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Student Experiences

Growing the MBA Program

After earning a law degree from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, Makoto Ishi Zaka found himself spending more and more time away from his family, holed up in the office of the IT company he worked for.

It was only after a phone call from his father-in-law that the self-titled workaholic changed direction.

“He asked me what my life goal was,” Makoto says. “Then he asked me if I could see myself there if I kept living the way I was living. I couldn’t, and that’s when I decided to apply to BYU’s MBA program. I wanted to become a more effective and efficient leader.”

Makoto was one of 118 students in the Marriott School’s MBA Class of 2007. He says his experience changed his professional and personal priorities. The value focus of the program makes it a sought-after academic distinction among students and employers. And with upcoming changes to the program, more students will have the opportunity to experience it.

Expanding the size of the MBA program has become a Marriott School goal. With the construction of the Tanner Building Addition, the Marriott School is looking to almost double the size of its MBA classes. In preparation for the challenge of adding more students, the MBA organization is being reshaped.

“These changes will allow us to serve more students, which will change the trajectory of their lives,” says MBA faculty director and accounting professor James Stice.

As part of that change, Stice, who previously served as MBA director, has been named MBA academic director and will oversee curriculum. He will work with Bill Sawaya, who is continuing as associate MBA director. Jim Engebretsen, the new MBA program director, will represent the program to outside constituents. Tad Brinkerhoff has been appointed the new EMBA director.

Class sizes will also grow to match the increase of students and fill the large case rooms that are planned for the building addition. With more physical facilities available, the MBA administration hopes to draw more qualified applicants as well as recruiters from larger national and international companies.

“Our growth is a reflection of the growth of BYU and the Church,” Brinkerhoff says. “We turn away a lot of good students every year just based on space. As the program expands, we’ll be able to serve more qualified individuals.”

Currently, about 40 percent of all MBA applicants are admitted. Increasing the number of qualified students who earn a BYU MBA and placing them with more companies will extend the school’s influence in the United States and internationally, Brinkerhoff says.

A larger MBA class will also attract more recruiters to campus, Brinkerhoff continues. And after large-scale scandals in the business world, BYU’s emphasis on integrity and ethics is even more highly prized.

“Our professors talk a lot about how we’re earning a BYU MBA, which is different from a typical MBA,” says recent graduate Taber Rigg. “You’re not just here for yourself. You’re here to receive the tools and skills you need to make a difference in your community, neighborhood, or city and, ultimately, to strengthen the church.”

Engebretsen views the success of the MBA program—both present and future—in similar terms. “I think we have some outstanding students and that the BYU MBA is an undiscovered gem,” he says. “With the right kind of polish, we can give these great students opportunities to make a significant difference in the world and represent the church in an appropriate way.”