At Cal Lutheran University (CLU), flexibility and experiential learning are top priorities.
The CLU MBA program offers not only a flexible degree completion date but also flexible class scheduling that includes online and evening and weekend intensives, making the program customizable around life’s sometimes difficult bumps and hurdles.
Even with all that flexibility, the school has found ways to make sure that professionals who choose to trust them gain hands-on experience before jumping into the world of work.
In 2017, CLU MBA students gained recognition from several media outlets for their contributions toward helping the Simi Valley chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars reverse their declining membership and recruitment. As part of a capstone class of the program, students suggested that the group launch a social media campaign and update their social media accounts to better engage and attract younger veterans. They also suggested the possibility of an annual event to bring together the community, such as golf tournament. At the end of the class, students presented their findings and recommendations at the VFW Military History Museum.
“An evolution is going on at our school right now,” says Dr. Sumantra Sengupta, assistant dean of national recruiting and director of MBA programs. “We are year three in preparing our students to better lead in business by engaging in more corporate projects as part of the program. We are a small school in a big school environment, and we care deeply about our students. We prepare them with hands-on learning, a global experience, and an in-depth curriculum, and then support them with lifetime services through our career center.”
TOTAL TUITION COST OF MBA: $36,900
Cal Lutheran University is a private, liberal arts university located in Thousand Oaks, California. In case you don’t know the neighborhood, it’s one of the best in America: The city received an “A” grade from Niche.com after taking into consideration a number of factors.
Thousand Oaks ranked 4th in cities with the Best Public Schools in America, and received A+ grades for public schools, weather, and health and fitness. The area also did well in terms of diversity, outdoor activities, and family-friendliness. Plenty of residents in Thousand Oaks own their own homes and live there with their families, drawn to the area by the quality of education as much as the great outdoors.
At Cal Lutheran University, MBA students must complete 45 semester credits to graduate, and each credit costs $820, adding up to a final cost of $36,900. Students without a business background are required to take additional foundation courses in economics, accounting and business statistics, and applicants are expected to have basic proficiency in word processing, spreadsheet and database application.
COURSES, CURRICULA & MORE
Cal Lutheran’s MBA program offers students several professional tracks to choose from: Enterprise Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Finance; Human Capital Management; Information Technology; Marketing; and International Business. On top of choosing courses relating to their chosen professional track, all MBA students at Cal Lutheran are also expected to take eight core courses, among them Business Ethics and Law, Organizational Behavior, Strategic Decision Making, and Information Technology Management. Students are also required to pick two emphasis courses from a list of seven courses that include classes in Innovative Business Models, Marketing Research, Data Management, Sustainable Business Strategies, and Innovative Finance Models.
Sengupta says the curriculum is designed so students get a balanced education through academic texts and case-study experience. To secure a major, students must complete six courses within a topic rather than the usual four some other schools allow, ensuring students have in-depth knowledge in their chosen concentration. The school also makes new courses available depending on market shifts and recent additions have included classes on Cybersecurity and Blockchain.
To graduate, all students must also take a capstone course. The six capstone options available to students to choose from include international travel, business consulting, an internship, and creating a business plan. This is where the class of MBA students gathered to put their business acumen and skills for the veteran community in 2017.
GLOBAL PRESENCE IN CLASSROOM ‘CHALLENGING BUT VERY REWARDING’
The International Travel capstone course at Cal Lutheran offers MBA students the opportunity to spend about 10 days in a foreign country. Each year, Sengupta says, about 30 students take advantage of the chance to gain a global perspective by going out of their comfort zone. In previous years, students have traveled to France, China, and the United Kingdom; Sengupta says the school has plans to bring students to Austria and Dubai next.
“Very few companies today are completely absent of global influence and engagement,” Sengupta said. “If you can experience a foreign culture, work ethic, or even a different financial system and way of doing business, your resume will stand out from the others.”
On average, the MBA program takes in 550 students in each class, 60% of whom are domestic students and 40 percent are international applicants. Sengupta says that the school makes deliberate effort to keep that ratio in each class to keep the global element in all classroom project work and discussions.
“We have counted the number of active countries where students come from to be around 17, and the global presence in our classrooms can be challenging but also very rewarding,” he says.
With a minimum of about three industry segments in classes that are limited to 15 students, Sengupta adds that classroom discussions are usually lively, with diverse perspectives that help create leader with vision. CLU classrooms not only host students from a variety of countries — MBA students also come from a range of backgrounds, with different amounts of work experience. While international students often arrive directly after graduating from college with little to with no industry experience, some arrive after a couple years of work and others are thinking of mid-career switches.
“We are careful about balancing out the students work experience in the classroom, and our program manager does a great job of building classroom dynamics after taking into consideration all the student profiles for the best learning experience,” Sengupta says, adding that many international MBA students choose to take the full-time program that requires them to work on two courses a term. But increasingly, more domestic students are choosing the same, he said.
‘YOU CAN COME BACK ANYTIME’
Sengupta says the belief that people avoid further education when the job market is good and feel too financially insecure when it is bad is no longer valid.
“We’re seeing people choose to speed up their MBA education in order to capitalize on market momentum,” he says. “They’re taking classes quicker, and while the average time for completing our program used to be 2.7 years, it’s gone down to 2.3 years now. The average time to graduate has gone down.”
The minds behind every great business program know that having a rigorous curriculum is half the game. The other half is providing great career advising services that help students understand their skills, talents, and interests, the opportunities that are available, and getting them connected to professionals in their dream industry. At CLU, MBA program alumni have lifetime access to the school’s career services even a decade after they’ve graduated.
“Once you’ve been a CLU student, you can come back anytime,” Sengupta says. “Whether you need help polishing up your resume or guidance on career switching, we’re here. We are small enough and care deeply enough to provide that service.”
He adds that he recently had lunch with a student who graduated from the MBA program eight years ago and recommended that he consider the Executive MBA program that is designed to help individuals with successful careers achieve even more.
A STRONG CAREER SUPPORT NETWORK
CLU students receive personalized mentoring throughout the time they are in the MBA program, from helping students to discover themselves and connect them with alumni in the industry and opportunities they would be the best candidate for, to helping design their elevator pitch, craft their resume, and present their best selves in interviews and assessments.
On top of access to 30,000 Cal Lutheran alumni all over the world, the School of Management also has close tie-ins with corporations through its Advisory Council, made up of a group of business professionals who help provide insights into industry trends and development. Members of the current committee include Henry Dubroff, Owner and Editor of Pacific Coast Business Times; Haider Alamawi, Economic Development Manager of the City of Thousand Oaks; and Sue Chadwick, Retired Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor of Santa Barbara Bank and Trust.
MBA students can also attend the Entrepreneur Speaker Series which bring inspiring stories and networking opportunities, the Leadership Essentials Forum where alumni also join in learning about changes in their area of leadership and management, and Molecules and Markets, an event which gives students valuable insight into the world of science-based startups.
For students who want to bring a great idea to life, the Cal Lutheran Center for Entrepreneurship is a space where they can find an equally passionate business partner, or join forces with other student or alumni with a complementary talent or skill. They can become connected to investor groups including the Tech Coast Angels and Pasadena Angels, and to business incubators and maker spaces such as the Ventura BioCenter, where science and innovation come alive. Recently, the Center for Entrepreneurship also helped set up Hub101, a coworking space for entrepreneurs to work on their ideas with the support of a community of like-minded business people. Located in Westlake Village, California, the space also hosts events to help members perfect a pitch, learn to navigate an industry, and improve their presentation and public speaking skills.
Sengupta says that Hub101 acts an incubator for 20 to 25 companies at any given time, and members have free access to mentorship. Speakers are brought in once a month and previous guests have included the Former Chairman of Kinkos. Graduates of the MBA program at Cal Lutheran University School of Management have gone on to work at companies including Wells Fargo, Northrop Grumman, Merrill Lynch, Kaiser Permanente, The Walt Disney Company, Ameriprise Financial Services, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Bank of America.
“Alumni success is important for us, and we have a vibrant community of companies that we have relationships with,” Sengupta says. “We are gaining a presence in the local market, our programs are growing and gaining recognition, and we are proud of it”