Olin’s MBA program collaborates with medical school

| Staff Reporter

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at the Olin Business School is aiming for an interdisciplinary approach by collaborating with the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

According to a recent article in The Economist, degrees from mid-ranking schools are no longer considered to be the sound investments they once were, for students during the economic recession.

Joe Fox, associate dean for MBA programs, said that Washington University’s MBA program has successfully increased its marketability by taking an interdisciplinary approach.

The Olin Business School has collaborated with the medical school, successfully appealing to students interested in management in the medical sector. However, Fox explained that the collaboration is not limited to the medical field.

According to Fox, graduate students at the University are allowed to take elective courses outside of their own school, including undergraduate-level courses, without having to pay additional tuition. Fox referred to this arrangement as the “free trade agreement.”

“We want to encourage them to go outside the box, and add some unique value to their degree,” he said.

Still, Fox noted that there are roadblocks that inhibit the creation of an interdisciplinary program.

“There are rules and regulations, so accreditation can be hard,” Fox said, “but the biggest issue is in finding [collaborative] areas with our fellow schools, who are not only interested in us and also interested in students. There has to be something capturing staff, students and professors at the same time.”

In spite of the strains, Fox believes that the University excels at interdisciplinary flexibility, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

“I think we have done well, and much better than many other schools,” he said.

One example of Olin’s interdisciplinary MBA program offerings is a class called “Healthcare Management,” taught by Bruce Hall, a surgery professor at the medical school.

Sarah Arias, an MBA student, is currently enrolled in Hall’s class. She received her undergraduate degree in biology and finds that the class has helped her to better understand the challenges within the healthcare system.

“The class is tailored to students who are interested in healthcare and business but may not have much experience in either area. The course provides a solid platform to understand the business issues of healthcare, while fostering integrated discussions among students with various backgrounds,” Arias said.

Eileen Ke, a class of 2012 MBA student, has also found the interdisciplinary business education valuable.

“It was a great experience hearing perspectives on cases from students with different backgrounds—law, the sciences and engineering. One of the highlights was working on a project with a cross-discipline team, where each team member could contribute his or her expertise to together craft a feasibility study for a new business idea. It truly reflected real-world situations, where cross-functional teams are formed to solve the most challenging business problems,” Ke said.

The MBA program will continue to broaden its interdisciplinary approach. Next semester, the school will offer a course entitled Law, Business and Governance.

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