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Lehigh Disrupts One-Year MBA Model

Dean Georgette Phillips

Dean Georgette Phillips

In 2014, Georgette Phillips left The Wharton School after 22 years to take over as dean of Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics (CBE). Her main charge was clear: Take CBE’s visibility and stature to the next level. Without a full-time MBA program on the school’s roster, she knew her chances of meeting that goal were slim.

In her eyes, however, a traditional two-year MBA program wasn’t the obvious answer either. So she avoided the cookie cutter route. instead, she chose to listen to a market that’s making its voice heard. “I see an increasing reluctance on the part of prospective students and employers for the two-year,” Phillips tells Poets&Quants. “People say, ‘I want a rigorous MBA, but I don’t have the time to commit two years.’”

With her ear to the street and her eye on successful one-year programs throughout Europe and the U.S., she tasked CBE faculty with designing a full-time program that could be completed in a single year.

The New Way to MBA According to Lehigh

After 18 months exploring prominent programs such as those at INSEAD, Northwestern, Cornell, and Emory; reaching out to employers to gauge their appetite for one-year MBA grads; and building the school’s very first full-time offering from the ground up, Dean Phillips says her faculty designed a top-notch program that she couldn’t be more proud to stand by.

They’re calling it, “The New Way to MBA.”

Lehigh’s inaugural full-time program carries a price tag of $63,000 and runs just one year. But it’s not your usual academic year. This one starts in January and goes through December; just one of the differentiators that makes Lehigh’s program appealing, Dean Phillips says. “Many employers hire at the start of the new year as opposed to the middle of the year during the summer months. With our students, employers can say, ‘Yes, start in January.’ It gives you a unique differentiator in the marketplace when you can start a job five months earlier in January instead of in June.”

Another feature Lehigh is happily bragging about is the summer internship that’s built into the curriculum; something students typically miss out on with other one-year programs. When the school vetted the idea with employers, they learned that hiring managers would indeed hire one-year MBAs, but only if they had certain skills and experience. “We worked very closely with industry in designing this,” Phillips explains. “We asked them ‘Would you hire?’ and they said ‘Yes, if they had the following skills.’ We knew people who are job changers would be at a disadvantage without the internship added into the curriculum and that’s why it was really important to get that summer experience in there.”

Speaking of getting hired, Lehigh’s program also comes with a three-person coaching team assigned to each student to help them throughout their year-long journey and to provide career counseling. The coaching trio consists of one faculty member, one CBE alumnus working in the industry, and one professional career coach..

Finally, the program smooths the application process for potential students who are looking to switch careers or to simply diversify their skillset to get ahead in their careers. Lehigh’s one-year MBA doesn’t require an undergraduate business degree as most programs do. Instead, applicants can enter the program having any undergraduate degree.