MBA students in the Class of 2018 at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University
“The Best Things In Life Are Free.”
Everyone has heard some crooner cover that number at one time. Yes, the moon and stars belong to everyone. And the flowers and sunbeams are yours and mine. Thanks to Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business, you can add a new freebie to the lyrics: An MBA degree.
Business schools fawn over disruptive business models…until dramatic change threatens their own livelihoods. While the W. P. Carey School will never turn Stanford or Booth into hollowed out office space, the school has heated up an already ferocious competition for top student talent. In an era of skyrocketing tuition and debt, the W. P. Carey School did the unthinkable in 2015: They offered free tuition for every student. Forget the bottom half paying a premium to support the upper half. Everyone shares the proverbial free lunch at the W. P. Carey School.
FREE TUITION FOR EVERYONE PRODUCES A STRONGER OVERALL CLASS
It’s a huge roll of the dice for the school, which has traditionally ranked among the Top 30 full-time MBA programs. For one, the program is foregoing tuition, which had run nearly $26,000 for in-state residents and $42,000 for those hailing from out-of-state. The school also scaled back its class size by 40% to 120 students. In the process, the school expects to lose $10 to $20 million dollars a year.
Why do it? The financial trade-off enables the school to sport a more accomplished and international student body, while fostering a more intimate small school culture. In other words, the free tuition enables the school to be more selective. The result, of course, is higher inputs like GMATs and GPAs on the front end, which should translate into better jobs and higher starting pay on the back end. For the W. P. Carey School, that means moving into a more exclusive neighborhood in the business school rankings, creating a prestige halo that heaps greater value onto all its degree programs. What’s more, the scholarships are being funded from the endowment bestowed by the school’s namesake, investor William Polk Carey. Translation: the school is implementing this program from a position of strength.
Dean Amy Hillman of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business
What’s the catch? Is this a bait-and-switch where students pay during their second year or take on the full burden if they don’t earn A’s across the board? It’s quite the opposite, actually. In an interview with Poets&Quants, Dean Amy Hillman described this strategic investment as the “path forward.” Ultimately, she hopes to shift the support for the program to alumni, who are expected (though not required) to give back as their careers progress.
NO DEBT HOPEFULLY MEANS BIGGER CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ALUMNI
“What we’re hoping to engender in the students is that this is like an ‘angel investor’ who has invested in them as opposed to an enterprise, and as they go out to be successful in whatever walks of life, they will make this opportunity available to those students who come behind them,” says Hillman. “It’s a socialization that started with their acceptance letters.”
For many members of W. P. Carey’s Class of 2018, these scholarships served as a life line. Take Iowa’s Matt Allbee, who holds a master’s in accounting from Iowa State before working for Deloitte as a tax consultant. While Allbee was impressed by the school’s recruiters, supply chain programs, and weather, it was ultimately the full ride that swayed him to commit to Tempe for two years. “The Forward Focus full scholarship provided me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams without taking on a significant amount of debt.”
Debt was also front-and-center for Zachary Mardoc, a Peace Corps veteran who describes himself as a “Pragmatic Humanitarian, Capitalist Dreamer.” For Mardoc, the scholarship wasn’t an enticement to choose Carey. Instead, it was his only means to make business school a reality. “The Forward Focus Scholarship at W. P. Carey made it possible for a person like me, with a low-paying humanitarian/non-profit background, to attend a high quality MBA program without taking on a crippling amount of debt. That first hurdle of accessibility was removed.”
Even more, the program was a chance for Murdoc to experience a major business innovation first-hand. “I was attracted to taking part in a program in the first phase of a major transformation. Periods of upheaval create openings for creativity and innovation, as well as opportunities to influence the future structure of the program.”
CLASS INCLUDES AN 18 YEAR-OLD…FROM NASA
Students like Mardoc are exactly the types of people that the W. P. Carey School is targeting: highly talented and accomplished outliers who are seeking a hand up instead of a handout. “If someone has a great start-up idea, and they know they would be more successful in their venture if they had the skills and networking that an MBA would give them, they might be concerned about spending the money because it takes away from the capital needed for the start-up venture,” Hillman wrote in a 2015 statement. “We’re very hopeful that we’ll get more high-quality applicants as a result of this program, and the kinds of people who might think they can’t pursue a top MBA program.”
W. P . Carey student in the courtyard.
The Class of 2018 is the W. P. Carey School’s first cohort that is part of the Forward Focus program. Based on early returns, it has been an unbridled success. Just look at some of the students who chose the W. P. Carey School to pursue their full-time MBA. Chuka Ndukauba is one. An MD from Nigeria, he calls himself “a man with a plan, wading through the uncertainties of different cultures and continents.” Making the transition from medical care and research to business, Ndukauba is almost the archetypal W. P. Carey MBA candidate for the Forward Focus era. For him, the past six months have been a “challenging but ultimately enjoyable” transition. “It required a reorientation of my thought processes from a strictly humanitarian sense (with no realistic consideration for revenue generation) to a point where I could blend both worlds together in a rational way.”
Moshe Cavalin is another prodigy who doesn’t quite fit the traditional MBA profile — but seems destined to make a big difference in business after graduation. Picture this: Moshe earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics before he was even 15. Most recently, he was a student intern at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, where he was successful in “commercializing collision avoidance software within six months of arriving at NASA.” Just 18, he earned his pilot’s license last year. He could just as easily be an MBA at Harvard or Stanford.
Funny thing is, Cavalin isn’t the only NASA veteran in the class. Reghenae Simmons, a film producer and engineer with Lockheed Martin, also beat the odds to intern there. Like Cavalin, she made the most of her time there. “I worked on a team to test different materials by determining the maximum stress they could withstand. I had to identify the best materials to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense in the manufacturing of combat zone vehicles and other equipment. I am especially proud of being selected for this experience since I didn’t attend one of the required colleges. I applied anyway, sent in my essays, and was chosen for the internship.”
CLASS DEFINED BY A SPIRIT OF INNOVATION
If there is one virtue that the class shares, it is that they are innovators…in their own unique ways. Sarah Green is an Air Force brat who got to watch Broadway shows for free in college free thanks to playing piano in the lobby. Drawing on her experiences as a copywriter and a teacher, she broke new ground with her educational products: Best Multiplication SongsEVER! and Best Multiplication WorkbookEVER! “My workbook won the Learning® Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award for the Classroom alongside large companies such as Disney, Pearson and Discovery Channel,” she beams.
Forward Focus MBA: Diversity & Drive at W. P. Carey
Imagine gaining a high-caliber business education without the burden of student debt. ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business is pioneering a new MBA program that offers students just that. The Forward Focus MBA, a full-time, 60-hour program, provides a scholarship to cover the full cost of tuition for the entire incoming class. With financial barriers removed, the Forward Focus MBA attracts a diverse group of students with a wide breadth of interests and experiences.
Attracting Great Students from Around the World
Forward Focus MBA students come from diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and their experiences range from working with human trafficking victims to inventing renewable energy solutions. A cross-section of the Forward Focus Class of 2018 exemplifies the richly varied ambitions and passions of MBA students.
Moshe Cavalin, Forward Focus MBA Class of 2018
Moshe Cavalin, the youngest member of the class at age 18, aspires to own his own cybersecurity business. The program’s tuition scholarship is critical for students like Cavalin, whose family lacks financial stability. “The scholarship really shows how much ASU cares about education, by not letting affordability get in the way,” Cavalin said. “It allows for diversity and culture that wouldn’t exist without the scholarship, and that means a lot to me.”
Having graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in math at age 15, Cavalin has always been an incredibly hard worker. His mother and father, who come from Taiwan and Brazil respectively, have encouraged him to dream big. Cavalin was attracted to the Forward Focus program because of the diversity of its community and the ability it gives him to specialize. He is pursuing his MBA concurrently with a Master of Science in Information Management to achieve his goals in cybersecurity.
Supporting Cross-Disciplinary Study through Innovative Courses
Apart from core MBA foundations like financial accounting and statistics, students also engage in Intellectual Fusion Learning Labs, where they pair with master’s students from other departments to tackle action-oriented projects. Collaboration with students from other disciplines allows the MBAs to gain new perspectives and see unique approaches to solving problems.
Fostering creative thinking and the ability to adapt to unexpected change are hallmarks of the program’s curriculum. A key component for any successful business leader in our information-rich context is to strategically leverage data. A course called Decision-Making with Data Analytics prepares students to interpret data and clearly communicate their process and findings to future stakeholders and team members. This competency is applicable across industries and careers, from healthcare to technology to renewable energy.
Gaining Leadership Skills for New Realities of Business
Rachel Curtis, Forward Focus MBA Class of 2018
Rachel Curtis, another member of the Class of 2018, plans to use her Forward Focus MBA to make an impact in the human rights space. She has spent her educational and professional life advocating for disadvantaged populations through work in the Caribbean, South America and the United States. After gaining a bachelor’s degree in public health, she worked with international victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. She also served as the training and outreach coordinator on labor trafficking for the state of Arizona.
Curtis relishes the idea of gaining concrete operational and strategic leadership skills to bring to the nonprofit space. “Business is all about efficiency and effectiveness, which we sometimes lack in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “I hope to bridge that gap as my way to give back.” The scholarship provided by Forward Focus will allow her to achieve an MBA and become a leader in international human rights. Her goal is to work for the United States Agency for International Development with a specific focus on preventing labor trafficking and gender-based violence.
Through a new course called Self-Transformation through Executive Connections, students are matched with executive mentors who bring decades of experience from a variety of industries and help develop each student’s leadership competencies to prepare them for future career opportunities.
Amine El Housni, Forward Focus MBA Class of 2018
Amine El Housni, Forward Focus Class of 2018, discovered a passion for renewable energy in college while working with a team to use solar power to pump water to his small Moroccan village. He then gained operational experience implementing logistics systems for a 250,000-cubic-foot distribution center where he was “fueled by a fear of failure and a never-ending pursuit of incremental improvements.”
El Housni brings this spirit of determination and strong work ethic to his studies in the Forward Focus program. He values forming positive bonds with his fellow MBA students and investing in the community: “I realize how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity to sharpen my leadership skills and develop lifelong relationships with my classmates,” he said. After gaining his MBA, El Housni hopes to use solar panels to support communities in Africa.
Investing in the Startup That Is You
The Forward Focus MBA is designed to help future leaders like Cavalin, Curtis and El Housni cope with uncertainty and volatility in today’s business landscape. With its unique scholarship model and innovative curriculum options, the program provides its students with a path to growth into effective, conscientious leaders within a strong and diverse community.
Interested in learning more about the Forward Focus MBA? Click Here
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