The hybrid and online Master of Business Administration program equips students with skills in leadership, strategy, marketing, finance, operations, analytics and ethical reasoning. Program director Amr Swid explains how St. Edward’s prepares MBA graduates for a rapidly evolving business environment.
As a mission-driven institution, St. Edward’s focuses on educating both the mind and the heart. How is this evident in the MBA program?
Ethics is discussed in every class, but we are distinctive among MBA programs in requiring a core course in Social Responsibility of Business. Few programs require a course in corporate social responsibility, but we think it is critical to develop ethical leaders in business. This ties into the St. Edward’s University mission of working for social justice.
In this class, we talk about why corporate social responsibility (CSR) is important, and how it can be implemented, but we also really unpack how to make the case for CSR. CSR measures cost money, and managers can be resistant if their primary goal is profit. We talk through the counterarguments in support of CSR – namely, that being a socially responsible business is good for business. It generates good PR; it forges better relationships with government; and it helps the company attract the best talent. Plus, when the community where the business is located does better, business improves. These discussions prepare our students to choose a company that fits with their values or to be agents of change within the companies where they work.
What is the residency component of the program, and how is it beneficial?
Our courses are seven weeks long. Each course includes three Saturday residencies: at the beginning, middle and end of each session. On residency day, one class meets in the morning, and another meets in the afternoon; so, depending on whether you’re taking one or two classes, you’ll be there for a half or full day. We have an activity during the lunch hour: for example, on a recent Saturday, a St. Edward’s alumnus who is the CEO of a bank gave a talk about above-the-line leadership.
The residency is your opportunity to build relationships and network with your classmates. There is a tremendous advantage to spending time with your colleagues and professors in person and being in the same room with guest speakers. During each seven-week session, one residency will be on campus. At the same time, we’ve learned the value of flexibility, so students can attend virtually, for example, if they live outside of Texas. The other two residencies will be virtual, but they are synchronous experiences where everyone interacts. Our program is flexible, and mostly online, and we emphasize engaged flexibility.
What do students gain from the Management Consulting Capstone?
This is our practicum course, where students apply everything they’ve learned throughout the program to an actual business problem for a real company. Very few MBA programs offer this consulting experience, and our students get really excited about it. We provide experiential learning throughout the program, such as through simulations and case studies, but the capstone gives students a chance to do work for an external client.
Students usually choose among several companies who have come to us wanting help with a particular aspect of their business. The companies let us know the deliverables they’re seeking. Then the students have seven weeks to provide an actionable solution.
Our MBA students have worked with both local and international businesses. These have included an educational software company, a fitness club, a medical device company and a snack company expanding into an international market. The students have worked on all kinds of projects, including conducting a market analysis and creating an entire business plan. They have proposed a new inventory tracking system for one client and recommended staffing strategies for another. They have worked on behalf of clients to analyze trends in industry, including the short-term rental industry in one city and the insurance industry in an entire country.
The students really look forward to this experience. They learn a lot from working on an actual problem that a real business has asked us to solve. It’s a resume builder, a chance to network and an opportunity to integrate all the skills they’ve learned in class.
Our students learn the cutting-edge programs used today, including simulation and analytics software and digital marketing strategies. But we also talk about the big picture.
How does the MBA program incorporate technology?
Our focus on technology is a natural fit with our location in Austin, which is a tech hub. Technology is integrated into the core curriculum as well as elective courses, so students are able to develop skills in their area of concentration: entrepreneurship, small business management, digital management and more. Our students learn the cutting-edge programs used today, including simulation and analytics software and digital marketing strategies. But we also talk about the big picture. They study the impact of technology and learn how to adapt to change and how to integrate new technologies into business while understanding the human impact and ethical implications.
Few programs require a course in corporate social responsibility, but we think it is critical to develop ethical leaders in business.
What do students gain from St. Edward’s location in Austin when the program is largely online?
Our program is very much aligned with Austin’s identity as one of the best cities in the country for technology. Local employers include Google, Tesla, Indeed, Oracle, IBM and Apple, and the city has a vibrant startup ecosystem. Our faculty have numerous connections in industry, and students build connections through the residency component of the program and through their Capstone Consulting course, if they work with a local company. Many of our students are working full time in Austin, so they become vital contacts for one another, as well. For students outside Austin or the U.S., the program provides a way to learn about Austin and build connections here.
Are there examples of bridging undergraduate and graduate business education in the MBA?
Yes, we have some students coming directly from undergraduate programs who want to earn an MBA. As a result, we offer current undergraduates at St. Edward’s the opportunity to experience graduate classes in popular courses such as Social Responsibility of Business and Marketing Management in a Digital Environment as they near completion of their undergraduate degree.
What makes the hybrid and online Master of Business Administration program valuable?
Flexibility, with opportunities to network in person; ethical reasoning integrated throughout the courses; access to connections in Austin; a focus on cutting-edge technology; and real-world experience through the Capstone.