While silver might be the standout color at the University of Nevada, Reno, the College of Business is happily celebrating another color this year - gold. It's been 50 years since the college first started its Master of Business Administration program.
One of only two MBA programs in the West when it first began in 1965, the University has since conferred over 2,400 master's degrees. Today, it is the largest graduate school program on the University's campus, with 205 students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester.
"On the surface a lot has changed over the last 50 years," University College of Business Dean Greg Mosier said. "However, the college has always had an ongoing commitment to provide a highly educated workforce and to help diversify Nevada's economy."
"Business for Nevada," a book written by Robert Weems, the College of Business' founding dean, details the college's efforts to partner with Nevada's key industries from the get go. Weems' book provides accounts of early research that took place within the College of Business to help diversify Nevada's economy and industries.
According to Weems, the college aimed to bring national attention to Nevada's business-friendly climate. Faculty worked to partner with several businesses in the state from the beginning and continue to remain a resource for government and private industry alike. Currently, the college boasts 20 Corporate Partners.
These organizations, which range from Reno-area businesses to international technology corporations, help students gain first-hand experience and insight into the business world. Partners often hire College of Business students directly out of the program and readily encourage their own employees to participate in the college's MBA program.
"The MBA program allowed me the opportunity to learn great business knowledge that I've been able to leverage in my professional career," Atlantis Casino Resort Spa Director of Casino Marketing Brandon McNeely, said. "Working with other aspiring business professionals and learning of their many different perspectives and opinions have been invaluable in my career."
As the state's land-grant institution, the University's College of Business also recognized a need to connect with smaller businesses in the state. With the start of the Nevada Small Business Development Center (SBDC), 30 years ago, the college became a go-to resource for Nevada small business owners as well. Its mission to promote and facilitate sustainable economic prosperity across Nevada tied in well with the MBA program. The Nevada SBDC employs two MBA graduate assistants who help mentor clients, under the guidance of business faculty, and identify areas of need for Nevada small businesses.
"Many of our MBA alumni have gone on to become some of our biggest supporters," Mosier said. Some of the college's most notable alumni include Eren Ozmen of Sierra Nevada Corporation and co-founder of the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business and Hera Siu, former vice president at SAP China and currently managing director for Greater China at Pearson.
"Students who go through the University's MBA program take away relevant, impactful knowledge they can apply to their career over a lifetime," College of Business Associate Dean Kambiz Raffiee said. "Throughout the last 50 years, the consistent strength of the program has been the quality faculty dedicated to teaching the depth of curriculum that is offered."
Sam Males, director of the Nevada SBDC and MBA program alumnus, credits the faculty for his success.
"The time and patience shown by College of Business faculty allowed me to adjust to a different discipline and afforded me life skills that I still use today with my colleagues and employees," Males said.
Alumna Heidi Gansert, now the University's special assistant to the president for external affairs, also recognizes the MBA program as valuable to her career.
"I used the fundamentals I learned through the program to develop a business model for medical practices that included everything from incorporation decisions, to billing, to complex health care contract negotiations," Gansert said. "My education also served me well as a six-year member of the Nevada Assembly's Ways and Means Committee and as chief of staff for Governor Brian Sandoval."
Changing with the times
While the MBA program first started in 1965, it received its full accreditation in 1971 from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools in Business, the highest level of accreditation attainable in business education.
Forty years after this accreditation, the college, in partnership with University Extended Studies, launched the Online Executive Master's in Business Administration. Its first cohort started with 13 students in the fall of 2011. The format of the program allows mid-career executives and experienced professionals to continue working while advancing their skill set and earning an Executive MBA.
"I really felt like the difference between the online and face-to-face Executive MBA programs was minimal," Jeff Wong, associate professor and accounting department chair at the College of Business, said. "Our goal with structuring the program was to offer two first courses that really got students used to learning in the online environment. Students in the Online EMBA program quickly develop a rhythm of work."
Building a national reputation
Soon after the online program's inception, it became nationally ranked. Most recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Online Executive MBA No. 29 of 195 schools in the "Best Online MBA Programs" category in January 2015. The Princeton Review named the program one of the "Top 25 Online MBA Programs for 2015." The list is the first ranking of online MBA programs that is based on both surveys of administrators at the schools and of students enrolled in the schools' online MBAs. It also gave a nod to the College of Business including it in "The Best 296 Business Schools: 2015 Edition."
The college's part-time MBA program is also nationally ranked 24th by Bloomberg Businessweek for part-time MBA programs.
"The college has a strong, visible reputation for its MBA programs," Raffiee said. "Through these programs, we look forward to continuing to support Nevada business for another 50 years and beyond."
Calling all alumni
The College of Business wants to reconnect with its MBA alumni. Alumni are encouraged to visit UNR.edu/business/50years and fill out a short survey to update their contact information. As a thank you, the college will send each respondent a 50-year commemorative coin.