For Taylor Smith, it’s all about the options.
That’s largely why she enrolled in Eastern Oregon University’s MBA program. Updates coming this fall invite students to enroll in core classes and electives online or in-person, with the freedom to customize their degree to fit specific skills and needs. Taylor will be among the first to experience the renovated program, which gives students unique flexibility in designing their degrees.
“The MBA classes have challenged me to think in unconventional ways,” she said. “They have provided me with tools to solve real-world problems, and have opened more opportunities for advancement in my career.”
Taylor had been familiar with EOU already, where she’d just received her bachelor’s degree in business. A transplant from Chewelah, Wash., she chose EOU for its close-knit community, proximity to nature and breadth of degree offerings. As she looked toward obtaining her MBA, her decision to stay at EOU was fairly easy.
“The faculty members are always willing to help students develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses,” Taylor said. “The classes provide great insight on what it means to be an effective leader.”
Though the decision was easy for Taylor, it was more complicated for the university. Its MBA program was already effective, yet the faculty preferred a more proactive approach in meeting students’ needs, particularly for those studying online.
“As a faculty, we refreshed a fairly successful program,” said Gary Keller, a business professor at EOU. “It was risky, but now we’re ready to provide a more relevant experience for the next generation as they enter the professional world.”
The professional world has changed dramatically over the last few years. Skills like statistics and accounting are no longer as central as the need for emotional intelligence or the ability to maximize a team’s potential. The business landscape has changed as well—companies have a deeper need to sustain the environment, technologies continue to advance quickly, and leaders need to not only manage budgets but to also balance personalities.
EOU recognized these needs, and the decision was clear: the program needed to shift with the environment.
The program’s capstone project exemplifies this shift. Originally assigned as a traditional thesis, the project was replaced by a virtual simulation. Taylor and other students will manage a real-world business in a digital environment. They’ll create enterprises then compete on local, national and international levels—as well as with MBA classmates—requiring students to apply all knowledge gained during their coursework.
“Previously, our capstone project looked similar to many other institutions’ approach,” said Dan Mielke, Dean of Colleges of Business and Education. “It was a barrier for students on the cusp of graduating. This new simulation puts students on a more solid footing as they enter the professional world.”
Almost every class has been refreshed for today’s professionals. Amongst these courses are Business and the Environment, Emotional Intelligence and Managerial Effectiveness, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity, and Strategic Agribusiness Management.
EOU also partnered with Portland State University to further expand its offerings. Students can now earn certificates through previously unavailable electives, such as Global Supply Chain Management, Athletic and Outdoor Industry, and Business of Social Innovation.
Along with the expanse of options, faculty redesigned the program to function with three-credit courses. For Taylor, this means not only access to additional offerings, but also a shorter track to graduation. With just a five-term timeline, she can graduate sooner than the usual two years of traditional MBA programs.
Working adults with busy lifestyles were accounted for, too. A shift to rolling admissions each term allows students to begin degrees on a more flexible schedule. On-campus classroom sessions, like those Taylor attends in La Grande, are also taught in Tigard and webcast online. Recorded classes are available to students at regional sites in Hermiston, Ontario, Klamath and Prineville, as well.
The program is accredited by The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). This distinction, along with EOU’s flexible enrollment and enhanced delivery, makes its MBA program one of the best values in the Pacific Northwest.
Taylor is one of many students making the most of this value. Upon graduating, she will pursue a professional management position. The exact details have yet to be determined, and that’s fine with Taylor—equipped with a diverse and well-rounded skill-set, she’ll continue to have plenty of options.
Kristin Johnson, MBA Advisor
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