Bend MBA program proves value
By John Stearns, Business Editor, The Bulletin, originally printed April 13, 2010
Wade Miller says he could not have gotten his job as executive director of Central Oregon Pediatric Associates without his Master of Business Administration degree, which he earned in Bend from Portland-based Concordia University.
For business people who've wanted to get an MBA or wondered about such a program and the commitment, an informational meeting is scheduled this week in Bend.
Miller will be among professionals on hand to talk to prospective MBA students in Bend about the Concordia program. Concordia is taking applications now for its next two-year cohort, which begins Aug. 6. The program, the only "live," or "face-to-face" MBA program in Bend, has graduated 35 MBAs since the first cohort started in 2004. It's a program Bend's lucky to have and a quality complement to the region's other higher education offerings.
"It was worth going through," said Miller, who got his Concordia MBA in 2007 when he was director of quality and process improvement at St. Charles Bend. He sought the degree to supplement his undergraduate degree in health care administration and round out his skill set. Those skills were necessary to land the position with COPA last July.
The program "opened doors to other opportunities and the next step of my career, and it also... was exciting to have your mind stimulated again and to look at things differently, and from a much broader perspective," he said.
But be prepared to work — hard.
"I would lie to say that it was easy," said Miller, 38. He and his wife didn't vacation for two years. He studied from the time he came home each night and dedicated most weekends to studying.
Tom Daniels, director of Concordia's Bend MBA program, said students can expect to study 15 to 20 hours per week to start, hours that some students can reduce as they get more comfortable with complex case analyses. The program also requires meeting one weekend per month, on Friday evening and all day Saturday for 18 months. The other six months can include a mix of elective courses, work on a thesis, or an internship.
The two-year program costs approximately $25,000 for tuition, books and fees. While grants are not available for graduate-level studies, student loans are, Daniels said. Some companies also help pay their students' way, he said.
While online MBAs are common these days, both Miller and Daniels say group discussions among students are pivotal and enriching. Miller said his class included former Microsoft and Boeing employees living in Bend, which "led to some fascinating perspectives as we went through the case studies."
The program prefers at least five years of work experience, which provides real-world context for student discussions.
That interaction was big, too, for Phoenix Ivers, who graduated from the first cohort when she worked at Edge Wireless. "I think I learned a lot more that way," she said. Ivers, 29, is now an executive assistant at Bend Research, where the well-rounded instruction from the MBA has helped with the various hats she wears at the company, including helping with operations and participating on the business-development team.
Concordia's program is based on Harvard Business School's case-study method, the same approach Harvard uses in its MBA program, and uses Harvard's materials, Daniels said. All instructors have worked in the field they teach and have educational experience, added Daniels, who teaches project management and case analysis in the program.
Students who graduated in the fourth Bend MBA cohort on April 3 were the first to take an MBA exit exam that measures what they learned and compares results with 24,785 students from about 230 small colleges and universities nationwide. The Bend class's average score was in the top 10 percent of all institutions, Daniels said.
That speaks well for the program.
John Stearns, business editor, can be reached at 541-617-7822 or at email@example.com.