Pepperdine Voice Magazine
Mark of Distinction
Innovative Programs at the Graziadio School Blend the Real World with the Classroom and Set a Pepperdine Business Degree Apart.
by Megan Huard
"I just didn't have as much background in business as I wanted," explains Kathy Carter (MBA '07, GSBM).
It's a common refrain heard among professionals who return to graduate school to earn an MBA degree. Throughout their careers they've worked hard and done their job well. Now they want to do it better.
Carter came to Pepperdine with both a bachelor's and a law degree. An accomplished attorney, she practices law and runs the business as managing partner at trial advocacy firm Hollins•Schechter. In her search for the right MBA program Carter felt guided by two main priorities. First, she wanted a program geared towards people with a similar level of professional experience; and second, she needed one that would allow her to maintain her high performance level at work without compromising learning standards in the classroom. She found her match and in fall 2005 enrolled in one of the Graziadio School of Business and Management's oldest and most illustrious programs.
In 1969 administrators and faculty at George Pepperdine College sought to address the educational needs of working professionals by establishing the School of Business and Management. Two years later Pepperdine became a university and the nascent business school launched a new kind of MBA program: the Presidential/Key Executive (PKE). In it then associate dean Wayne Strom and his colleagues sought to combine the best of what was known in contemporary business research with applied business practice. Students came to the new PKE program with extensive, senior-level business experience. They enrolled in cohorts, coming together to explain their work at their actual place of business and to share their real-world business acumen in the context of an MBA curriculum. This unorthodox program startled members of the academic world who considered daytime hours and on-campus classes as necessary marks of legitimacy in an MBA program. Nonetheless the program thrived.
Now educating its 121st cohort (Carter is a proud alumna of PKE 117), the rigorous and exclusive program continues to matriculate business practitioners at the very top of their fields. It's one of the few—if not only—MBA programs doing exactly that.
PKE has set a precedent at the Graziadio School of Business and Management for establishing innovative and applied educational models for business students. Nearing its 40th anniversary, the school remains committed to staying ahead of the curve in the dynamic and evolving world of business.
All programs are created to develop values-centered leaders for contemporary business practice through education that is entrepreneurial in spirit, ethical in focus, and global in orientation. The school now boasts six MBA programs in addition to its signature PKE MBA: the Full-time MBA, Fully Employed MBA, Morning MBA, Joint JD/MBA, International MBA, and Executive MBA. Through small classes, demanding curriculum, and collaborative environments, each program bears the mark of distinction that comes with a Pepperdine education.
With more than 30,000 alumni—the largest of Pepperdine's five schools—and nearly 2,000 students across 10 programs, the Graziadio School remains the largest and one of the most respected graduate business schools in Southern California. It's also one of the 10 largest accredited graduate business schools in the nation, and at its helm is Dr. Linda Livingstone, recently appointed to her second five-year term as dean.
During her tenure, Livingstone has overseen a $200 million expansion of the business school's regional campuses and the opening of the 50-acre Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu. A faculty sabbatical program, the Denney Academic Chair, the Julian Virtue Professorship, and the Rothschild Award have all been initiated to facilitate increased emphasis on applied and relevant academic research.
Our focus on leadership
grounded in such core values
as integrity, stewardship,
courage, and compassion has
been an integral part of our
growth over the last
35 years and guides us today.
—Dean Linda Livingstone
Livingstone has helped enhance established programs and envision new ones. The school's Full-time MBA program has gained an entrepreneurship emphasis while the Fully-Employed MBA program places a new focus on marketing. Successful on-site MBA programs with The Boeing Company have expanded to its new facility in Huntington Beach, California, where programs begin in 2008. The Graziadio School will also grow its on-site MBA program into Palmdale, Lancaster, and surrounding communities early this year, partnering with the Aerospace Education Research and Operations (AERO Institute), a state-of-the-art aerospace research and learning facility.
In addition, three new degree programs will soon launch at the Graziadio School. A joint BS/MBA program with the Seaver College Business Division will allow Pepperdine students to earn a bachelor of science degree in business as well as an MBA in just five years. A master of science (MS) degree in management and leadership will cater to part-time working professionals at Pepperdine graduate campuses or company locations. A new MS in applied finance is designed for "pre-experience" students with non-business undergraduate degrees. That program commences in Malibu in Fall 2008.
An appealing component of all these programs is the emphasis on practical, applied learning that gives students the business skills sought by employers. This is a common theme among Graziadio School programs, particularly since the launch of the Education to Business (E2B) Applied Learning Program, one of its most innovative opportunities for students. Developed by former Fortune 500 executive Doreen Shanahan in 2002, E2B provides students with real-world experience consulting for small- and medium-sized companies and major corporations, including Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Warner Bros.
Shanahan observes that the idea of partnering education and business isn't new; internships and practicums have existed for awhile now. The difference with E2B, she says, is the live-case methodology, such that the business cases are "developed, defined, and scoped in ways that align with MBA-level curriculum and allow students to compete with each other and relate with senior management directly." Now a standard offering in marketing classes, each Graziadio MBA student undertakes an E2B project during the course of his or her studies.
In fall 2006 student Dinyar Mehta (MBA '09, GSBM) and his E2B teammates worked to develop a sophisticated and actionable marketing plan for a law firm seeking to differentiate its two primary practice areas. "It was the first marketing plan I've ever written," Mehta says, "and the firm actually adopted the single most important part of the plan." Alumna Cori Sweeney (MBA '07, GSBM) and her team created a marketing plan for an advertising company dealing with product placement. Impressed with the quality of their work, the company's senior executive invited Sweeney and members of her team to intern during the summer. More importantly, notes Sweeney, now a national field marketing manager, "This wasn't just a class project; it was a like a job. The experience solidified how I feel about my discipline."
Another special Graziadio program, the Master of Science in Organization Development (MSOD), has earned an international reputation as the premier graduate program in the field and as an innovator of experiential learning. Designed for the experienced professional, the MSOD program prepares leaders in the art and science of managing strategic change. Dana Matl, 2007-08 McGowan Scholar in the MSOD program and executive at the nonprofit international exchange organization AIESEC United States, recalls learning about an organization development (OD) approach called appreciative inquiry. She valued "being able to apply that knowledge immediately as we worked with an international client, Whirlpool Mexico, during our session."
Pepperdine's MSOD program is also the only graduate OD program in the world that spends more than 30 percent of class time in international locations. Going beyond simulations, case studies, or simple company visits, MSOD students work directly with local managers in real settings on real issues.
To prepare students for success in multinational business, the International MBA (IMBA) program offers comprehensive real-world learning both in the classroom and overseas in countries across Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The IMBA program offers the foundational courses integral to the Pepperdine MBA with a concentration of international business electives and study abroad opportunities. Students can take language conversation courses, one-week Global Business Short Courses overseas, gain practical experience through an internship with an international or multinational company, or even request to earn a second degree from selected partner universities in France and Mexico.
Students in the Education to
Business (E2B) Applied
Since its inception the Pepperdine business school has been grounded in a strong entrepreneurial heritage. University founder George Pepperdine started Western Auto Supply in 1909 and became a pioneer in the automotive industry. Benefactor George L. Graziadio, who endowed the business school in 1996, built an extensive commercial real estate business along with his partner George Eltinge. Graziadio also cofounded Imperial Bank, which commanded assets to rank it in the top 100 financial institutions in the nation.
One way that entrepreneurial spirit lives on is through the annual Pepperdine University Business Plan Competition, which provides a forum for entrepreneurial ideas and ventures to be realized with the support and resources of the entire Pepperdine community. Led by Graziadio professor Chuck Morrissey, the event aims to bring together students from all of Pepperdine's five schools.
Last year the competition drew business plan proposals from 26 teams for the chance to win $25,000 and the possibility of obtaining venture financing. Tim McCormack (MBA '07, GSBM) was on the winning team recognized for iRent2u.com, a "virtual marketplace" for the rental of goods and services for and by individuals. The final round of judging for this year's competition will take place on March 8, 2008.
In addition to providing unique opportunities for growth, the Graziadio School seeks to prepare students to face the inevitable challenges of their professions, especially the sometimes murky ethical waters of the business world. The school works to develop a long-standing commitment to ethical practice among students and faculty, many of whom possess academic knowledge and real-world experience in equal measure.
This ethical focus permeates course work, research, and organizations at the business school. Wayne Strom founded the Pepperdine Civic Leadership Project in 1986. Today through this program PKE students take time to coach homeless people in job search strategies and skills. The Graziadio School conducted surveys this year on investor attitudes towards punishment for unethical senior management and their likelihood of moving investments if company boards engage in legal but unethical behavior. Business students have built a thriving chapter of the nonprofit organization Net Impact, which strives to grow and strengthen a network of leaders who use the power of business to make a positive social, environmental, and economic impact. These are but a few examples.
As Livingstone notes, "Our focus on leadership grounded in such core values as integrity, stewardship, courage, and compassion has been an integral part of our growth over the last 35 years and guides us today." While shaping values-centered leaders, the Graziadio School's attention to recognizing trends, maintaining flexibility, and meeting unmet needs, all keep Pepperdine programs current and relevant.
This focus also keeps making a difference in students' lives. Kathy Carter recently implemented the growth strategy she crafted in her PKE capstone project, a massive undertaking that ranges from 150 to 200 pages and takes an average of 1,000 hours to complete. After gaining insight about workplace culture through her course work, Carter made changes in communication plans, leadership development, and organizational structure at her firm. Her colleagues adopted change successfully and rapidly—"faster," she says, "than everyone was ready for it."
The business world does move quickly, but the Graziadio School and its students are more than keeping up.