USF-Lakeland to get first public MBA program in Polk region

For the first time, a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program at a public institution will be offered in the Polk County area. USF Lakeland will join private schools Florida Southern and Southeast University as the only colleges offering MBA programs in that region during fall 2008.

A plan for a two-year MBA cohort program is in motion. The program will allow students to take all of their classes together over the two-year period.

The program will enroll 25 students, who will take courses Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. The slots are still open.

The program, which will officially begin this fall, is a progressive undertaking for USF Lakeland and USF as a whole. The program opens opportunities for students who live closer to Orlando or near the Lakeland site and would typically travel to the Tampa campus.

“From a county and regional standpoint, offering a program locally will offer a tremendous tool for people in the community to obtain the same education without having to drive the distance to Tampa,” said Kathleen Munson, president of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.

This alternative campus will allow adults with families, jobs or those who commute a more convenient location, she said. “This program will increase the quality of life and allow for members of the community to become more valuable. This is a win-win for this area.”

In a recent press release, Munson also said she hoped it would boost the area’s economy.

“From an economic development standpoint, we’re aggressively looking to recruit businesses with high-skill, high-wage jobs,” she said in the release. “USF Lakeland’s new MBA program will be a valuable tool for business recruitment and retention.”

Jennifer Beyer, a spokeswoman for the USF Lakeland MBA program, said the program was a positive for the region.

“There is a lot of need for this program in the Polk County Area,” she said.

For now, many variables are up in the air. The costs of tuition or requirements have not been determined.

Tom Hagerty, a representative for the MBA Program, is unsure about the details of what the program will entail.

“USF Lakeland is actively engaged in discussions with colleagues at the College of Business Administration in Tampa about the possibility of offering an MBA program tailored to the needs of USF Lakeland’s market,” he said. “Because those discussions are ongoing, there is nothing conclusive to report at this time.”

Although some important details are up in the air, advisors are willing and ready to speak with students who are interested in pursuing an MBA degree at USF Lakeland.

Sandra Arias, a sophomore majoring in accounting, thinks the program is a unique idea and sounds like it would be a good program to offer students, but said other factors come into play.

“One factor is that you’re already comfortable in Tampa I have friends here and I know my way around,” she said. “I would have to see more incentives to move there, like scholarships and grants. I would also consider the school’s reputation, for me to consider this program it would have to be better than the education offered at USF Tampa.”

In a statement released by the campus, USF Lakeland Division of Business Director Charles Kroncke said it is the only MBA in Polk County fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), an internationally recognized accrediting body.

“The AACSB seal of approval carries a great deal of weight. It is the hallmark of excellence in management education,” he said in the release.

USF Lakeland is partnering with the College of Business in Tampa for the MBA program.

“We’ll be using Tampa-based faculty in addition to the business faculty at USF Lakeland,” said Kroncke. “We have had wonderful cooperation with the College of Business and look forward to a very successful program geared toward working professionals in this area.”