BSU launching online MBA in fall 2014

Beginning in the fall of 2014, Bemidji State University will launch a master of business administration program that can be completed entirely online.

Dr. Sanjeev Phukan, professor of business administration who will direct Bemidji State’s MBA program, began developing a curriculum in 2010.

“This program builds on the success of our existing online bachelor’s degree in business, which has been enormously successful,” Phukan said. “We’ve had lots of anecdotal evidence from our graduates that suggested they would be delighted to continue on if BSU had an MBA program to offer them.”

Developing the Program
The MBA is the most-common graduate degree in the United States, held by 38 percent of top chief executive officers in Fortune 500 companies, and the number of MBAs granted annually continues to grow. By the late 1990s, MBAs accounted for nearly 25 percent of all master’s degrees granted by American colleges and universities. Additionally, interest in American MBAs from international students is steadily increasing as well.

The first feasibility study for an MBA program at Bemidji State was undertaken by former dean of the College of Business Technology and Communication, Dr. James Maxwell, as far back as 2009. He presented the idea of pursuing an MBA to the college’s faculty, which agreed to explore the possibilities.

An early feasibility study conducted by BSU professor Tom Fauchald indicated that a BSU MBA program would be well-received. From there, Phukan began work on curriculum development, which was completed in December 2010. A second, more far-reaching, feasibility study which included extensive market research was conducted in the spring of 2012 by a professional market research firm retained by the university. The results of that second study were positive, so work began to get formal approvals through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and BSU’s graduate curriculum committee.

“The collaboration with the graduate committee was an ongoing and dynamic process, and the committee provided valuable insight on how to improve the program,” Phukan said. “Because of that work, once it went to the system office it was approved in remarkably short time with no objections. So, it’s ready to go.”

Program structure
Bemidji State’s MBA program will include 36 semester credits, with 30 core credits in 10 required courses and a two-course, six-credit elective concentration area. The program will eventually offer six concentration areas, including economics, management, operations, marketing, finance and international business.

Phukan said Bemidji State’s MBA would be reasonably priced, but due to the nature of the program would be more expensive than the graduate programs currently offered by the university.

The program’s goal will be to enroll between 25-35 students at the outset in a cohort-based system that keeps groups of students together in the same courses through the entire program.

“This is a solid program,” Phukan said. “It’s affordable, and I think with the cohort-based system we plan to have, we will have a lot of support for the students who choose to enroll in our program.”

Delivering the Program
Phukan said the advantages BSU currently gives students in its on campus and online programs will translate to the new program, making it an attractive option for persons seeking to continue their education with an MBA.

“All of the positive attributes that exist in our other programs will filter over to the MBA program,” he said. “The intimacy and personal attention that we provide in both our on-campus and online offerings, and the excellent faculty that we have and will recruit to teach in the program will exist in this program as well.

“Our Center for Extended Learning unit is strong, and I think that is a huge strength we have that many places do not have,” Phukanf said. “We jumped into offering our complete degrees online at an earlier time than many other institutions have, and that’s allowed us to build some real strengths in the way we run our online programs.

“The folks that run CEL over here are excellent, and the program has great support from administration, from the deans all the way up to the president. There is support for this program from the top down, and this will contribute to its success.”

Phukan added that the program being delivered entirely online would allow Bemidji State to extend its potential audience to overseas students, as well. Phukan’s international recruiting efforts have indicated that a reasonably priced MBA offered by Bemidji State would be welcomed by students in fast-growing Asian education markets such as China, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

“Given the focus on campus for internationalization, we can take this MBA program and market it internationally in places where we have contacts and networks,” he said.

“There is enough activity and interest among alumni from our program that would tend to indicate that we should not only be able to populate this program but also to be successful.”

Dr. Sanjeev Phukhan, professor of business administration, MBA program director, (218) 755-2756