Q&A: Business School Deans On The Changing Needs Of Minnesota Companies

Q&A: Business School Deans On The Changing Needs Of Minnesota Companies

At St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota, business deans Stefanie Lenway and Sri Zaheer say analytics, ethics and global understanding are key to the next generation of business leaders.

It’s no secret that universities are intensely competing for high potential students, so one might conclude that the business deans at the University of Minnesota and University of St. Thomas are rivals or adversaries.

In reality, Sri Zaheer and Stefanie Lenway call themselves colleagues and friends. Zaheer, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and Lenway, dean of the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas, have been friends for more than 25 years and served together on the Carlson faculty.

University of Minnesota

Carlson School of Management

Dean: Sri Zaheer earned a bachelor’s in physics and an MBA in India, before moving to the United States where she obtained a Ph.D. in international management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Key Fact: Zaheer rose through the ranks to become the Carlson dean in 2012. She joined the Carlson faculty in 1991 and served in many leadership roles that included department chair and associate dean.

2015 Enrollment at Carlson: Total enrollment was 4,382, which included 2,500 undergraduates and 1,337 in MBA programs. Enrollment declined by 1.9 percent from 2014 when enrollment totaled 4,469 in business degree programs.

Twin Cities Business invited them to do a joint interview to discuss how they are adapting their programs to meet the changing needs of business as well as learn how their business models, courses and student profiles are evolving. The interview spanned 80 minutes and was conducted at the Carlson School. What follows are edited excerpts of the conversation.

TCB: How do you each define the role of your business school?

ZAHEER: We are part of the University of Minnesota and we have a land grant mission, and for us it’s really about serving as a hub of exchange for the business community here and statewide. We have the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, and we run the Minnesota Cup. This year we’ve got about 1,500 entrepreneurs participating.

In terms of students, for us it is really about a global reputation and local impact. So I think students who come here tend to want to do more nationally and worldwide. Whereas I think you are more deeply rooted in the Twin Cities community at St. Thomas.
LENWAY: Sri put it well. We focus on the Twin Cities business community. Minnesota business is our business. The other part is that the St. Thomas mission is “All for the Common Good.” We spend a lot of time talking about how would you do things differently if you think about the common good as opposed to if you just think analytically what makes sense.

The real difference in the freshmen is that we don’t have an entrance requirement. They come to St. Thomas, and they can come to the Opus College.
ZAHEER: For us there is a screen for freshmen admission.

International experience

TCB: St. Thomas is a regional school and Carlson competes nationally for students, but you both are committed to global experiences. Tell me about your approaches.

ZAHEER: For the students who come here we really want them to develop a global mindset. We have a required international study experience that is very much a defining feature of our program. Recently, I was in Cuba with 27 of our undergraduates. Others are in London, where they are studying corporate responsibility with a bunch of British companies.

University of St. Thomas

Opus College of Business

Dean: Stefanie Lenway holds an MBA and Ph.D. from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. She also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science.

Key Fact: Before becoming the Opus dean in 2014, Lenway served as business dean at the University of Illinois in Chicago as well as dean of the Broad College of Business at Michigan State.

2015 Enrollment at Opus: Total enrollment was 3,359, which included 2,376 undergraduates and 842 in the full-time, evening and health care MBA programs. Enrollment dropped by 1.7 percent from 2014 when enrollment totaled 3,416.

TCB: Will each MBA student have an international experience?

ZAHEER: Not just each MBA, every student, undergraduate, day MBA, evening MBA, executive MBA, all of these groups have to have an international study experience. And it’s not just a tourist experience. There is a strong study component to it and before they can graduate they have to do it. Some may choose to do an entire semester abroad.

We have quite a few courses which start here, will do five weeks of education here, and then with the faculty member they will go overseas for two weeks, come back and process what they’ve learned. LENWAY: At St. Thomas, the study abroad for the entire university is quite high.

In the business school, we have the London business semester. So I was in London last fall celebrating the 20th anniversary. International study is a requirement in the Executive MBA program. It will be a requirement in the new full-time MBA.

A part-time MBA has some international experience, but it may not be a travel experience. One of the new programs that I brought is a January-term experience in Mumbai, working on social enterprises with S. P. Jain, which is an excellent business school. About 20 students will be going in January 2017. It will primarily be seniors and some graduate students. And our executive MBA program is going to Mumbai in the fall to visit companies, but also with an emphasis on health care.

TCB: How and when did the two of you meet?

LENWAY: Getting tenure is tough, especially at the University of Minnesota. I think it was 1989. I was up for tenure and I hid out at MIT. I was given an office and an ID card. That was it. When I was at MIT, my host was Sri’s advisor. We met with a lunch in the faculty club at MIT overlooking the Charles River.
ZAHEER: I was a Ph.D. student at MIT, my husband and I were both there. So we met and she told me about Minnesota. Quite frankly, being at MIT, I hadn’t heard of Minnesota. (Both deans laugh).

I love it here. I’m as Minnesotan now as anybody, having been here for 25 years. So at that time, she said it is actually a very interesting school. You should check it out when you are on the market. This was the first time we had heard about it. It turned out the very next year the Carlson School had two jobs. One was in my husband’s area and one was in mine. We applied. We thought we’d be here three years and here we are, 25 years later.

High analytics demand

TCB: As the two of you plan for the 2016-17 academic year, what are the biggest challenges your business schools face?

LENWAY: The demand for graduate business education is shifting quickly. And I think trying to understand it and keep up with it is a common challenge.
ZAHEER: It’s not just the two of us. Across the country, there’s much greater interest in specialized degrees. So two years ago, we launched a master of science in business analytics, which is just going gangbusters, and next year we will have two sections here.
LENWAY: We just launched one (master’s in business analytics) this year and we are already sold out. The difference between Carlson and Opus is we are a joint program with engineering, so students can take as many engineering classes, or as many business classes to get either the business analyst training or the data architecture training.
ZAHEER: Ours is focused on going deep into business, into the analytics piece of it, but also we have a strong experiential component. We modeled our analytics enterprise very much like our other enterprises where we get data analytics projects from all of the great companies around the country. Our students have been placed extraordinarily well, at McKinsey, at Walmart, at all the top firms. I think the demand for analytics-trained people is immense.

We are just barely scratching the surface of the demand out there in this space.

Apart from the business analytics program, we are launching a master of science in finance program. That sold out in the very first batch. Also we are starting an industry-focused, one-year, largely online MBA in Washington, D.C., for Capitol Hill staffers.
LENWAY: What we are doing that’s different from that is getting into health care, because health care is very local and we have the entire value chain in the Twin Cities. So we are building relationships with United Health where we have a cohort in the Health Care MBA, with Allina and Medtronic. We want to see how we can provide them with something new.
ZAHEER: Actually, I disagree a little bit, because I think we have a very strong presence in health care as well. We have the Medical Industry Leadership Institute. Coursera (which operates an online platform) approached us to do their certificate program in health care management and so we now have over a thousand people enrolled in a health care management certificate program. Because we have the medical school, we have the entire health care delivery system here as well.

We are able to leverage people from our academic health center into teaching. We call them medical industry specializations. For example, we have a course called anatomy and physiology for managers, which is taught by one of our medical school faculty.
LENWAY: We don’t have a medical school at St. Thomas. So we are trying to position ourselves as the Switzerland of health care. We are a neutral area where people can come and explore new ways of doing things. And so we are not doing hospital management. We are doing whatever might happen that could be new where people develop alliances across the verticals in the value chain.

Cargill’s Greg Page at Carlson

TCB: What is Minnesota’s business community telling you about their workforce and leadership needs? How have you adapted your educational programs to align more closely with business?

ZAHEER: We are constantly redoing curricula with them. We have leaders from the community coming and working with us. We have the executive leadership fellows program, so we are developing a whole set of food and agribusiness certificate programs as well. We have Greg Page, the former chairman and CEO of Cargill, who is going to be helping us in the fall and work on this.

Another specialty program that we are just launching is called a master’s in supply chain management. And that program is being developed completely in conjunction with companies in the Twin Cities. The Supply Chain Department has a Supply Chain Board. In fact we have 24 boards in our school, and each one of them is a corporate board. So it is just amazing, the sheer number of managers who are in this building at any time. These are advisory boards. We have a Management Information Systems Board, an Institute for Research and Marketing Board. But apart from the Board of Advisers, which advises me, there are literally 24 boards in the school.

TCB: Tell me more about Greg Page’s role.

ZAHEER: Greg Page is going to be here as an executive leadership fellow. He is going to be co-teaching a course on corporate responsibility with Professor Myles Shaver.

It is a course that Marilyn Carlson Nelson co-taught with Myles for about five years. So Greg is going to be stepping in to co-teach it with Myles. But he is also going to help us develop our offerings in the food and agribusiness space. We already have a couple of courses, but we want to develop it into a full-fledged certification program in collaboration with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. And we are hoping that Greg can bring some real-world needs into it.
LENWAY: We have our Opus Fellows. We are launching a program where we co-develop and co-teach, professor and practitioner, starting with electives. That’s caught a lot of people’s imagination, especially my board. So we also have many advisory boards. It speaks as much to the Twin Cities’ business community as to business education right now because we need to be connected to the practice.

It was amazing for me to sit across the street from Target during the layoffs and watch what was trending and what they realized were skills that weren’t going to keep careers going. So we were very tightly connected in looking at what skills students need today and tomorrow, pushing those and then looking out into the future and seeing what the next ones are.

The Bangalore connection

ZAHEER: Our faculty are deeply into research. So they are knowledge creators. They are not just knowledge deliverers. And a lot of that knowledge creation is happening with firms.

In fact, my husband and Stef are working together on a project on the growth of the medical device industry in this town. (Sri Zaheer’s husband is Aks Zaheer, who holds the Carlson Chair in Strategic Management at the U of M.) So we collaborate even on research.

TCB: Stefanie, what is the aim of your collaboration and how did it come about?

LENWAY: Well, the story is, we were stuck in a traffic jam in Bangalore, bored, on a bus.
ZAHEER: The three of us. This was last June 2015. We were at a conference. We are both fellows of the Academy of International Business.
LENWAY: It was a terrible traffic jam and we were with some colleagues we don’t get to spend time with very often. And we thought, what else can we do, so we found a research project. Here, we are interested in clusters. Bangalore has a business process outsourcing cluster for the world and we were right in the middle of it, not moving. We thought the Twin Cities has the medical device cluster. And so we were trying to look at fundamental dynamics of the cluster to abstract from that and see if you could engineer them in other places. Look at the Iron Range, the whole economics are shifting. And how are they going to build their employment base? Can you transfer some of the dynamics from the Twin Cities to other regions?
ZAHEER: There also is an interest in looking at the networks within the industry. Who moves from where to where and what are the connections across firms in the industry? One of our faculty members, Professor Shaver, is looking at why did the Twin Cities become such a great place for headquarters to start and grow into Fortune 500 companies. So what are some of the factors that have influenced that and really look at how talent migrates across companies. How is it that Bill George went from Honeywell to Medtronic, a completely different industry, but essentially brought management skills with him?

TCB: When will the cluster research likely be completed?

LENWAY: It is just in the early stages. We’ve been having amazing interviews with some of the founders of the industry. And it’s been a lot of fun, and also we’ve talked with some people who worked to create the cluster and Medical Alley. But we’re also losing people. Sri and I were at Glen Nelson’s memorial service. It is a reminder of how much has been done and how the generations are shifting.
ZAHEER: The late Wheelock Whitney was actually very involved in starting the university’s connection with the business community. He taught for 11 years. He brought in this course called Top Management Perspectives. He would bring in speakers from outside and the students would get to meet them.

And that’s kind of morphed into all of the enterprises. The other thing that I personally have been very concerned about, and we had a student team work on figuring this out, was how do we advance women in business. Our students actually went out and studied the whole issue of what are the pain points in a woman’s career. Why is it that we lose so many women between the undergraduate program and the MBA program? Once they get into business, they leave. There is just a kind of a constant loss.

TCB: What are the two universities doing to support professional women’s careers?

ZAHEER: We’ve done a women’s leadership conference, and we’ve really tried to support women entrepreneurs as well. We have been trying to bring them in and encourage them to apply for the Minnesota Cup. This year, 38 percent of the entries were from women-led businesses and I was very, very thrilled about that for the Minnesota Cup. It was a huge improvement.
LENWAY: At the Schulze School, we are building up entrepreneurship in a big way as well. We also have a Small Business Development Center and we are doing a lot of boot camps that are open to the community for people interested in entrepreneurship.

TCB: What has stymied women’s progress?

ZAHEER: You really have to focus throughout the entire life cycle. We are starting right at the high school, getting more young women—juniors and seniors— interested in business. We have a summer program called Women Mean Business where we bring young women in for a week here. It is a residential program. They participate in projects. They learn about what business is. They learn that it is actually more fun than just being in a cubicle a la Dilbert.

We are trying to make sure that there are more scholarships for women coming into MBA programs. And we are trying to also reach out to women who are already in the workforce and trying to see if we can get them into Executive Education.

Where can we best help women advance? It’s trying to reach women at every stage. Our Executive Education program shortly will be launching an Emerging CFOs program, and they are hoping that more women who are interested in becoming CFOs can come into those to get attuned to what a CFO job is like.

Some of our faculty are working on research projects with companies, looking at what is the role of sponsorship versus mentorship? How do women who are actually advancing in business, what is it about the culture and the structure of the firms that help them do that? We are hoping that we can pull some of the research and create white papers that lay out best practices that companies can follow.
LENWAY: Coming back to strengths of St. Thomas, the network effect can be very powerful. I think women need networks. First, they need to understand opportunities, and then get some reinforcement.

TCB: As we conclude, is there an overarching observation or concern that you’d like to share?

ZAHEER: Just for the next academic year, the message is very much about the need for talent. We’ve heard this repeatedly from Land O’Lakes and other companies. People are really concerned that the Twin Cities is losing out. Just from a demographic perspective, we are not growing as fast as the needs of business might be. We try and recruit from around the country to get more people here to feed this talent pipeline.
LENWAY: Look, St. Jude has been bought, Radisson has been bought. I think we need to think about the next generation of great companies and to start to incubate them and nurture the leaders. We need the ecosystem for the next Carlson Companies and the next Best Buy.

Liz Fedor is the Trending Editor of Twin Cities Business.


Minnesota MBAs

Students have a panoply of choices for graduate business programs in the state.

By Nancy Crotti

More than a dozen higher education institutions offer master’s degrees in business administration in Minnesota. Twin Cities Business examined the multiplicity of MBA choices. Here are some of the elements that differentiate the MBA programs.

Augsburg College unveiled an enhanced MBA this summer with a management consulting project, and the opportunity to enroll in up to two 10-day study-abroad programs. The program is offered in Minneapolis and Rochester. Applicants for the fall 2016 MBA program will be eligible for an $8,000 scholarship payable over two years. Augsburg emphasizes that its degree can be completed in two years, and the program is targeted to working professionals. It offers evening courses and small class sizes.

Bethel University in St. Paul offers MBA programs in finance, global management, and management, both on campus and online, with a Christian perspective. The finance program includes quantitative statistics and global finance trends. All MBA students engage with local business leaders and Bethel’s business alumni group. They may also attend six personal coaching sessions with a professional career coach. Students in the global management program take part in a 10-day international trip to learn how business is conducted in a different country and culture.

Capella University offers online MBA programs in accounting, finance, health care management, marketing, business intelligence, general business administration, human resource management, project management, entrepreneurship, global operations and supply chain management, and information technology management. Capella offers self-paced learning for eight of those programs, allowing students to move quickly through familiar material and more time for challenging subjects. Capella has alliances with several companies, including Farmers Insurance, U.S. Bancorp, SimplexGrinnell, Carquest, and American and United airlines.

The College of St. Scholastica will offer a new MBA program starting this fall, focused on developing leadership skills and effecting change. Designed by and for business professionals, the curriculum will focus on leadership and change-management skills. Classes are offered in the evening, with full- and part-time options in Duluth, St. Paul and St. Cloud. Students may complete the program in 12 months with accelerated eight-week terms. Students may choose from three capstone options, including a two-week study-abroad trip, a group practicum and a traditional thesis.

Concordia University St. Paul offers MBA degrees in cyber security, health care management, information technology management, business/finance and marketing. The university designed its cyber security MBA with the Mission Critical Institute, an educational, training and research organization. MBA programs are offered on campus, online or in a blended format, and students can enroll in the MBA mentorship program.

Crown College in St. Bonifacius offers an online MBA from a Christian perspective. Students come from backgrounds in nonprofit organizations, health care, finance, education, retail management, service industries, sales and marketing. Crown also offers an MBA with a concentration in nonprofit management, with courses in nonprofit law, fundraising and philanthropy, financial management, marketing, and spiritual foundations of leadership.

Nearly 100 percent of those enrolled at Crown receive student loans, scholarships or financial aid.

Hamline University offers a one-night-a-week MBA program on its St. Paul and West End (Minneapolis) campuses that allows students to complete their degrees in two years. Faculty lead students on a 10-day study-abroad program with visits to local companies, government agencies and historic sites. Students may lock in their tuition rate for the entire two years and be eligible for up to $3,000 in scholarships. Hamline undergraduate alumni receive a 10 percent tuition discount.

Metropolitan State University allows students to earn an MBA on campus, online, or a combination of both, from the same faculty in all three settings. The university offers a traditional MBA and an MBA with a concentration in project management, management information systems or finance. Each concentration requires 12 additional credits of elective courses. Metro State also offers a graduate project management certificate. It has campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Minnesota State University, Mankato’s MBA program, offered in Mankato and on the university’s Twin Cities campus, uses actual business situations in the classroom so students can apply and integrate their knowledge. An executive seminar offers the chance to learn from business leaders and top executives. Students may take one or two 2-credit modules that meet one evening each week for eight weeks, and each receives a subscription to the Wall Street Journal’s online content.

St. Catherine University offers MBAs in general management, health care, and integrated marketing and communications (IMC); an IMC certificate is also available. Each MBA program is offered in the cohort model, one concentrated course at a time, meeting one evening per week on the university’s St. Paul campus, with online interaction in between. Students employed by one of the university’s 16 corporate partners receive a scholarship that reduces tuition by 10 percent. Qualified seniors enrolled at St. Catherine may take one to two courses in the MBA program while completing their undergraduate degrees.

St. Cloud State University offers MBA programs on the St. Cloud campus, at its Twin Cities Graduate Center in Maple Grove, and completely online. Students are encouraged to identify both their strengths and areas they need to improve, and learn how to apply their education in the workplace. The university schedules courses to accommodate students’ jobs, vacations and holidays. Part-time students typically earn their degree in 28 months, while full-time students often earn their degree in just 16 months. Students attending in St. Cloud may qualify for graduate assistantships.

St. Mary’s University of Minnesota offers a “classical MBA education” on its Minneapolis, Rochester and Winona campuses to working adult students from more than 30 countries. Students participate in a business capstone project with a local organization or with a foreign company during a travel-abroad program. Students may develop an area of specialization or customize a general MBA. St. Mary’s offers part-time and full-time options. Part-time or full-time options with evening blended courses are available on Minneapolis and Rochester campuses.

University of Minnesota Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics lowered its tuition for MBA students in Duluth and Rochester by 25 percent in 2015. Most courses offered in Duluth meet one evening per week, while those in Rochester meet Fridays and Saturdays every other week. The university believes that meeting in-person gives students a broader conversation with their professional peers. The majority of faculty hold PhDs.

Walden University offers online MBAs in 11 specialties, including a self-designed option that allows students to focus on a particular area of interest that pertains to professional goals. Students may also be able to earn credit for previous educational experience and complete their MBA degree programs faster. Walden also offers a graduate-level certificate to students who successfully complete the first four courses.

—Nancy Crotti is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and editor.