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Thunderbird’s MBA Overhaul: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

The Thunderbird School of Global Management, already distinct for its international focus, has made headlines with a dramatic MBA overhaul of its curriculum.

The new curriculum, titled The Flexible Program, lets students complete their MBA in as little as one year.

The program was designed around feedback from MBA employers, as well as market trends like declining applications to two-year programs and increasing cost concerns.

In addition to changes in length and cost, Thunderbird’s curriculum changes are intended to overhaul how classes are taught and what students learn, with the ultimate goal of, as one representative told BusinessWeek, creating “a smarter degree”.

MBA Overhaul

Thunderbird’s changes are on par with some of the trends we have pinpointed for 2013– one-year, European-style MBA programs in the U.S., a more cost-conscious application pool, and an intensified focus on how the MBA can be most useful in the job market.

Though the one-year change is grabbing most of the headlines, one of the things I find most interesting about Thunderbird’s changes is the increased, concentrated focus on integration and constant demonstration of how one subject relates to another.

Professors from different courses will work together to provide such integration, both on campus and in study abroad programs, which will now host two faculty members- one teaching the designated subject area and the other advising students on the local culture and economy.

BusinessWeek reports that Thunderbird adopted the integration model after hearing that employers wanted to see graduates with stronger analytical, change management and leadership skills- more of those soft skills we have heard so much about.

Thunderbird’s president, Larry Edward Penley, speaking to BusinessWeek about the integration changes, simply said, “I hope employers say to us, ‘Wow, those students really know what they need to know to do the job.’”

MBA graduates are, arguably, facing more competition than ever in the job market.

The job market is down, many qualified graduates are looking for work, and many other workers, without an MBA but with significant experience, are competing for the same jobs.

Is Thunderbird’s overhaul one answer to this competition? I think it might be, and I am very interested to see if other schools will adopt similar changes.

What do you think? Does Thunderbird’s new MBA appeal to you?

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