Managers Find UNH’s Executive MBA Program Cutting-Edge and Convenient

Karen Grava

When Brian Bethel, a manager at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, leaves Connecticut on a business trip, he brings everything he needs with him for his studies in the University of New Haven’s Executive MBA program.

That is, he brings his UNH-issued iPad.

“The technology incorporated into our program is earth-shattering to me,” Bethel says. “This one device allows me to communicate via email, tap into the UNH library and read journal articles, periodicals and texts.”

The technology is especially convenient for him, he says, because it allows for seamless transition between working at home and working on the road.

“The best part is that no matter how many books they load on the iPad, it doesn’t get any heavier,” says Bethel, manager of environmental, health and safety strategy planning at Sikorsky.

Bethel is in the first class of UNH’s newly revamped Executive MBA program. He is more technophobic than his peers, he says, yet has learned to use the electronic Blackboard system, a teaching tool that allows the instructor to post material from class, make assignments, do assessments and interact with students all online.

“The transition to iPad and the concept of eBooks required some getting used to,” he says. “I may still like real books, but considering the convenience of the eBooks, I don’t know if I would ever go back,” Bethel says.

Bethel says research using electronic versions of journals makes the work much easier and faster than it was when he was in school in the 70s and 80s. “The technology I have access to puts many more resources at my fingertips, I am able to do more complete research on a topic. Learning technologies have made my life much easier.”

The restructured Executive MBA program was appealing to Bethel for several reasons, including the fact that the content is organized around themes such as viability, cultural transformation, marketing management, ethics, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility and advancing shareholder value. He liked the fact that students work on “real world” research projects often involving their own companies, to apply what they are learning in the classroom directly to the business world.

“For me, at this stage of my career, a traditional approach of stand-alone courses was not appealing to me,” he said.

And, Bethel notes, he likes that the “classroom” is actually a corporate-style board room located at 900 Chapel Street in downtown New Haven overlooking the Green. “As odd as it seems, I am very familiar with being in board rooms, so this setting breeds familiarity. It also facilitates an interactive learning style much more than what I remember from the traditional campus-based classroom setting.”

For Susan Marino, a 25-year employee of Hartford Hospital, the Executive MBA program was a logical next step in a career that began with direct patient care, progressed to patient care management and now involves, as the hospital’s director of clinical informatics, working to use technology to transform all documentation at the hospital into electronic records for everything from patient records to radiology testing to time keeping records for employees.

Her life, however, is jam-packed. “I also support the central staffing office with a float pool of 160 RNs,” she says. And she has a husband and two daughters, a 19-year old in her first year of college in Boston and a 13-year old eighth grader. Marino also helps take care of her parents, which has lately been time consuming since her mother has been ill.

UNH’s Executive MBA schedule is one of the key factors that appealed to her, she says. The class schedule is Friday afternoon and all day Saturday once every three weeks. “The way the whole program is set up is absolutely a bonus for me,” Marino says. “I don’t lose a whole day of work and I can be in the classes and really focus.”

Marino says she considwould benefit more from the depth of in-person sessions and the conversations with the other students.

“I never would have thought that there would be a lot of similarities between Sikorsky and Hartford Hospital and yet there are,” she notes “There are many things I am learning from other people as well as from the case studies we are looking at. It has been very valuable and a whole different learning experience.”

Another perk of the program, according to Marino, is that the course is helping each of the students to build their “brand” as a professional, she says.

“The Executive MBA is an integrated program designed to provide synergy across content, delivery, experiential and cognitive learning, and real-world job application,” says Victoria Dolceamore, executive director of graduate programs at the UNH College of Business.

The program includes a two-day “effective executive” workshop, a two-day ethics session, a two-day business simulation and a session in Washington D.C. The program also includes a strategic management project that allows students to apply the concepts and learning from the course to the real-world — a challenge they can apply to their own worksite.

That was one of the key components attractive to Luke D. Kruse, a project manager supporting production of U.S. Navy helicopters at Sikorsky. He says he enrolled in the UNH program to help his transition from active duty in the U.S. Army to the workplace.

“I enrolled in the Executive MBA program because I recognized the need to strengthen my overall business knowledge and language,” he says. “The program was interesting to me as the curriculum was not like anything that I had heard about before. To me it’s the ideal way to learn at the graduate level.”

A 2004 graduate of Loyola University in Maryland, Kruse says he had a hard time getting back into the swing of the academic world and balancing work, personal life and school. Putting in the extra effort, however, is definitely worth it says Bethel, a colleague of Kruse’s at Sikorsky. “I have already begun to apply some of what I have learned to my job. The course material is all relevant.”

The UNH Executive MBA program is the second oldest in New England. Founded 35 years ago, it has produced more than 1,500 graduates, including many highly successful alumni who have gone on to become senior executives of leading corporations around the globe. The program is ranked as one of the best Executive MBA values in the nation by the website, which evaluates graduate business school programs.