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Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Top Three
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UC-Davis Launches Online MBA

UC-Davis photo

The University of California-Davis Graduate School of Management has launched an online MBA program — the first fully online MBA in the 10-school UC system. The school announced Wednesday (May 8) that applications are already open; those accepted will be able to enroll for the fall semester, which begins September 30.

UC-Davis’ full-time residential MBA is among the big strivers in the rankings of the past few years, moving up in the Poets&Quants ranking this year to 49th from 61st. It has slipped in the U.S. News ranking from 37th last year to 47th, but the school’s part-time MBA, offered in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, is ranked 28th by U.S. News. UC-Davis also offers a Master of Professional Accountancy program at its Davis campus and a Master of Science in Business Analytics program in San Francisco.

Now, with MBA@UCDavis, the school has jumped into the online space.

“As a world-leading research university with a nationally ranked business school, UC-Davis is well positioned to offer an online MBA for students to learn to think in new ways, expand their network and prepare to have a positive impact on the world,” said H. Rao Unnava, dean of the management school, in the school’s announcement.


H. Rao Unnava, dean of the UC-Davis Graduate School of Management. UC-Davis photo

MBA@UCDavis will mirror the UC-Davis MBA curriculum offered through the full- and part-time programs in Davis, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area, which integrates collaborative leadership, innovation, and sustainability. Courses will be taught by UC-Davis faculty, ranked eighth globally for overall quality by The Economist, and lecturers who are experts in their fields.

Among the professors listed at the MBA@UCDavis website are Kimberly Elsbach, who holds the Stephen G. Newberry endowed chair in leadership and is an international research fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation; Andrew Hargadon, author of Sustainable Innovation: Build Your Company’s Capacity to Change the World; and Victor Stango, an economist at the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and New York.

Students in the MBA@UCDavis will participate in interactive courses with live weekly sessions, according to the school’s announcement. The program will culminate with residential sessions that bring students together to learn and network with the school’s community of faculty, other students and executives from Fortune 500 firms, startups, and technology innovators.

Dean Unnava, who studies consumer behavior, says many business schools are developing niche programs as a new generation of students “prefer to study at their own pace and meet virtually.” UC-Davis’ new online MBA “offers the opportunity for more nontraditional students and working professionals anywhere in the world to earn an MBA from the UC-Davis management school.”


To provide the online MBA program, UC-Davis is partnering with 2U Inc., an education technology company. Among 2U’s partners are the Harvard business analytics program, Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, and the data science program at Southern Methodist University. UC-Davis Graduate School of Management’s MBA@UCDavis is the company’s first MBA partner in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

The school plans for four cohorts of students to start the program each year. It estimates the typical time to earn a degree to be two years. Approval of the program is pending by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

In a separate but related announcement, UC-Davis said it will launch two online short courses — Leadership and Strategic Negotiations — taught by leading UC-Davis faculty and hosted by GetSmarter, a brand of 2U. Leadership is an eight-week course, and Strategic Negotiations is a six-week course. Each requires seven to 10 hours a week of self-paced learning, entirely online. The online courses “integrate rich, interactive media — such as videos, infographics and e-learning activities — as well as traditional components, such as course notes, and are offered to anyone looking to improve their professional skills in these areas,” according to the school’s announcement.