College of Business MBA program adjusts to current economic, environmental demands

AMES, Iowa -- The Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is often viewed by students as a ticket to the fast track to the executive suite. And after a rash of corporate corruption in the nation's recent past, many businesses now desire executives who are as concerned with ethics and social responsibility as they are profits.

Iowa State University's College of Business is responding to that call by revamping its MBA curriculum next fall to now focus more on sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The new MBA curriculum will enhance existing synergies among the College of Business' MBA offerings and the colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences, while reflecting upon the university's wider institutional focus on sustainability -- one led by President Gregory Geoffroy.

"We looked at the president's vision for the next strategic plan," said Mike Crum, the college's associate dean of academic programs and a professor of logistics and supply chain management. "And if you look at what he was saying -- let's feed the world, let's protect the environment -- he's really asking, how do we make a contribution to sustainability?"

Grounded in business essentials

Crum says any additional emphasis on CSR and sustainability will not come at the expense of the fundamental business skills that comprise the MBA curriculum.

"Our students will be as well-prepared as they've always been to go into any company and perform," Crum said.

"The focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility is broad so that it can really permeate many aspects of business," said Jenny Reitano, director of MBA recruitment and marketing at Iowa State. "It's not just green, it's everything -- people, profit and planet."

In fact, the re-tooled MBA will enhance changes made by Crum and a committee of Iowa State's MBA instructors to the program's core curriculum three years earlier -- requiring an even greater concentration (30 credits) in core courses. The committee also streamlined specialization areas to the five in greatest demand -- accounting, finance, marketing, supply chain management and technology and innovation management.

Iowa State's MBA will now ground all students not only in core business practices, but also in a firm understanding of sustainability and CSR, and how they relate to business. The new emphasis can be found in a change to a significant required course.

"In the past, we had a one-credit hour module in ethics," said Brad Shrader, a University Professor of management, who was part of the MBA committee. "We decided a three-credit hour course on ethics, leadership, and governance would make sense in the core. We based that on where we were as a college and what other MBAs were doing, but mostly on what AACSB -- the accrediting agency for collegiate schools of business -- was saying MBAs needed."

Creating science and technology synergy

Shrader sees Iowa State's commitment to science and technology -- as evidenced by its formal name -- linking well with the focus of the new MBA. He also points out that the MBA adds value when embedded within a more "substantive" knowledge base -- such as engineering, agriculture, or chemistry.

Crum is well aware of that, citing significant growth in the concurrent BS/MBA program with the College of Engineering, which today includes students from just about every engineering discipline. The College of Veterinary Medicine is also offering a DVM/MBA dual degree. And Crum reports that a proposed concurrent MBA with chemistry is within the university review process.

Of course, he adds that the college will always welcome those who pursue the traditional MBA.

Prospective students can take a closer look at the re-tooled MBA program in May. There's a Des Moines "Lunch and Learn" event at the Raccoon River Brewing Co. from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11; a West Des Moines informational dinner at Biaggi's, 5990 University Ave., from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 13; and an Ames "Lunch and Learn" from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 1360 Gerdin Business Building on Wednesday, May 26.

Additional information is available online, or by e-mailing Reitano at She says she is always willing to arrange individual meetings with potential MBA candidates, and will be available to provide additional information at ISU's Des Moines location, Capital Square, on Wednesday, May 19.

The deadline for fall registration is July 1.