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MBA students need range of computer hardware, software

Thinking about enrolling in grad school this fall? Tech-wise, be prepared.

Just four years ago, new students had to know little more than how to turn on a computer. In most cases, laptop computers were issued to them and tutorials were provided to help understand basic information.

Today, grad school students must be familiar with e-bulletin boards, chat rooms and messaging services because private sessions with instructors and information communicated to students by e-mail is commonplace. Navigating the Internet is a given because students will spend hours doing research on the World Wide Web. And they must understand Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

“Excel is a real big one,” said Dr. Barbara Spencer, director of graduate studies and business at Mississippi State University, the South’s oldest AACSB-accredited business school. “Incoming grad students need to be able to do spreadsheets and access databases. They’ll be doing quite a bit of that.”

At Belhaven College, PowerPoint projectors are located in smart classroom ceilings and grad students are called on to give PowerPoint presentations in almost every class, said Dr. Chip Mason, dean of adult studies at Belhaven College in Jackson.

“If they don’t know how to use PowerPoint, they’ll start out behind,” he said.

Universities collectively set a unified computer software proficiency standard because it simplifies the teaching process, enables professors to assign more demanding work, boosts student confidence about utilizing basic software applications and signals employers that graduates have the computer skills needed versus investing in expensive on-the-job training.

The University of Southern Mississippi pointed to technology as the primary component affecting today’s business organizations.

“Today’s business managers must be able to understand and manage information technology in the firm, both internally and externally. The MBA program at USM provides instruction in working with information technology (IT) and in managing IT infrastructures within the firm,” according to information on the USM Web site.

And students must have certain computers, software and accessories to do well in a business curriculum where technological integration is much more important.

The University of Mississippi requires MBA students to have a laptop computer, and offers a bundled system from Dell and Gateway. The operating system required is Windows XP Professional. Microsoft Office Professional XP, Microsoft FrontPage XP (2002), and anti-virus software, preferably McAfee, is required. So is an Ethernet card. A personal printer, modem and wireless NIC are recommended but not required.

“We’re a high-tech program,” said Dr. Faye Gilbert, associate dean for the MBA program for the School of Business Administration at Ole Miss. “We are integrating across disciplines so that MBA graduates walk out understanding the entire business and have applied it.

As a result, they’re hot commodities on the market. Nationwide, about 26% of MBAs coming out of school this year have had jobs. We’ve had a remarkable rate for student placement — about 67%.”

More graduate schools are allowing students to choose their own laptop computer, with recommended specs, instead of supplying generic ones or relying on multiple computer labs.

“When we first started the program in 1996, we provided a laptop that cost about $2,500 per computer,” said Mason. “Now you can get a laptop for about $800. It’s ridiculous for us to get one now when students can get exactly what they want.”

For now, the Internet is primarily used for research and communication, but in a few years, it will play a more prominent role in grad school curriculums, said Dr. Marcelo Eduardo, dean of the School of Business at Mississippi College, where nearly 200 students are enrolled in the MBA program.

“Four or five years from now, I envision the Internet will be an integral part of every course,” he said. “It’s a source of a wealth of information and most instructors are using it fairly intensively. In another five or 10 years, Internet courses will be a common occurrence. Any program that doesn’t pursue it will be at risk.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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