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The University of Alabama

STEM Path to MBA Offers Top Students Shorter Degree Path

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Forty-six of the country’s brightest students are registered at The University of Alabama this fall for a course of study that will allow them to combine their strengths in science, technology, engineering or math with their interests in business and complete their undergraduate studies and earn a master’s degree in business administration in five years.

“The future economic success of the United States depends in large measure on our ability to excel in technology-oriented businesses,” said Dr. Rob Morgan, executive director for Innovation Initiatives in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematic disciplines drive our innovation and competitiveness,” Morgan said. “In a knowledge-based economy such as ours, those areas are where new ideas are being generated and new companies and industries are being formed. But, the people generating those ideas and forming those new companies have a much greater chance for success when they add a business component to their education, and that is where our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) path to the MBA comes in.”

According to Morgan, 14 of the 46 students in the first class are from Alabama, with the remainder coming from Kentucky, New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, California, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“I think it is significant that more than two-thirds of the first class is from out-of-state, which will provide some cultural diversity,” Morgan said. “I also think it is significant that nearly half the class is female.”

Morgan said the STEM path to the MBA targets incoming UA undergraduates pursuing degrees in the STEM disciplines, including chemistry, biology, engineering, medicine, nursing, physics and math. “Most of the students in the first class are in some area of engineering, but biology, chemistry, nursing and pre-med also are represented,” he said.

The STEM path to the MBA offers these students the opportunity to take part in 1.5 credit hour business honors courses during each semester of their undergraduate studies, capped with one calendar year of studies in the MBA program of the Manderson Graduate School of Business.

“Our over-arching mission at the Culverhouse College of Commerce and the Manderson Graduate School of Business is to make sure the students entering The University of Alabama receive an education that is relevant to tomorrow’s business world,” Morgan said. “The career opportunities for graduates who possess an understanding of business and technology are incredible, but beyond personal success, this type of education is vital to our local economies, state economies and national and global economies.”

Morgan said the STEM MBA path will also make an MBA more affordable for students and their families because the degree can be completed in one additional calendar year beyond their undergraduate degree. The primary purpose of the STEM path is to provide high-achieving students with the business knowledge needed to successfully manage a STEM business.

The incoming freshmen pursuing the STEM path to the MBA must hold a minimum high school GPA of 3.3, and a minimum score of 28 on the ACT.  During their junior years at UA, the students will apply for admission to the graduate school for the MBA program.

Students are admitted conditionally at the end of the junior year if they maintain a 3.3 overall undergraduate GPA, make good progress towards completing their undergraduate degree in a STEM discipline, and achieve a score of 600 or better on the GMAT or 1200 or better on the GRE prior to the completion of the undergraduate degree.

“Each spring, the Manderson Graduate School of Business will invite high-performing incoming freshman students who have indicated an interest in pursuing a major program of study in a STEM-related discipline to apply for the STEM path to the MBA,” Morgan said.  “However, students who did not receive an invitation but have met the requirements of a 3.3 high school GPA and 28 ACT score may contact us and request an invitation.”

According to Morgan, students in the STEM MBA path will enroll in business honors courses focusing on communication and leadership skills and that will be taught by a business school faculty member who will work with them through their four undergraduate years.

“We think this is important because it will insure continuity and allow the faculty member to keep better track of them as they progress,” Morgan said.

The students also will be involved in community projects, where they will work in teams to develop an appreciation and basic understanding of the importance of managerial skills in STEM-related careers.

“At no time in Alabama’s history has science, technology and engineering been as important to the state’s future as now,” said Dr. J. Michael Hardin, dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce. “For example, look at the state’s auto industry. Alabama is a global center of auto manufacturing. High tech steel production is growing. The U.S. military and the defense industry presence is increasing in Huntsville.

“All of this is creating demand for engineers, technicians and scientists who possess communication, leadership, decision-making and business-analytical skills,” Hardin said. “Add to that the health-care industry in the Southeast where business skills are as important as health care skills.”

According to a recent report from the U.S. Economic and Statistics Administration, over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs. STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness than their non-STEM counterparts.

The report also said STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17.0 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.