The MBA program at Mills College’s Lokey Graduate School of Business, which has graduates at Google as well as owning their own companies, is potentially planning a change that will significantly diminish the majority of calculus presently in the program. In a closed social sciences division meeting on Feb. 3, sources confirmed that the economics department opposed the vote to remove a managerial economics course and merge micro and macroeconomics courses into a single class in the MBA program. The final vote for the changes is set to take place at the faculty meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.
“The management of the MBA program wanted to make room for more electives for the MBA students, and they felt that the best way to make space for that would be by cutting back on the economics portion of the curriculum,” said a source in attendance. “The economics department, on the other hand, felt that all of the current economics content provides analytical skills and knowledge that are very useful to MBA students, so there was a difference of opinion there about the appropriate amount of economics in the curriculum.”
After rescheduling several interviews, Provost Phillips was not available for comment about the course changes. Dean of the MBA program, Dr. Merrill-Sands, would neither confirm nor deny the possible changes, but emphasized the value of classes currently in the program that deal with strategy and would help students develop as leaders.
“We’re training leaders, not analysts,” Merrill-Sands said.
However, analytical jobs are on the rise as a Sept. 2013 Washington Post article by Steven Overly reported: “The economics and business research arm of McKinsey and Company Researchers there estimate 440,000 to 490,000 [jobs] will require deep analytical skills by 2018.”
As word of the division meeting vote spread among circles on campus, students agreed that the math classes at stake are necessary components of the MBA program.
“I’m concerned about them taking away our basic math driven classes because I think this is what will make us competitive when looking for a job in say, finance or as a CFO,” said Jameela Williams, a senior in the 4+1 MBA program. “We’re going to have to have the ability to analyze our sales and perform these analytical equations and come up with a decision.”
Lauren Fihe, a first-year student in the joint master of public policy and masters of business administration program, believes that if students graduating from the business program are not able to do the hard math that exists in the business world, companies will stop hiring Mills graduates, thus tarnishing the school’s reputation.
“I already think our program is not as competitive as some other business schools,” Williams said. “We’re already a liberal arts college, so that in itself decreases the competitiveness against schools that are known for their business and economics programs.”
At Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the top majors for admitted students in the fall of 2013 were business and economics. According to Haas’ website at the beginning of 2014, “The full-time Berkeley MBA program placed eighth among U.S. schools and eleventh worldwide, up from twelfth globally in 2013, in the Financial Times Global MBA ranking published Jan. 27.”
Even though the MBA program at Mills had its first graduating class only twelve years ago, it made great strides — this year the program is up for possible accreditation by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). If accredited, Mills would join the ranks of Haas, Stanford and St. Mary’s College.
But an accreditation may not make a difference if students do not have faith in the MBA program. One sophomore and possible 4+1 MBA student expressed serious doubt about pursuing an MBA at Mills if the changes to the program took place.
However, a source in attendance at the division meeting said that there are no plans to change the current required courses for 4+1 students. There are also considerations by the MBA program to add a business analytics concentration that would allow MBA students to take the full sequence of economics courses.
However, students are still upset about what they feel is a potential watering-down of their business program.
“What they are taking away is exactly why I’m here,” Fihe said.
EDIT 2/25/14: Since the publication of this article on Feb. 19, The Campanil‘s website was experiencing a glitch with the Disqus commenting system and we were unable to publish our readers’ comments. Now it’s been fixed. Thank you for your patience.