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Florida's business school deans talk about their MBA programs

John Kraft


John Kraft is the dean of Florida business school deans. At the helm of University of Florida's Warrington College of Business for 30 years, he has overseen huge growth in MBA programs. The future, he believes, is all about flexibility.

UF offers full-time residential programs primarily for those in career transitions, but it also offers six weekend MBA options, some live and some online. The weekend programs can be completed in 12 to 24 months, while still maintaining cohort-style team learning. The online programs are the largest and fastest growing of UF's MBA offerings. In total, 800 students are enrolled in UF's highly ranked MBA programs.

"We offer a significant number of electives so students can pick and choose what they think is relevant for their career option. They can take analytics; they can take negotiations; they can take international business — and bundle them together in a curriculum," says Kraft, who is retiring this year. "I like to think that what we do is teach students how to make decisions."

Kraft has also seen tremendous growth in starting salaries — now more than $100,000 for full-time MBAs. "We encourage international experience, several internships and participation in experiential learning, all of which makes them more competitive when they are interviewing.”

UF has resisted the trend of specialized MBAs, such as in health care, Kraft says. “We train people in skills that can work in any industry. They have a good idea where they are going. Now many of them want to stay at their companies — they don’t get an MBA to change jobs.”

Michael Hartline


“It is important for us to get the college out of Tallahassee,” says Michael Hartline, dean of Florida State University’s College of Business since 2016.

That means group road trips. The college raises funds so students can travel to business centers like New York and Chicago. Some return with an internship or job in hand, says Hartline, who has held faculty and leadership positions at FSU since 2001.

“We’ll put our supply-chain students on a bus or van to Jacksonville and visit CSX and tour the port. We are taking a group of students to Wall Street to interact with investment bankers. We take our real estate and insurance students to major conferences.”

Here are a few other ways Hartline says FSU’s MBA programs, which enrolled 455 in the fall 2019, stand apart:

Length of Program: “A lot of full-time programs around the country are two years. That’s a lot if you are asking someone to give up their day job to move to a different community for the full-time program. Come here, get it done in a year and move on.”

What Employers Seek: “Analytics, analytics, analytics and a growing interest in health care.” FSU added a Business Analytics MBA in 2018, and enrollment nearly tripled in a year. A health care MBA is being considered.

Same Faculty In Person and Online: “Our online MBA is ranked 16th among public universities. It is one of the best programs in the U.S. for veterans, and if you are an out-of-state student, our online MBA program is a bargain compared to most others. Tuition out-of-state is below $31,000 — very reasonable.”

Paul Jarley


UCF’s College of Business Dean Paul Jarley says he has no plans to add an online MBA anytime soon.

“We could certainly increase enrollment that way, but we continue to focus on face-to-face delivery because it offers the best value to our students. Most of our students stay in Central Florida. It is where they will do business, and they want the opportunity to network and build critical professional relationships with their fellow students, faculty and our alumni. So rather than go online, we look for ways to increase the flexibility of our offerings through weeknight and weekend classes while helping to build these important connections.”

Because the Orlando university sits amid a defense industry cluster and close to Cape Canaveral, the MBA was originally created to get engineers their first jobs in management. Lockheed Martin, Harris, Siemens, Disney, Universal and Adventist Health are among area companies that woo today’s MBAs. “There isn’t a day that goes by in this college where we don’t have an employer speaking to students about something,” Jarley says.

Even though many MBA students are engineers, Jarley’s a generalist: “Technology is increasing so quickly it is hard for universities to keep up. We emphasize fundamental skills, realizing that people are going to learn a lot on the job.”

“An MBA program is really different from an undergraduate experience,” he tells prospective students. “You are going to learn at least as much from your classmates as you do from your instructors, so who else is in the program really matters. You want to think about that.”

Moez Limayem


“I have lived and worked on four different continents. The one degree that is recognized wherever you go is the MBA,” says Moez Limayem, dean of University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business since 2012.

Unfortunately, many of these programs have become static, he says. “The worst thing that could happen is we wake up one morning and our MBA program is like Kodak. We become irrelevant. What we are trying to do is disrupt ourselves.”

For example, as important as stopping money laundering is, universities in the region weren’t providing talent in this area, so in 2017 USF created an MBA focused on compliance, risk and anti-money laundering, says Limayem, who joined USF from the University of Arkansas College of Business and previously worked in the private sector as a systems analyst and computing consultant. Responding to employer needs was also the reason Muma College focused MBAs on business analytics and cyber-security and created programs for physicians and pharmacists. It’s now looking at an MBA specialization in financial technology, including blockchain technologies and health care analytics, he says.

The college matches local business professionals with MBA students for ongoing mentorship. It offers full-time, part-time, executive and online programs. A weekend MBA is on the way.

Enrollment is up 8.2% on average year over year for the last three years, so USF is bucking national trends. International application growth is the fastest, despite tighter immigration controls. Across USF’s three campuses, 997 are enrolled in MBA programs. Most graduates remain in the Tampa Bay region.

“We work hard at being an outlier. You always have to crack the code,” the dean says. “With an MBA program, it’s truly not the destination; it’s the journey.”

Joanne Li


Joanne Li, dean of Florida International University’s College of Business since 2017, oversees one of the state’s largest MBA programs, with 1,078 students. FIU’s College of Business also partners with a number of business schools worldwide for joint degree programs, and its International MBA includes study abroad or global project work. Before joining the Miami university, Li was dean of business at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

The Future of FIU’s MBA: “We believe technology-infused curriculum will provide a very competitive advantage for candidates seeking MBA qualifications, and also it is the demand of the industry. We also believe we have to continue to internationalize our curriculum so that our candidates will understand the financial, business and political risk when dealing across borders and continents.”

Diversity: “We are No. 1 in producing minority candidates. A lot of companies will continue to recruit at FIU because we offer a level of diverse candidates that is unmatched and unparalleled in the marketplace right now. Our students are prepared to enter the workforce with a lot of hard skills and especially soft skills, what I call essential skills. The demands on our workday have increased tremendously, and our candidates are very used to that. They are equipped; they are hustlers; they get things done. Employers are looking for diverse backgrounds with diverse opinions and experiences and with a skill set that is traditional but also mindful about technology and attuned to trends of industry.”

Message to Students: “Your success is a circle of success. You have to have compassion and passion. Most of our candidates have that, and they all work hard. Build on your social capital, rely on your social network so that your success will permeate through your circle of influence.”

John Quelch


To prepare students for a global economy transformed by rapid digitization, the University of Miami’s Miami Herbert Business School is revamping its full-time two-year MBA while also expanding internationally focused programs, says Dean John Quelch.

How? By making sure the programs focus on data-based decision making, global strategy and operations, and leadership and governance.

UM is exploring ways to expand STEM options to other program offerings such as an MBA curriculum balanced across soft skills and hard skills. STEM designation is important to foreign student applicants because it extends their automatic postgraduation work authorization in the U.S. by an additional 24 months, Quelch says.

In 2019, the business school launched a STEM-designated master’s in Sustainable Business, and the 10 new classes created are available to MBA students. Another innovative new offering is its OneMBA, a consortium that includes business schools in Mexico, Brazil, The Netherlands and China. Each school recruits its own class, with all classes merging for joint residencies on each of the five campuses over the course of the curriculum.

While about 20% of its MBA enrollees are from Florida, 70% want to stay after they graduate, says Quelch, making UM an important magnet for Florida’s economy. Airlines, cruise lines, accounting firms as well as Ryder and Chewy recruit its graduates.

“Florida is now a $1-trillion economy, the 17th-largest economy in the world. We are growing rapidly in financial and health services, complementing our existing strengths in tourism, hospitality and real estate. There is no shortage of great career opportunities for entrepreneurially minded MBAs here in the Sunshine State.”

Ted Richardson


Ted Richardson joined Florida Institute of Technology in 2007 to run its extended studies sites and became dean of its Bisk College of Business in Melbourne in 2016. Under his watch, graduate school enrollment has increased from 70 students in 2017 to 191 today. Before joining academia at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., he was a manager at Xerox and also worked at Kenner Products and Eastman Kodak.

Being part of a technical school means there are STEM courses within the College of Business. But there’s more to it than that, Richardson says.

In the economy’s shift from manufacturing to more service businesses, the college’s MBA education (also offered online) is moving toward the quantitative side, helping students learn how to use analytics and critical thinking to understand where service businesses need to be created or improved and not be disrupted by their markets, he says.

Innovation, Richardson says, should be guided by analytical evaluation of market trends, as well as intellectual and technical capability. Florida Tech’s business school offers a Center for Innovation Management and Business Analytics, a Center for Entrepreneurship (new business incubation), a Center for Ethics and Leadership, and weVenture, a program for women entrepreneurs lauded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, to help future leaders add value to business — and society.

“We understand that an idea that is intellectual property doesn’t necessarily convert to a commercially viable business. In fact, 97% of all IP is not commercially viable,” he says. “We have courses on innovation and on entrepreneurship that enable students to think critically about what is important in order to create a business.”

Dan Gropper


“We strive for excellence, and we don’t take anything for granted. We are constantly innovating in terms of our delivery methods, in terms of hiring top-notch faculty and in terms of bringing the business community into our classes,” says Dan Gropper, who was named dean of Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business in Boca Raton in 2013, after a 25-year career at Auburn University and three years in private consulting. Under his watch, MBA enrollment has grown from 533 to 864 students.

Bringing Business In: Executives who share experiences and advice with MBA classes include Jordan Zimmerman, founder of Zimmerman Advertising; Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA Communications; Office Depot Executive Vice President Jerri DeVard; Naren Gursahaney, past CEO of ADT and NextEra Energy director; and Colin Brown, chairman of JM Family Enterprises.

Give Employers What They Want: Employers are looking for “a go-getter attitude as well as the one-two punch of strong communication and analytical skills.” FAU’s MBA graduates are picked up by Big Four and regional accounting and consulting firms, standout South Florida tech companies such as Ultimate Software and Modernizing Medicine, and health systems.

Hiring Faculty Is Like Building a Sports Team: “Sometimes you want the young ones and sometimes you want the seasoned professionals.”

Recent Recruits: Senior professors from Oregon State, DePaul University, American University, Loyola University, York University and the University of Texas-El Paso. “What we have done here at FAU is to raise the research profile.”

Shawnta Friday-Stroud


Shawnta Friday-Stroud is an alumna of Florida A&M University, receiving both her bachelor’s in business and her MBA there before earning her DBA at FIU. She is the dean of FAMU’s School of Business and Industry.

“An MBA education really helps those individuals who also want a well-rounded understanding of business disciplines that help them to be able to critically think and analyze problems and offer innovative solutions,” says Friday-Stroud. Through interdisciplinary case studies and projects, “we try to give our students a lot of real-world problems so it is not just theory.”

Currently, 113 students are enrolled in FAMU MBA programs. In recent years, the school has added more supply chain and business analytics elements to the curriculum, Friday-Stroud says. The joint MBA/MS Supply Chain Management program is so new that the school has not started marketing it externally yet. A specialty area in business analytics is being developed.

To stay ahead of the curve, Friday- Stroud says she relies heavily on corporate partners to help predict trends and drive curriculum for the Tallahassee university. They sit on her advisory board, speak to classes and mentor. Most students take jobs out of state, with International Paper, Fifth-Third Bank, Mondelez International and Eli Lilly among hiring companies.

“I advise prospective MBA students to prepare for the challenges, rigor and demands of our program, but also for the rewards that they will experience as they progress in their careers.”

F. Frank Ghannadian


F. Frank Ghannadian has been dean of the University of Tampa Sykes College of Business since 2007, a period in which enrollment more than doubled. The finance professor also directs the TECO Energy Center for Leadership. He was interim business dean at Mercer University before joining UT. About 255 students were enrolled in UT’s MBA programs last fall, where student teams work with companies such as Target, banks and small businesses to develop strategic plans.

MBA Value: “Is it worth it to get an MBA? It depends. If you are going to an Ivy League school and you are paying $200,000 for the MBA, it’s questionable. But if you are getting an MBA from an AACSB-accredited school and instead you are paying $30,000 or $40,000, the payoff is very quick, and you make up the cost of the education and you better yourself. I don’t think MBAs are going away.”

Moving Online: “UT is going to be offering our first online program in business (master’s in business analytics) in the fall. We always thought traditional programs were the best, but now we want to capture that population we haven’t been serving yet. Some MBA classes will be online for fall of 2020. Most likely a complete MBA online option will be examined in the coming years.”

International Enrollment: “The USA used to be a magnet for anybody wanting a very good MBA. Now other countries in Europe, Canada and Asia are competing with American universities. We’ve had some declines for the last three years. They haven’t been as deep as other schools because our tuition is very affordable.”

Andrew Rosman


“Working at a university where the MBA program in particular is so pivotal to the mission of the university is my dream job,” says Andrew Rosman, named dean of Nova Southeastern University’s Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship in October. He was business dean at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey before joining the private Davie university.

Taking a cue from its benefactor, the Huizenga College has put entrepreneurial thinking into its program development, with 12 specialized MBAs, including business intelligence, human resource management and entrepreneurship. It also offers a dual degree MBA with NSU’s pharmacy school, and it plans to expand to other health care fields.

Even though 85% of the college’s students live in the metro area, it doesn’t mean they don’t want online convenience. So now, about 70% of MBA credit hours are offered online. What’s more, in the past year, curriculums have been shaved by three credits, saving students about $3,000 and time. In August, the college plans to launch a weekend-based MBA that could be completed in 11 months, one of the shortest programs available.

NSU noticed “4-plus-1” programs (marketing the bachelor’s and master’s together) were gaining popularity nationally, so it wanted to do one better: A 3-plus-1. Students in NSU’s intensive Huizenga Business Innovation Academy can earn a business undergraduate degree and an MBA in four years (including summers). Students learn how to launch and run businesses they set up on campus and can compete for an NSU $20,000 grant for a business they plan to start after college. “I think it is going to be a model for the future,” Rosman says.

Robyn Parker


Saint Leo University has a new dean and MBA director at the helm of its Tapia College of Business, the largest Catholic business school in the nation. Dean Robyn Parker and the director, Pamela Lee, have made retooling the MBA program the top priority. That involves revamping curriculum, with a bigger emphasis on hard skills, and launching a capstone course in which students prepare comprehensive business analyses for local companies. They are also piloting a program targeting international students that will provide an educational and experiential bridge to the MBA, Parker says.

Todd Katz

HODGES UNIVERSITY I Fort Myers and Naples

Todd Katz is the new dean at the Johnson Business School at private, non-profit Hodges University in Naples and Fort Myers. His 25-year financial services career includes starting community banks. He most recently headed Tarpon Coast Bank. Like Katz, nearly all of the school’s faculty came from industry. “How else does a student learn except from someone who has gone out in the world and done that,” says John Meyer, Hodges’ president. Other ways Hodges is nontraditional: Most MBA classes are one month long, allowing a student to take one course at a time and move on, rather than several at once. Most are online, blended with in-person classes if desired. The typical student is a Hispanic woman in her 30s who wants to get to the next level in her career; 60% of its MBA grads are female, Meyer says.

Michael Williams


If you want to see where Embry-Riddle’s MBA programs are going, look up. Graduates of the David B. O’Maley College of Business MBA programs — including one in aviation management — are coveted by airlines and the Boeings and Gulfstreams of the world, says Dean Michael Williams.

But with the commercial market for space growing, “there is a lot more we have to learn about space and the way business is conducted,” says Williams, an Embry-Riddle aviation management alum and a former aircraft technician for the U.S. Air Force and Florida Air National Guard. “We will see more of that when we start populating the moon and space stations and in hyper-transport — we may have to go into space to get to Australia in three or four hours. Operating that way is going to be changing the paradigm.”

A key component of the MBA programs — which serve 103 students on the private university’s Daytona Beach campus and 624 others online — is the real-world projects that students participate in, including one with NASA recently. “We help industry solve problems, and it gives our students an experience level they wouldn’t normally get.”

Faculty members are focusing more research on “the business of space” as well as nurturing space industry partnerships and developing additional course content on the subject.

MBA News Around the State ...

University of West Florida


The University of West Florida likes to say it has a pathway for everyone, and in its MBA programs, the College of Business has worked to provide more ways to help prospective students get in and succeed. Prospective students with significant work experience may be able to waive the GMAT, and a new seven-week class delves into all the business basics for those needing the background. About three-quarters of students opt for online.

Rollins College

Winter Park

Last fall, Forbes magazine ranked the MBA program at Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College No. 1 in Florida and No. 51 in the nation. The biennial Best Business Schools 2019 ranking was based on the return on investment five years after graduation, and it was the 10th time Crummer’s program ranked tops in the Sunshine State. The private university based in Winter Park also recently revised its executive MBA program, updating it with more global immersion.

Jacksonville University


CEO Magazine recently ranked the EMBA program at Jacksonville University Davis College of Business best in Florida and 25th in the world. Quality of the faculty was weighted at nearly 35% of the ranking, and class size, international diversity and accreditation also factored into this recognition. The private university has seen an increase in its 4-plus-1 program, in which students who maintain a strong GPA get special consideration for the MBA program. It added dual degree MSMBA curriculums in health informatics and business analytics in 2018-19.

Barry University


Barry University added online MBAs to its traditional MBA programs in 2018. Joan Phillips, dean of the Andreas School of Business at the private Miami university, says students still prefer face to face but their work and home lives don’t always permit it. “What students like is that even though it is an online program, the students still have access to the faculty that Barry is known for.” Barry offers MBAs with concentrations in international business, marketing, management and health services administration, among others. It offers a dual degree program (master’s of science and MBA combined) in its popular sport management and accounting concentrations. “We are always trying to stay current with the needs of the market,” Phillips says.


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