Kettering's new MBA

May 25, 2007

Kettering University now offers an MBA program through distance learning based on work-integrated learning and an applied capstone thesis project that is distinctively geared toward the needs of employees and the organizations for which they work.

The development of Kettering University's new master's of Business Administration (MBA) program began with a survey of upper class students, graduate students and cooperative education partners.

The results: a program that can develop strong technical skills and business leadership capabilities to manage the technical and business functions of global organizations.

Unlike traditional MBA programs that focus strictly on theories described in textbooks, Kettering's new MBA responds directly to what global organizations and professionals require to succeed, explained Dr. David Strubler, associate vice president of Graduate Studies and Corporate Connections. Specifically, the program develops both the technical and business skills of students through work-integrated learning with an applied capstone thesis project.

When developing this new program, the Graduate Studies Advisory Committee challenged the institution to devise a program that would provide students with the training and skills necessary to be successful in a global technology driven economy. Unlike the theory-laden approach of most MBA programs, Kettering exposes professionals to a program geared specifically to the current and future needs of global organizations.

In other words, Kettering ditched the silo approach used by other MBA programs and created a more interdisciplinary curriculum that relies on the close relationship of faculty and classes. As Dr. Tony Hain, vice president of Graduate Studies and department head of Business described it, "the professors know what their colleagues are teaching in classes and students appreciate the integrated approach to the curriculum."

Additionally, Kettering's Board of Trustees encouraged the University to help develop the behavioral intelligence of students enrolled in the program through projects that utilize work teams. Although theory and application are critical components to Kettering's MBA, Hain said that exposing students to diverse points of view and procedures in team environments are also necessary to assure success in the global economy.

Courses in Kettering's MBA program leverage projects and assignments that will allow students to use their work environment as a laboratory. Projects undertaken by students during their graduate program through Kettering have saved their companies millions in productivity improvements, resource savings, workflow enhancements and other upgrades.

"The Kettering MBA is vastly different than those from other institutions," Strubler said. "Today's industry requires technical professionals to remain aware of the latest technical trends and developments. At the same time, individuals who pursue the MBA want the skills and experiences necessary to help them take on leadership roles at their organizations. Since companies want their technical professionals to stay current, and professionals often want to earn their MBA, there is a tension between the two that can be problematic. But with the Kettering MBA, professionals earn a degree that also focuses on technical education and business theory, which satisfies the needs of companies," he added.

The course work associated with Kettering's MBA is project-based and allows working professionals enrolled in the program to take on assignments related to their current position and work at their firms, Strubler said. Additionally, the program integrates business course work with technical courses to provide students opportunities to see how both are intertwined in today's global organizations. Kettering offers five engineering concentrations for the MBA: Mechanical Engineering (Mechanical Design), Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (Systems Engineering), Manufacturing Engineering and Electrical Engineering (Wireless Communications and Power Electronics and Machine Drives).

Students can also take a concentration in Information Technology as a technical concentration or a general concentration MBA. This general concentration MBA allows students the flexibility to select from a variety of available management and/or technical courses. Strubler also noted that starting January 2008, the institution will introduce a new leadership concentration that is consistent with Kettering's legacy of developing managerial and technical leaders. The University will also add other concentrations in the future. The result is that professionals earn a degree that integrates technical and business theory into application, which satisfied both the company and the student.

A significant aspect of this new MBA program is the capstone project requirement, which is similar to a thesis. Through this project, students integrate their business and technical concentration into a value-added project for the benefit of their organization.

One example of a capstone project, according Dr. Andy Borchers, a 1980 graduate of Kettering/GMI and associate professor of Information Systems who also teaches graduate courses, is an entrepreneurial venture to bring low power LED lighting to villages in Africa. Since many villages in this part of the world do not have reliable sources of electricity, this would be an important project because of its social value.

"The social impact is huge," Borchers said, adding that with LED low power lighting, students can do their school work and village members can accomplish a great deal at night with proper lighting.

Other possible projects that students might undertake in the near future include reclaiming oil from a stamping process; reducing scrap in a manufacturing operation; reducing sprains and strains in employees; improving quality in an assembly process; and reusing components in building prototypes.

One of the most helpful aspects of the Kettering MBA is that it takes advantage of the school's state-of-the-art distance delivery modes, thus allowing participants to work from any location at their own pace. Delivery methods include CD-ROMs, DVDs and internet video streaming formats. All delivery methods provide the same materials as well and course lectures are available online or shipped directly to the student.

Students who enroll in the MBA take 13 classes (48 quarter credit hours) and a vast array of electives to suit their professional needs. Core classes include the study of such topics as business marketing management, financial management, managing an e-business, operations management and international business, among others.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 students participating in Kettering graduate programs. The deadline for the next round of applications is June 15, 2007. For more information, contact Michelle Kryska at (800) 955-4464, ext. 9682, or via email at

Written by Gary J. Erwin