This past week, the Ross School of Business announced that it will offer its 20-month MBA Program in Los Angeles beginning in August, 2012. Following up on this announcement, the MSJ had a chance to sit down with Professor BillLanen, the Associate Dean and Head of Global Initiatives at Ross, and discuss this exciting initiative.
The 20-month program will offer the same curriculum as the current EMBA program, with classes offered once-a-month that offer a blend of action-based learning and leadership development initiatives. Michigan faculty will fly to LA once a month, adding authenticity to the program which should help to maintain the value proposition of a Ross MBA. The intent is to leverage the current Michigan alumni-base, with a worldwide network of approximately 500,000 members, to help build and expand the brand on the West Coast. Ross graduates will help to recommend candidates, sponsor employees, and recruit graduates. Currently, the EMBA program primarily appeals to business professionals in the Midwest and East Coast. This expansion offers an opportunity to expand the Michigan brand to a key market, and offer a unique opportunity to West Coast business professionals that could not otherwise participate due to travel restraints. According to Dean Alison Davis-Blake, "this West Coast expansion allows us to respond to a market need and replicate a model of delivery to future markets across the US and beyond."
One challenge that we raised to professor Lanen was how to maintain the Michigan / Ross culture in LA? He acknowledged that some connection will need to happen, but this challenge is not unique, and has been successfully addressed in other programs that Ross has rolled out. For instance, in the Brazil Global MBA program, students reside in Ann Arbor for two months, which helps to acclimate students to Michigan and permeate the Ross culture. Moreover, in the Global MBA program, where students complete the core curriculum in Osaka, Seoul, and Beijing, students get to enjoy a global learning environment, then return to Ann Arbor to complete the second year. One step that has already been taken to ensure the Ross culture in maintained is a student orientation in Ann Arbor, where students will get to come to campus and learn the "Ross way" on the ground.
After a very informative discussion, we closed with a pretty direct question…..can this work? Professor Lanen stressed the importance of the student base that is selected, and the impact that they eventually have on the local region. As with any MBA program, the ultimate success is typically predicated on the quality of the student base. Given Michigan's track record, expansive alumni network, and global brand, I am willing to bet that "Go Blue" chants in LA executive circles will be expanding for many years to come!