Shelters; and Chances for Children, which brought Alex to an orphanage in Haiti. The numbers don’t match because it’s “nice and altruistic and also easier and more fun to run the business that way” in terms of reconciling donations, says Twilley.
Roughy Toys is also collaborating with Leidos Health — Mark Perrigo, vice president of finance, was an EMBA classmate — on an event that will combine team building with Twilley’s unique brand of philanthropy. Through the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, Leidos is donating 80 monkeys to children in gratitude for their parents’ service.
“Providing a common outlet for other people to give back was important,” says Twilley. “That was the impetus behind pairing the book and distributing it freely with the toy, so that any other parents who wanted to talk to their children about helping other people and the benefits of it would be able to have that catalyst.”
Article from Washington Post