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UWRF Now Offers MBA

By Kirsten Nordstrom
University Communications

MARCH 23, 2009 -- Success is already evident from first graduates of the new Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program through the College of Business and Economics (CBE) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, which began after the college received accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Graduate Nick Kovalenko, who is currently the director of international marketing for Fiberstar, Inc., said the M.B.A. program has helped him directly in his professional growth. "The practicum I completed for the master's program was used in my company to increase international sales," said Kovalenko. His field practicum for the MBA included completing an application for a Food Ingredients England Award, which the company received.

Fiberstar Inc., headquartered in Willmar, Minn., received the Most Innovative Food Ingredient Silver Award for the development of a product line called Citri-Fi® in London, England, in October 2007. Kovalenko was responsible for all marketing of the product.

"Kovalenko is a tremendous success story of the M.B.A. program turning out someone who is making a significant contribution to a new business and in this part of the country," says Glenn Potts, director of the M.B.A. program and new CBE dean.

The new M.B.A. program has three key elements, including real-world practicality, flexibility and convenience. According to Potts, what is learned in the classroom can be used immediately by working professionals who are enrolled in the program. "One of the most common comments that we get in terms of feedback from students is that literally they learn it one night and use it the next day," Potts said.

Joel Larsen, who is a vice president and commercial lender for First National Bank of River Falls and also enrolled in the program, agrees: "The program is geared towards working adults and applies the theoretical classroom experience with real-world application."

The program takes about two to three years to complete, and at least two years of business experience is required to enter the program.

Previously, UWRF offered a Master of Management (M.M.) degree, but after accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), CBE began offering the MBA, which is more prestigious. Only 30 percent of business colleges in the United States have earned this level of approval, and it takes five years to complete the process, says Potts.

In the UW System, a school must have AACSB accreditation in order to offer an M.B.A. To earn the AACSB accreditation a school must confirm its commitment to quality and continuous improvement through a rigorous and comprehensive peer review. In this region, the only other accredited schools are Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and the College of Business at UW-Eau Claire, Potts says.

"The fundamental structure of the program is the same," Potts said. The UWRF M.B.A. program is similar to an executive M.B.A. and is intended to build on experience, unlike M.B.As for new graduates, which focus on finance and math. "The program allowed me to develop and improve my skills necessary to be successful in my career," Larsen said. "It improved my decision-making process and allowed me to be a more effective communicator within our organization."

Classes are designed to build off work experience and give lessons in applied skills. Course content is directly related to developing skills to create more effective managers.

"The program is intended to be an applied business program where the focus is on giving students tools that will allow them to be better managers," Potts said. Forward thinking themes such as globalization, uses of information technology, and creative decision-making are integral parts of the curriculum to help prepare students for the future, he said.

This program also benefits River Falls and the surrounding businesses, Potts said. "At UWRF it gives us a tool to significantly meet the needs of the area and region," he said. "One of the missions of the College of Business and Economics is to meet the needs of the community in the St. Croix Valley. So what we are doing is providing a very high quality program turning out students who are better able to contribute to the businesses and other organizations they are a part of."

Since the M.M. program started in 2000, 78 people have graduated from the program. The first group to graduate under the new M.B.A. program was in December 2008, and more are anticipated this spring.

There is room for the program to expand in the future. "There are opportunities for growth, and we think that the program will grow some, but in order to do that we would have to start allocating more faculty resources to it, and we really have not made that decision yet," Potts said.

Enrollment is up overall, and the program now has around 120 people going through. "We're currently admitting 30-35 students a year into the program, and that is where we want to be," Potts said. Since the program is at capacity people interested should apply early, he said.

Potts enjoys working with students in the program. "I have tremendous personal respect for these people," he said. "They are making the sort of commitment that is not only noteworthy but is something to be admired."

For more information contact Glenn Potts from the College of Business and Economics at 1-715-425-3335, or at mbacbe@uwrf.edu. Or contact Tina Kelly in the College of Business and Economics at 715-425-3335, or by e-mail at tina.kelly@uwrf.edu.


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