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SOU business program receives praise nationally

ASHLAND — High marks are going to Southern Oregon University's Master's in Business Administration program, with students recently scoring in the top 10 percent of 130 universities tested by a national service.

The high marks in the Major Field Testing of Educational Testing Service is a boon to SOU and opens doors to job opportunities, promotions, career changes and business startups, says SOU's MBA coordinator, Donna Lane.

The 50 students don't need a bachelor's degree in business to enter the program. Some have degrees in education, medicine, psychology and communication, she says.

"About 75 percent of the MBA students come from bachelor's degrees in business and the rest come from all over," Lane says. "We've even had artists come in with all the art degrees but tell us, 'I just can't run my gallery.' "

Other students enter the program for personal growth, to expand their teaching credentials or because their jobs require them to know the business world, she says.

They form a "cohort" at the beginning of their one calendar year of intense night classes and "put the responsibility on themselves to do my part and do it well, remembering that I'm not in isolation where my grade is my grade and doesn't affect anyone else," Lane says.

The MBA students also have been scoring high because "they have close contact with faculty who have years of practical business experience to back up the theory they teach in the classroom," she says.

The test poses 124 questions, half of which are case-study scenarios. The questions demand knowledge of marketing, management, finance, managerial accounting, economics, operations and other areas.

SOU scored in the top 25 percent on the test a few months ago, but these were part-time MBA students who are usually working jobs and take two years to get the degree, she says. The latest group of students go to school every night, Monday through Thursday, taking four classes a term, for a year.

"We made adjustments to the curriculum after the winter term test, and the changes paid off immediately," Lane says.

SOU has been doing the two-year MBA for the past five years, but only a year ago started the one-year cohort approach, which is proving popular for foreign students who can get only one-year visas to stay in the country, she says.

In September, SOU will launch a two-year, dual MBA, with a year here and a year at a university in Saarbrucken, Germany, focusing on international management.

"We're very proud of what the degree has done," Lane says, "and very impressed with what the MBA students have accomplished."

John Darling is a writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.