As program director for the Executive MBA program, I speak to many prospective students, and field numerous questions about the program. Most of the inquiries have to do with the operations or outcomes of the program—the time commitment each week, the technology used for delivery, the cohort model, or ROI for the program, to name a few. I am surprised, however, by the questions that often don’t get asked:
- “Will I think differently as a result of this program?”
- “Will my colleagues view me differently?”
- “Will I form meaningful relationships with my cohort or instructors?”
- “Will I have the confidence to lead a major project when I’m done with the program?
For many applicants, pursuing an MBA degree is perceived as a relatively simple exchange—take these courses; receive your degree. However, there is a much more meaningful exchange that occurs at RIT.
There are hundreds of MBA programs in the U.S.—both on-campus and online, that can offer just that. Most deliver a basic core curriculum of management, finance, accounting, and marketing courses, and a sizeable majority offer specialty programs or concentrations. However, the basic offering remains essentially the same—a set of tools for the manager’s tool belt. The result is a hyper-competitive MBA market.
In this type of market, where potential students find it difficult to perceive real differences among programs, schools try to out-compete their rivals by acquiring similar resources and developing more, but generally similar, capabilities. However, this is a losing proposition for most schools. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School calls this “competition to be the best” since only a very few schools can be crowned “the best.”
At RIT, our Executive MBA program has taken a different approach. We give significant thought to the distinctive value we can deliver, adapting curriculum to industries’ demands, as well as to the type of students who would best benefit from our resources and capabilities. We thought our value was largely in the high-touch delivery of our program: small classes; smart, committed faculty; and a dedicated and innovative staff to deliver a friction-free Executive MBA experience. While we continue to believe that high-touch experience is unusual and does in fact create value, we’ve come to see that our distinctive value is in creating a meaningful MBA experience for our students, an M2BA, for short.