A conversation about MBAs with B-school deans from Marylhurst University and Oregon State University
BY BRANDON SAWYER
Mary Bradbury Jones
Dean of School of Business
Marylhurst University MBA
OB: How has your relatively small private college come to have the highest MBA enrollment in the state?
Jones: The MBA at Marylhurst has been around over 20 years. It’s another example of how forward-thinking and progressive the Sisters of the Holy Names were, who founded Marylhurst University and saw back then that there was a need to have this type of degree long before there was the popularity of them. Over the years, we’ve had very thoughtful chairs over the MBA program really wanting to make sure it was applicable and valuable for the students. There’s always been the main focus on “How do we apply this? What does this look like in the real world? What does this taste like? What does this feel like?” You’re never going to have a situation in the workplace where your boss walks in and says, “I think we have a morale problem. Can you give me a motivational theory?” The boss is going to walk into your office and say, “I think we have a morale problem. What are we going to do?” So folks really can take that content and apply it in all the various situations, the different industries. There has always been a very targeted goal of that.
It’s a university grounded in service, ethics and leadership. There was a time when business programs across the country really started to swing in their emphasis inside curriculum to be much more about the finance side of business, maximizing the bottom line. While we wanted to make sure that our students understood those principles, we still stayed true to our values: ethical behavior in business, ethical decision making, the people are an important part of your organization — staying true to what we stood for, the quality, making sure we’re staying on top of what’s going on in the business environment and constantly adjusting our curriculum for it, too. Those are things that have helped us establish a solid relationship in the community, and a great deal of our students come to us because somebody else told them about the program. That is one piece: really strong foundations.
But the second thing that definitely has helped us is in ‘06 we decided to expand our base beyond the Pacific Northwest, and we launched taking that MBA into an online environment. That allowed us to expand across the whole nation, and we certainly have students who live overseas and take part in our program. And that was probably the main catalyst of the real growth in terms of number of students in our MBAs.
Dr. James R. Coakley
Associate Dean for Academic Programs, College of Business
Oregon State University MBA
OB: OSU’s MBA emphasizes commercializing new technologies. Is there a strong connection to OSU’s science and engineering programs?
Coakley: Yes, it was about 2006 when we started [this]. People would do a taco stand and build a business plan for a small business. Our requirement was it had to generate $5 million in five years, but people were coming up with their own projects. And as we looked across the university, this place is full of science and technology and engineering and lots of patents, so our tech transfer office had all these ideas and didn’t know which should we spend the time and effort on to patent and commercialize them. What we started doing was partnering with tech transfer, and we actually hired some of our faculty advisors to go out to all the different departments on campus where people were doing research, to do a pre-screening of these projects to find out which had the potential to be commercialized.
We do 10 to 12 of what we call “integrated business projects” every year, partnering with other colleges and inventors on campus and a couple of our corporate partners, and we have teams of four to five MBA students that spend nine months vetting these projects and developing the commercialization plan. One of the ones we did was NuScale. We call it “nuke in a box,” but it’s the small-scale nuclear reactor. I’m not going to say they 100% followed our business plan, but we gave them the basic concepts of how they could roll it out to a business. We’ve got 12 startup companies that have come out of it. Ten are still going; a couple got acquired. We partner with Hewlett-Packard. If it doesn’t generate a billion dollars, they’re not going to do anything with it, but they’ve got a lot of great ideas so sometimes we’ll take a project from HP. We’ll do the business plan, and it might only generate $50 million, but for somebody that’s good and they could license the technology from HP and start a business.
Anything that has potential for commercialization forces our MBA students to work with scientists, technology people. We have faculty advisors in the College of Business, but we also line them up with an industry mentor. They start figuring out: “Where’s the market? How are you going to price this thing? How are you going to structure the company?” If you’re going to present it to somebody, they want a concise executive summary, like 10 pages. But behind that, we probably have 100 to 150 pages of data that supports that executive summary. They work on it for nine months, and we’ve integrated to where the classes they take in the fall directly feed into that phase of the business plan. That’s our commercialization track.