College awards first-ever MBA degrees

Business as usual? Think again.

by Brent Wooten

recent MBA graduate and her daughter

Recent MBA graduate Shawnna Kay Boone and her daughter, Skylar, celebrate at the reception for online students on the day before Commencement.

When Saint Joseph's launched its Master of Business Administration program in 2004, it didn't claim "business as usual." While traditional MBA programs focus solely on subjects such as accounting, finance, and oper- ations, those aspects are only half of the story, according to Dr. Gregory Gull, director of the MBA program. "To create effective business leaders, a program must speak to both the qualitative and quantitative parts of an organization," he says.

In order to embrace all aspects of a business, the leadership-focused MBA at Saint Joseph's integrates systems theory, statistical thinking, theory of knowledge creation, psychological theory, global and cross-cultural understanding, soft skills development and ethical/social responsibility.

The format of the MBA program differs from other online programs at Saint Joseph's, because it is offered in either a 10-week online term or a five-week term that includes four weeks online and an extended collaborative weekend face-to-face with class members and the professor.

The college awarded its first-ever MBA degrees at spring commencement, with all seven in the inaugural class attending the ceremony, some from as far away as Texas. Christopher Palmer, quality assurance analyst at Tyler Technologies in Falmouth, Maine, explains why he chose the leadership curriculum focusing on the human factors in business: "I am more interested in people - leading and enabling them to gain skills, confidence, trust, cooperation and teamwork," he states.

The first MBA graduates

The new graduates are optimistic about how the degree benefits them and their organizations. Garrett VanAtta, president of Dielectric Communications in Raymond, Maine, believes a systems-thinking approach to everyday decisions can address ever-changing business dynamics. Palmer agrees, saying, "When facing any challenge, I find myself thinking at a systematic level, rather than the event level."

Jill Hriniak Stevenson, pharmaceutical sales specialist at AstraZeneca International, believes everything comes back to leadership. "With this degree, I am more equipped to lead in life, understand others and make a positive difference with my professional and personal strengths," she says.