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Our new program model combines a traditional but highly focused curriculum with a "shadow curriculum" of additional workshops and seminars. assume business graduates will have a solid knowledge of financial accounting, strategy analysis, and marketing, but they're looking for something more. What corporations really want are graduates with intangible personal skills—the ability to use data in a persuasive manner, lead teams and projects effectively, and make an immediate impact. We realized that simply teaching theory in a traditional classroom setting would not produce graduates with these intangible skills. We also realized we needed to dig deeper to find exactly what those skills encompassed. STAGE TWO: Discovering Customer Needs As part of our more detailed investigation, we conducted in-depth interviews and ran brainstorming sessions at several levels within the corporate offices. We met with approxi- mately two dozen Global 500 companies, interviewing and polling those organizations separately and in groups. For instance, to determine what kind of leadership skills our corporate partners really wanted, we brought in several hiring managers and asked how they identified and evalu- ated leadership characteristics. We didn't just want to hear, "We're looking for bright people who know how to com- municate." We wanted to know what defined the difference between an average performer and an excellent one. One employer told us, "We want students who can take a complex data set, review it, identify patterns, use those pat- terns to develop new business practices, and communicate those practices in a convincing way to senior management." Those are concrete deliverables, and we knew we could build exercises into our program that would develop those skills. Our research also led us to believe that our program would be stronger if we limited our focus to a very few specific fields. To determine what those fields should be, we first relied on input from our hiring partners, who told us what functional expertise they wanted in our graduates. Then, we surveyed prospective students who had inquired about attending the school, asking them to rank a selection of career paths. We also honestly evaluated what we do best and where we have real expertise. STAGE THREE: Developing the Product These combined insights helped spur a real shift in our approach, allowing us to precisely tailor our MBA program to the needs of our end customers. First, we decided to reduce our specializations from nine or ten to three: finance, marketing, and supply chain management. Marketing and finance had always been very strong parts of our program, so those were natural choices, 52 BizEd JULY/AUGUST 2007 The Immersive MBA A streamlined, integrated, 11-month MBA program revitalizes the University of Kentucky's business curriculum. by D. Sudharshan and Paul Jarley When the two of us took over at the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics in Lexington in 2003, the university's goal was to become a top-20 public research university and our assignment was to transform the college to support the university's goal. An aggressive fund-raising program had netted the school the resources to attract endowed chairs and professors, but we found our intellectual capital exceeded our programmatic offerings. To make our program stand out among our competitors, we decided we needed a dramatic overhaul of our curriculum. Working with two faculty teams, we began by revising our daytime MBA offering, which was more of a collection of required courses than a true program. After a period of assessing and considering the possibilities, we created our new Immersive MBA, an intense, integrated program that allows us to provide almost two full years of traditional instruction in just eleven months. Building and Delivering the Program The new MBA was built around the idea that we needed an action learning approach that took a process view of busi- ness. Graduates would undergo cross-disciplinary, project- based team learning that would help them adapt to new situations, make decisions with imperfect information, and effectively implement initiatives. and supply chain management was an area of interest that turned up repeatedly in our research. Second, we considered ways to teach students the skills that our partners had identified as crucial, such as nego- tiations, project management, and data analysis. We decided that a series of workshops—to be run in parallel with the more traditional classes—would combine theory and practice while allowing students to practice important personal skills. Third, we decided to recruit students who were eager to follow a career path in one of the fields we had identi- fied. Some of our partners are looking for very specific types of MBAs, such as graduates who have technical skills and who previously worked for major corporations. Others,

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