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Potential Changes to the MBA Program Leave Students Outraged


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.


  1. Sara Farooqi Sara Farooqi February 21, 2014

    I first learned about the proposed changes to the MBA curriculum during my first semester as an MBA student (fall of 2012) during an open forum hosted by Dean Merrill-Sands for MBA students. I agreed with the changes back then and two years later, as I complete my final semester of the program, I could not agree more.

    At this point, I have taken three economics courses in the MBA program at Mills. Most top-tier MBA programs (including Stanford and Berkeley) only require two economics courses in their core curriculum, which is what the Mills MBA would require with the proposed changes. By combining two of the three economics courses, the amount of overlap in the material will reduce significantly and that curriculum time can be better utilized elsewhere in the program. Three of the five core courses in the new approach (Marketing, Operations and Strategic Management) all require a significant amount of quantitative analysis, as do the other foundational requirements of the program (Corporate Finance, Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Quantitative Methods).

    I agree that as MBA students we need strong analytical skills, but the focus should be on interpreting data and applying information so we can make sound business decisions as strategic business leaders and thinkers. Students who want to go into an analyst role after graduation can tailor their elective requirements to meet that objective. For me, my elective courses in negotiations, public speaking, leadership and social responsibility have been essential in competitively positioning me in the direction of my own career goals.

    I came into the program as a working professional and have continued to work in the IT industry while in school. What I always look for in my coursework is whether or not the work is relevant to the job market. The changes being enacted at the GSB are in direct response to student feedback asking for our economics curriculum to be more reflective and applicable to real-world
    business problems. I am glad that the GSB is continuing to move in that

  2. DaGeneralPatton♑ DaGeneralPatton♑ February 21, 2014

    Wow. Seems the current students do not have faith in the program. Maybe they should look into transferring to another school? (Mills Alumna) “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.” Just WOW!

  3. Michelle Peterson Michelle Peterson February 21, 2014

    As a final semester student in the Mills MBA program it’s surprising and disappointing to read this article. Not only have I been very satisfied with the caliber of my education in the program, but I have also been very proud of the open and collaborative culture at the GSB. As a small business school, students play a significant role in shaping the Mills MBA program and advocating for our career interests. For example, each semester Dean Merrill-Sands holds a forum to get feedback from students about what’s working and would could be improved in the program. These proposed changes to the curriculum were discussed at the last 3 student fora, during which students gave positive feedback.

    My particular situation serves as an excellent case study for how these changes might impact my career-interests. I say this because I am completing a Finance concentration and have accepted a position in AT&T Leadership Development Program upon graduation. Therefore, I care strongly about the quantitative analysis and the business leadership preparation in our curriculum. In the last two years I have seen increased emphasis placed on quantitative analysis in our Marketing and Operations courses, and with our new Data Modeling and Analysis course. But it’s not just advanced quantitative skills that employers are looking for—we are increasingly told that companies such as AT&T want strong business acumen and excellent leadership skills. Hence, the shift to two Economics courses is more efficient because it reduces overlap, and it also provides room for a much needed capstone course in Strategic Management which all top business programs include in their curricula and which is essential for students who want to take up leadership roles in organizations.

    I am not outraged, I am proud to see the care and attention with which my MBA education is being managed. I witness this every day, along with my colleagues and employers.

  4. Crystal Crystal February 21, 2014

    As a first year MBA student with a concentration in Finance, I am appalled at the article. In my first year at GSB, I’m very satisfied with my core classes and am certain they have enhanced my analytical skills. With that being said, the changes to the curriculum would be best for the MBA Program; seeing as other MBA Programs in the area (Stanford and Berkley) have only two economic courses. With the new curriculum in place, the GSB will have a well-rounded MBA Program with analytic and qualitative rigor.

    Your analytical skills should be obtained during undergraduate studies and broadened within the matriculation of your MBA. Before joining the GSB, I worked for two Fortune 100 companies in the analytics area. I then used my analysis skills obtained from my undergraduate studies to help test and strengthen my analytical skills. Now that I am in graduate school at Mills, I’ve landed one of the most prestigious Finance Leadership Development internships in the country with a fortune 12 company. After graduating with my MBA from Mills, I am certain that my employer will be seeking my leadership and management skills.

    A portion of knowledge you gain from your MBA should be strengthening your quantitative and qualitative skills, not creating them. With that being said The Lorry I. Lovey GSB is creating leaders not analyst.

  5. Parijat Parijat February 23, 2014

    First and foremost, I want to thank Dean Merrill-Sands for always being open with students and welcoming our thoughts and feedback to the GSB Program. I am in my final semester at the GSB, and will be receiving my degree in the joint program, MBA/MA In Educational Leadership. This article is completely misleading, Dean Merrill-Sands has always had open forums in discussing changes with the curriculum and program, as well taken in our feedback and thoughts. Being in a small school setting was one of the main reasons for coming to Mills College, specifically at the Lokey I. Lorey Graduate School of Business. Each semester the Dean holds at least 2 of these open forums and invites students to express their opinions and thoughts.

    Over the course of my time at the Graduate School of Business, I have seen a strong emphasis on analytics across all my courses, as well the ability to understand and decipher what those analytics mean to a manager. The analytics cannot just be the driving force at any business school, it must be supported by the development of excellent leadership skills. These are the thoughts that have been emphasized and re-emphasized by the many recruiters and interviewers I have come across while job interviewing at small and larger companies. My skills and knowledge, not just of analytics, but my leadership skills and ability to assess these analytics as a manager has helped me secure a prestigious position at a top company.

    I am thankful for my experience here at the GSB and more importantly for the Dean and the staff to always be open to hear our thoughts and feedback. I am definitely not outraged and support the decisions the GSB is making. I have also exercised my rights to give my opinions in this forum. I suggest other students take advantage of this and share their thoughts as well as hear what our Dean has to say.

  6. Gina Gina March 6, 2014

    This article was well written and informative. I just can’t help but wonder what the motivation was behind it. Sure, there is outrage. But there will always be a handful of people in any environment who aren’t comfortable with change. That’s just the way it goes. Why not focus on the positive outcomes this program change will bring instead of the potentially negative? Mills is ONE college. We need to be supporting each other as a whole. Insinuating the MBA program is not in the “ranks” of St. Mary’s, Haas, and Stanford, simply based on accreditation, is downplaying the hard work and energy so many have dedicated into making the program what it is today. As MBA students, we chose to be here and for the most part are very proud of that decision. Some of us turned down attending Haas. Why not write about that?

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