Archive for October, 2011

The CSUF Graduate Student Handbook – The Holy Grail for New Students

I’ve decided it’s time to get back to focusing on CSUF MBA-related blog posts.  And this week’s is an important one.  I am going to share with you a tool on the CSUF website that will answer most of your questions about the MBA program.  This crown jewel of knowledge is called the Graduate Student Handbook.

The Graduate Student Handbook (GSH) was created for incoming graduate business students, and explains all the prerequisites, requirements, and steps that must be completed before and during your time as CSUF MBA student.  Want to know when Welcome Weekend is?  Unsure how to waive a prerequisite?  Have questions about how to register for courses?  All those questions and more can be answered simply by exploring the GSH.  And I will be your guide, providing a summary of the handbook’s most important elements and noting areas of particular interest for students applying to the program.  The GSH is made up of 18 steps, and I will provide detail about some of the most important ones below.  The handbook is open to anyone, whether you’re a CSUF graduate student or not, so feel free to explore it if you are considering enrolling in the graduate business school:


Section 4: Waiver of Coursework – Incoming students are given a Welcome Packet containing important information and documents required for the first semester.  One such important piece of information explains which core courses students can waive.  Courses can typically be waived if a student completed a similar class while earning their undergraduate business degree.  This section also explains how students can petition to waive additional graduate courses.  If a student believes he or she has already met the necessary course requirements in an equivalent undergraduate course, they can make an appointment with the New Admit Advisor to obtain the waiver request forms (see Section 6 for more information about how to schedule an appointment with the New Admit Advisor).  I have petitioned to have a course waived, and after a brief meeting with school staff I provided them with a syllabus from the equivalent undergraduate courses and was granted the course waiver.

Section 5: CSUF Online Tutorials – Tutorials are offered for a variety of MBA program topics, but I personally have not utilized any of them yet.  The tutorials cover areas such as Registration and Fee Payments, Viewing the Course Catalog, and the Student Center.  The one thing I have noticed about the tutorials is that several of them were last updated in 2008.  That does not mean the information is out-of-date, but I’d like to believe the tutorials are reviewed every once in a while.  However, I registered for my first semester and completed my incoming student paperwork using mainly the GSH so other incoming students may or may not have found the tutorials helpful.

Section 7: Prepare Your Class Schedule – This section helps incoming students both prepare their first semester schedule and map out their course schedule for the length of their graduate studies.  The Program Matrix available here helps students identify which courses to take when, and even offers suggestions as to which courses to try and avoid taking in the same semester.  Using the information in the Welcome Packet and the Program Matrix, students can schedule all their courses for all their semesters before even stepping foot in a CSUF classroom!  This section is especially helpful for prospective students because it paints a fairly complete picture of the required courses in the MBA program (except for concentration and elective courses), and can help those students decide whether the MBA courses offered at CSUF will fulfill their educational needs.

Section 9: Financial Aid – This section provides an overview of financial aid and scholarships, and also contains details regarding tuition for veterans.  Numerous scholarships and other forms of aid are available to CSUF students, including the Michael A. Reagan scholarship and a variety of fellowships.  As a side note, I find the financial situation at CSUF to be one of the best MBA values in Southern California.  Not counting the cost of books, supplies, or a parking permit, my part-time semester (two evening courses, each once a week) costs approximately $3,000.  Considering some of the other MBA programs I looked into cost anywhere from $25,000-$35,000 a year, CSUF has provided me great bang for my buck.

Section 11: Welcome Seminar – This section provides dates and scheduling information for the mandatory Welcome Seminar each new MBA student must attend.  The seminars run during both spring and fall semesters, and this GSH section explains exactly what students need to bring for the weekend’s activities.  I completed my Welcome Seminar before the start of the current Fall semester, and it’s essentially an orientation weekend for business graduate students.  I had an opportunity to meet some amazing classmates, and listen to various professors discuss topics related to the MBA program (coursework, making the most of your experience) and other topics related to the business world (networking, the importance of creativity in the workplace).  I really enjoyed the Welcome Seminar, and it got me excited to begin my MBA coursework.

Section 13: Replacement courses – This section expands upon Section 4, and explains that students may waive as many MBA courses as they want, as long as they have met the necessary prerequisites and criteria for the courses.  However, if a student waives more than 12 units worth of classes, he or she must find replacement courses to take within the MBA program for each unit above the first 12 waived units.  Speaking from personal experience, I waived 18 units worth of courses, and have had to complete the Replacement Coursework Approval Form identifying which classes will replace the 6 extra units I’ve had waived.  The nice thing about that requirement is that I can customize my MBA to a greater degree, selecting courses that either complement my concentration or are in other areas I would like additional training and coursework in.

Section 18: Academic probation – This section explains that all graduate business students must maintain a cumulative GPA and study plan GPA of 3.0 (B) or better while at CSUF.  If a student cannot meet this requirement, he or she will be placed on academic probation for a maximum of 2 semesters (or until their GPA improves).  I am not telling prospective students this to scare them away from CSUF – in fact, I searched two other Cal State universities and they have the same academic requirements for graduate students.  I merely want prospective students to be aware of the GPA requirements so they know what they are getting into when they apply to the program.

The GSH is a great tool for both prospective and current CSUF MBA students to learn about the school’s graduate business program.  I know I would have really appreciated knowing this information was available when I was looking at and applying to schools.  Feel free to leave any questions you may have about CSUF or the GSH in the comments section below.

Here are a couple of articles I read this week and found particularly interesting:

“Making the Case for Better Business Writing” – One of the skills I think is most important in the workplace is the ability to communicate an idea or strategy effectively to other people.  Not everyone thinks the same ways, so being able to translate information and ideas into something others can readily understand is an invaluable skill.  This article offers some practical advice for how to improve one’s business writing, in order to stand out in the workplace and hone a necessary communications skill.

“You’re Doing It All Wrong” – The more I read about the current recession and its effect on corporations all over the world, it becomes evident to me that the old rules of business are giving way to new strategies and ideas.  This article details how past ideas regarding successful companies do not hold-up when applied to the most successful companies of this new economy, particularly tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

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Preparing MBAs for the Future of Business

Last week I described an article I read that illustrated how the American work environment is changing, and specifically how these changes relate to MBA students.  I discussed how work that can be automated or outsourced is taking jobs from the U.S., leaving workers with the remaining complex roles and responsibilities.  In my opinion, MBA programs now have an excellent opportunity to ensure their students are best prepared to thrive in this new business environment.  I have compiled a list of suggestions that could help graduate programs produce business leaders ready to tackle an increasingly complex and challenging world, while attracting the best and the brightest prospective students to their MBA programs.

  • Focus on international experience.  Granted, it seems as if all MBA programs either offer or require some international business component in their curriculum.  CSUF offers International Business Seminars which allow students opportunities to meet and be exposed to international business practices outside the U.S.  But I am not advocating simple exposure to international business – I am suggesting MBA students need immersion into other cultures.  Globalization and advancements in technology continuously shrink our world, and the U.S. is not the only country on this planet.  Developing nations are taking a larger role in international business, and countries will need to work together to provide customers with worldwide solutions to complex problems.  An international immersion experience would force MBA students to learn a new culture, adapt to new surrounding, speak a new language, and look at business problems from a new perspective.  Students’ networks and business opportunities will grow, and the skills they learn adapting to a new environment will be invaluable in our rapidly changing world.

 

  • Learn to execute strategy.  Learning how to develop an effective business strategy is a dramatically important skill for any executive.  To quote Winston Churchill: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”  A good strategy is only as good as the men and women who execute it.  A football coach could draw up a play that is a guaranteed touchdown.  However, if he cannot transfer the play effectively to his players and they cannot execute it, the play will never lead to a single point.  It will simply remain a great play on a whiteboard.  Business schools need to produce graduates that can execute strategy – those individuals will bring greater value to a company than an employee who simply creates fantastic ideas that never leave the paper they are written on.

 

  • Practice management skills.  MBA programs and their students must work together on this recommendation.  Business schools must provide their students with the skills and techniques required to be effective managers: the ability to listen, criticize constructively, and motivate employees.  These soft skills are immensely important for managers who deal with human beings on a daily basis.  Everyone is wired differently, and managers must learn what makes each person tick.  And the best way to develop these skills is through practice.  Not going-through-the-motions practice, but genuine, challenging practice that puts these theories and techniques to use in real business situations.  In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell explains that individuals who become experts in their field practice their craft for an average of 10,000 hours in their lifetime.  Why can’t MBA programs be a place for future managers and executives to accumulate their first hundred plus hours of deliberate management practice?

Granted, these suggestions are not earth shattering ideas.  And I am only five weeks into my first semester of graduate school.  But I believe that the changing nature of business will force MBA programs to reevaluate their curriculums and these suggestions could serve as a starting point for adapting business programs to this new environment.

Here is an article I read this week that I feel fits nicely with this week’s post:

“Why MBA Programs Don’t Produce Leaders” – Drew Hansen’s article focuses on leadership in MBA programs, and illustrates some of the same issues this post covered.  Do you feel MBA programs have a responsibility to produce leaders, or should they simply be producing effective business managers?

The Changing Nature Of Work

I came across this quote from Arnold Kling about the changing nature of work in America while reading “The New New New Economy” in The Atlantic:

The paradox is this.  A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job.  But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated and outsourced.  The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining.  The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing…

Reading this quote at first, it does not seem as if this could possibly be relevant for someone like me, pursuing an MBA degree.  Despite the fact that it may be possible to define what exactly a manager or executive does, the truth is that their major requirements (managing people and developing business strategy) is very difficult to define, automate, and/or outsource.

But after reading through it again, I started thinking about ways in which the article could be related to an MBA student like me.  In essence the article is focusing on how the American economy is changing, and how the change is affecting our jobs and the work we do.  And rapid change is going to be a constant element of our daily lives from now on.  Financial markets can be disrupted instantly by bad news from anywhere in the world, Facebook is constantly revamping its home page, consumers preferences can shift due to a single tweet, and a new iphone is released each year.  Rapid change will continue to be a part of our daily lives, and future business leaders need to be prepared to handle that change.

I believe there are several ways MBA programs can adjust their curriculum to ensure their students are prepared to handle life in the rapidly changing business world they will graduate into.  I have discussed some elements of my CSUF courses in a previous post, but next week I will mention some ways MBA programs can ensure their students will be even better prepared for life in this new business environment.

Here are a few articles I read this week that you might find interesting:

This book review in the New Yorker explores the philosophical, academic, and economic views of procrastination.  I know I struggle with the issue constantly – do you manage to get tasks done when they need to be done, or are you like me and put them off until the last minute?

Businesses tend to want their employees to succeed more often than they want them to fail.  But this article discusses how failure can lead to greater success and how business have tried to encourage their employees to extract success from failure.  Have you ever failed at something, but later achieved success after learning from that failure?