Q&A with Mark White, Program Director of MBI: Business Fundamentals Certificate

White discusses how understanding the goals and objectives of the business community is a valuable part of any well-rounded education.

Mark WhiteWe spoke with Program Director Mark White about MBI, its 35-year history, what students can expect in the classroom, and why it’s a great addition to any well-rounded education.

What topics does the MBI: Business Fundamentals Certificate cover?
MBI has been around for more than 30 years. It was designed to help non-business students acquire the skills and knowledge they would need to pursue a successful career in business. We designed the program to build on the creative and critical thinking skills students already have from their own disciplinary majors, with the goal of applying those skills toward effective business situations. Those same principles apply today.

MBI is offered in two formats, during the academic year and in a five-week summer session. Students study the fundamental core disciplines of management, marketing, finance, and accounting, with additional instruction in business communication, strategy, and Excel. By the end of MBI, students will have gained a solid understanding of business fundamentals and will have acquired a fluency in the language of business so that they can pursue new career opportunities with confidence.

How do students learn business fundamentals?
We believe in learning by doing. I might teach a method or concept, but then will show students how to apply it in a real-world scenario. Hands-on examples are scattered throughout, and students are tasked with solving a problem or working in small groups together on a problem. Other MBI professors use case studies where you put yourself in the shoes of a company. We then challenge students to determine which markets to enter or avoid, how to estimate the size of a market, or how you might target a product toward a particular customer segment.

Can you talk about the additional instruction on business communication and Excel?
In business communication, students practice their verbal and written skills with one another. They also write short articles or responses to hone their business writing, which is totally different from expository writing. Students are taught BLUF (bottom line up front) writing, to be succinct and clear. Excel skills are paired with finance, which is a helpful tool when we teach students how to analyze companies or how to structure and investment a problem.

Can you elaborate on the group project?
Students are put into groups and work on a project as a team, culminating in a group presentation at the end of the program. We try to put together diverse groups, mixing students up by gender and major, because we know this enhances the learning experience. They are asked to analyze a real company facing real-world problems. The assignment is to come up with an idea that makes marketing and financial success, that will add value to the company. Sometimes this is an advertising campaign or developing a new product or service.

How management is the coursework?
MBI is totally manageable. The summer session is more intense because it is compacted, with students taking classes five days a week over five weeks. The academic year is less intense because it’s spread across the entire academic year. Students are in class for three hours every Friday, which, if it were a course taken for credit, would be the equivalent of 7-8 credit hours over two semesters. Since it’s not taken for a grade, the experience is more manageable. As with everything, you get out what you put into it.

Why should someone consider MBI?
Business is one of the things that make the world go round. It’s integrated into nearly every facet of our lives, and some businesses are even bigger than governments. Being able to understand the goals and objectives of the business community is valuable and part of any well-rounded education.

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