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April 26, 2002

First Students Earn UW-RF Master of Management Degree

Two students will be the first graduates of the new Master of Management program this year at UW-River Falls. Caroline Fisher and Michael Kretz, both from Hudson, doubled up on their workloads to complete their coursework for the three-year program in record time.

Kretz, a physician., didn't practice medicine while going to school, expects to graduate at the end of the summer as he completes a practicum. Fisher, who works as an office manager at River Falls Utilities, will graduate this spring.

Dean Barbara Nemecek,, of the College of Business and Economics, said the program is designed for working adults who have some experience in the professional or nonprofessional sector, usually in a management position.

"The program is doing extremely well," she said. "It is an evening program, customized to adult learners, and it is obviously meeting a need."

An interdisciplinary program, the Master of Management program is rooted in business administration as well as the social and behavioral sciences, rather than math. No undergraduate degree in business is required.

According to economics Professor Glenn Potts, director of the program, the typical student is 35 years old with 10 to 12 years of business experience. The student needs a graduate degree in business to advance in his or her current job or move laterally into another field.

"Only about 60 percent of the students enrolled have an undergraduate degree in some field of business or accounting, The rest have degrees in other fields. However, about 95 percent of them are presently working in the business field in some capacity."

Kretz, who worked as a medical doctor, may be one of the exceptions. Though his background is in medicine, he wants to build on that, creating an alliance between health care systems and educational institutions. He had no idea how to accomplish this when he began the program, but says he knows now.

Returning to school was a challenge for him because he had to do a lot of writing. He also had to get up to speed on computers. "I was out of my comfort zone for awhile, but that is part of being an adult learner," he said.

The two pivotal courses for Kretz were business communications and leadership. "It doesn't matter what you know if you can't communicate effectively," he said. "I learned to be a good listener, so I can be a good communicator."

"In the leadership class, I learned that I am a visionary leader; I want to change big things in life. I learned that it can take a long time to achieve some of these things and that I must be patient, be willing to share power, value the skills that other people have, and, above all, keep my eye on the ball."

He said he plans to use his new skills to address a pressing social problem: 30 to 33 percent of graduating high school seniors are smokers, and he wants to change that. He wants to coordinate a plan for tobacco "quit lines," by installing phones at elementary and secondary schools that provide assistance to help kids quit smoking.

Another project addresses obesity in children. It provides a body map index for age, a tool that a child can use to determine if he or she has a healthy body weight. If not, it offers resources to change that.

River Falls Uilitities' Fisher enjoyed returning to school as an adult learner. "The class sizes were small, and there was a nice rapport among the students," she said. The fact that classes are held in the early evening was helpful to her, because she works full time and has three children.

She has an undergraduate degree in organizational communication and sociology, and was working as an executive secretary when she entered the program. She recently was promoted to office manager, and hopes to move into a management position.

Although lifelong experience credits are accepted for the program, she chose not to take advantage of the option. "I wanted to take the courses, because sometimes things change especially in computer technology, I want to have all the latest information."

She liked that she was able to apply what she was learning in her job, and she welcomed the opportunities for networking with people and professors.

One result of this was her work with UW-RF undergraduate students for their senior seminar. The students, supervised by Fisher and advised by their professor, helped to develop a new employee orientation program for River Falls Utilities. Together they created a PowerPoint presentation that can be updated as necessary.

Another result was the development of an internship program in her company. She is interviewing students who are seniors in the business administration program, and plans to select their first intern to work for the summer.

The first students to enter the Master of Management program began their studies with its inception in the fall semester of 2000. Enrollment has far exceeded expectations.

Potts originally predicted about 50 students to begin with, enrollment is at about 115. This is what he had expected after three or four years. Potts said five classes are offered fall semester, five are offered in the spring, and two are offered in the summer, so students can go through at their own speed. Eleven courses and a practicum must be completed to fulfill the program requirements.

"The vast majority of students work full time. The program is designed to take two and a half to three years," he said. "Probably three years will be the average."

A majority of the students live in Wisconsin and work in the Twin Cities metro area. "While we have done very little promotion in Minnesota, we plan to begin to do some," he said. "Much of our growth to this point can be attributed to word-of-mouth."

The cost for tuition , he said, is competitive with the cost for graduate programs at other schools, and most students receive tuition reimbursement from their employers.

The School of Business and Economics, established in 1999, was elevated to the status of College of Business and Economics December 2001, placing it on equal footing with UW-RF's three other colleges.

For more information on the Master's of Management degree, call Potts at 715/425-3335.

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