MBA program receives top ranks

The part-time Butler University Master’s of Business Administration program has recently been in the limelight.

BusinessWeek magazine named the MBA program 36th in the nation and 8th in the Midwest.

The Princeton Review also recognized the program, listing it in its “Best 300 Business Schools” list.

Student surveys, as well as entrance exam scores and undergraduate grade point averages, heavily determine the rankings.

It was a different story five years ago, Kathy Paulson Gjerde, associate dean for research and graduate studies for the College of Business, said.

The program’s enrollment was plummeting and some questioned whether it was strong enough to survive.

Paulson Gjerde said MBA programs in general had been facing scrutiny from businesses.

“There was a question among business leaders in the value of an MBA degree,” she said. “MBA students could not apply the theoretical knowledge from the program to real problems on the job.”

So the program got a makeover.

It was shortened and the curriculum was adapted to incorporate real business experience.

“We really started focusing on applied and experiential learning,” Bill O’Donnell, director of graduate programs for the College of Business Administration, said.

Graduate students in the program today work closely with local businesses, even helping to expand local businesses in South America and China.

Ginger Lippert, a student in the program, said that unique opportunities, like the international trips, made her decide to enroll in the part-time MBA program.

“I believe the program has many strengths from an offerings standpoint,” she said.  “They give students the opportunities to have real business experience that they may not have had otherwise.”

Paulson Gjerde said these real-world experiences are unique to Butler.

“We do a lot of things that full-time programs don’t do,” she said, “even though we are only a part-time program.”

The program is the right mix of theory and application, Paulson Gjerde said.

“To me, it’s the balance that we achieved that’s important,” she said.

Stephanie Judge, director of marketing for the College of Business, said the program began an “aggressive” advertising campaign in 2007.

“Since that time, our enrollment has grown significantly and so has the quality of our students,” Judge said.

Paulson Gjerde said the program’s recognition today is probably due in part to that campaign, centered around the slogan “Real Life. Real Business.”

“You have to let people know what you are doing differently before they can recognize you for it,” Paulson Gjerde said.

O’Donnell said the program will see the affects of this recognition for years to come.

“Anytime you get recognized, it means more students will see the program and find an interest in it,” O’Donnell said.  “It’s also great because it increases the perceived value of the degree, so students that have earned the degree get better recognition and it means more in general.”

O’Donnell said the national recognition also allows the school to be more selective during the application process.

“It continues to improve the caliber of students coming into the program,” he said. “They have better GPA’s, better GMAT scores and better business experience.

“Even people with more advanced degrees like doctorates are deciding to come here because they know they aren’t wasting their time.”

Chuck Williams, dean of the College of Business, said that the program’s GMAT scores are among the top 15-20 part-time MBA programs in the nation.

“We are one of the best kept secrets out there when it comes to MBA programs,” O’Donnell said.