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Belhaven retools to better meet businesses’ needs

JACKSON — For more than a decade now, Belhaven College’s School of Business has been offering a master of business administration degree, available today on four campuses. And, it has been offering an accounting certificate program longer than that.

Now, the liberal arts college has revamped both programs, adding more computer-based learning and more emphasis on entrepreneurship in the MBA program and offering night classes in its accounting certificate program to accommodate working adults.

New look MBA

Since beginning in 1996, Belhaven’s MBA program has grown in reach and enrollment. Originally called Adult Edge, the program was rolled out on the Jackson and Memphis campuses that first year, and was added on its Orlando campus in 1999 and in Houston just this past year. Total enrollment holds around 100 students, according to School of Business dean Dr. Ralph “Chip” Mason III, who came on board in 1995.

The college conducted an evaluation to access the effectiveness of the MBA program. The evaluation found a need for more computer-related instruction and more training in the area of entrepreneurship.

This has led to the first major facelift of the MBA program since its inception. The new look MBA will be offered for the first time on all four campuses this fall.

In the area of computers, Belhaven has added a new course — Mobilization Technology. The three-hour course studies the use of computers and information systems technology in business operations and management.

The course description reads, “This technology is a strategic management tool that can be used to reduce uncertainty and enhance the effectiveness of the decision-making process. Major topics include the uses and types of information systems, computerized business applications, ethical issues and the acquisition, development, implementation and maintenance of information systems as well as e-commerce.”

“Mobilization Technology is the study of computers from a management perspective,” Mason said. “The concept is to offer more computer-based learning and a curriculum not so tied to lecturing.”

In another effort to offer more hands-on education as opposed to the theoretical, as well as to give its students more training in entrepreneurship, Belhaven has added the requirement that students execute a business plan in order to earn an MBA. This is a new component of the college’s MBA program but is not new to Belhaven’s Adult Study Program.
Among its graduate offerings is a master of science in management. That program provided an option to draft a business plan. The program with its business plan component has proven popular.

“That convinced us that we needed this in our MBA program,” Mason said. “We felt this would be better for our MBA students.”

After-hours accounting

Mason said the changes in the Belhaven MBA program was prompted largely in response to the stated needs of the business community. This was also the catalyst for the reworking of its accounting certification program.

Offered for some two decades now, the certification program was designed to offer students the opportunity to earn what is in essence accounting as a second major to non-accounting majors. Graduates have proven attractive to the business community, according to Dr. Geoffrey Goldsmith, associate professor of accounting who has been at Belhaven since 1993.
In fact, Goldsmith said that the program, year in and year out, has not been able to meet the demand.

“Every year, we receive more postings for accounting jobs than we have students to fill them,” Goldsmith said.
Historically, the accounting certificate program has an enrollment each year of six to 10 students. The challenge to recruiting more students was not the curriculum but scheduling.

Thus, Belhaven, which had been mulling changes to the program for approximately a year, will offer the accounting certification program at night to accommodate working adults. And, the program will be offered in sequence in regular semesters, allowing students to complete the program quicker and easier. Since working adults make up the bulk of the program’s enrollment, both Goldsmith and Mason expect the retooling of how and when the program is offered to significantly boost enrollment.

Mason said the accounting certification program over the years has filled a huge need. “I see it as a great service to the business community,” he added.

Changing environment

Goldsmith said Belhaven annually looks at its accounting program to access its effectiveness in the ever-evolving industry. One obvious area is more focus on ethics in lieu of recent accounting scandals that have rocked the industry.

Mason, who said the MBA program is still being evaluated and more changes could be put in place over the next two to three years, gave the lion’s share of the credit for the reworking of the accounting certification program to Goldsmith.

And, both men gave credit to Belhaven’s administration for its support in the revamping of both the MBA and accounting certification programs.

For more information on these programs, visit Belhaven’s Web site at http://www.belhaven.edu/.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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