Special Anniversary Spotlight

Reflecting on the Full-Time Honors MBA Program:
The First 10 Years

By John F. Albanese

The Full-Time Honors MBA program is Zicklin’s flagship graduate program and 2009 is the 10th anniversary of our first graduating class. As we look back at the founding of the program and its growth and change over the years, we can also look confidently into the future based on some of the great things that our students continue to accomplish at Zicklin.

In 1997 the School of Business at Baruch College, as it was then called, embarked on a mission to build a selective, competitive full-time MBA program with a student body, curriculum, and quality rivaling that of top-tier, nationally ranked full-time programs. Baruch already enjoyed a stellar reputation and the business school made a strategic decision to strengthen its position. With seed money from Jack Nash '53, LHD (Hon.) '98, and under the direction of Dean Sidney Lirtzman, Associate Dean Rob Ducoffe, and Bill Ferns, Professor of CIS and Program Director, the first class of the Jack Nash Honors MBA program graduated in June 1999. The class was comprised of 33 diverse and highly talented students. In its first five years, enrollments rose rapidly and curricular innovations were made. Although the program, and indeed the Zicklin School and many other business schools, experienced declining enrollments between 2003 and 2006, the past four Honors MBA classes have exceeded enrollment projections. August 2009 saw the largest entering class since fall 1999. And total enrollment has grown 53% in the past four years.

In August 2009, we welcomed a new class of 77 students from 15 countries and around the US, with experience in firms such as Ogilvy and Mather and JP Morgan, and undergrad degrees from schools such as Dartmouth, Smith, and University of Chicago.

Pressing on with its mission to be a high-quality, competitive program, the Full-Time Honors MBA has benefited from both national trends and key improvements within the Zicklin School of Business. In accordance with its goal to provide outstanding services to its students, the school established a Director’s office in 2004, and expanded advisement, student services, and career services.

From the start, high expectations and standards of excellence, both academic and professional, have been the hallmark of the Full-Time Honors MBA program. As our economic environment changes and grows increasingly competitive, the need to prepare our students before they even begin their studies has also evolved considerably over the years. Most alumni will remember a one-day or three-day orientation taking place a few days before classes start. Now, enrollment in the program demands a three-week pre-term immersion into the MBA experience, with 90 hours of interactive sessions on leadership development, career management, team-building, academic preparation, cross-cultural management, employer resume reviews, and social activities with alumni and current students.

Exploring one’s leadership potential is also a major factor in the FT Honors MBA program. Zicklin’s FT Honors MBA students have demonstrated their readiness to embrace the opportunities and challenges of becoming 21st century leaders.

For example, sustainable business practices and the social impact of business have emerged as major areas of interest for a significant and growing number of students in recent years. The Sustainable Business Club, Baruch’s Net Impact chapter was founded by a group of Full-Time Honors MBA students and in just three years has become one of the most active in the New York area. As a result of their leadership and initiative, Baruch was among 24 schools that earned a new entry into the 2009 Business as UNusual Guide. Not only did the school have the highest number of student surveys submitted of any chapter in the world, but its qualitative evaluation was strong and comparable to other top MBA programs focusing on these important areas.

FLY, or Financial Literacy for Youth, is another example of the type of leaders emerging from the Full-Time Honors MBA program. This project is a student-driven initiative responding to the financial crisis by engaging teens to be responsible and educated consumers. Realizing that in the current financial crisis many consumers made bad decisions leading to debt they could not manage, FT Honors MBA students strongly felt they could put their business expertise into action by educating young people on the benefits of budgeting, credit, and risk, thereby inculcating a greater sense of responsibility and control over their financial well-being as they grow into adulthood. Working with Junior Achievement, which enrolled two groups of high school students into the full-day seminar, the financial literacy project benefitted from the contributions of a very professionally diverse MBA student body: a former program director at a youth social services organization had particular insights into the behaviors and expectations of 16-year olds; two former teachers offered methods to establish classroom decorum; others contributed their expertise in logistics as well as knowledge of finance, credit, and budgeting. Needless to say, we were very pleased to learn in June 2009 that FLY had won the Team MBA award for Most Original program at GMAC’s Annual Industry Conference

The Zicklin School of Business is proud not only of the progress and achievements the Full-Time Honors MBA program has made in just 10 years, but also of what it is positioned to achieve moving forward. We will continue to benchmark our curriculum, assessing its quality and relevance, and pay special attention to evolving trends and best practices. We will continue to recruit diverse and dynamic students from around the globe, ready and eager to demonstrate their leadership inside and outside the classroom. For we have seen that these efforts can enhance not only the Full-Time Honors MBA Program but also the reputation of the Zicklin School of Business and Baruch College among the top business schools in New York and nationally.

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