NATCHEZ — The Alcorn State University MBA program has made a name for itself in its brief 10-year history. The program is not only drawing students from the surrounding area, but also nationally and internationally.
The university’s interim president, Dr. Malvin Williams, was vice president of academic affairs when the program was established, and he continues to be a strong advocate.
“We wanted to make sure we recruited the best people we could afford to put the MBA program together,” he recalls. “We also wanted them to work with the business leaders in Natchez to make sure we provided the businesses with what they needed. And, we wanted to be a vital part of the economic recovery in an area that had lost several industries.”
The program and its location were part of the decisions mandated by a federal judge in the Ayers case, a decision meant to foster diversity. Williams and Steve Wells, dean of the School of Business, feel the MBA program is meeting the goals of diversity.
“We have seen good growth in diversity and are working well with business leaders in Natchez,” Williams said. “We were pleased last December to receive the Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award for our Natchez campus.”
In August 2005, the program moved into a $10 million building on the same campus with Alcorn’s School of Nursing. “In addition to having a marvelous, beautiful facility with current equipment,” Wells said, “funding was provided to hire a faculty. We have some of the best qualified in the Southeast.”
Wells, who’s been with the program since the beginning, says about 300 instructors applied for the eight faculty positions. Word is spreading about the program and students everywhere can learn about it through the Internet. That’s why students are coming from all over the U.S. and India, Ghana, Russia, Jamaica and Turkey in addition to the primary 60-mile radius the campus serves.
“We can provide some financial aid and that helps and many want to study in the U.S.,” Wells said. “Also, some like the climate of a small town where they feel more comfortable.”
The dean finds the program’s interaction with the local community amazing, particularly the business community.
“The community embraces these students. Some of our students serve internships and some get jobs in the community,” he said.
Pat Biglane, president and CEO of Concordia Bank, offered an internship to a student and later hired her after a local CPA told him he had a good experience doing the same.
“This program is good for the city and gives us a pool to pull from when we need help,” he said. “No question, it’s an asset to the business community and students who want to stay here have more options.”
However, some students venture to other cities where they have no trouble finding positions either. One of those is Seth Assink from Brookhaven. The 25-year-old is now employed with The Peoples Bank in Biloxi in its management development program.
“I knew the Alcorn MBA program was good and that it provided many benefits,” he says. “There is also the financial aspect of attending Alcorn. Through a diversity grant, I was able to attend Alcorn at no charge. The smaller classrooms are also a value. The teachers really work hard at creating a one-on-one relationship with their students.”
Assink keeps in touch with some professors, pleased that they are always there to give any advice he needs.
“I also got a broad view of the business world through conferences, projects and interacting with other students who had been in the professional world,” he added. “Alcorn takes a special interest in each individual MBA student.”
Trustmark Bank has three current employees at the corporate offices in Jackson who began their association with the bank as Alcorn interns. They are Anderson Sosoo, a treasury analyst in the Corporate Treasury Administration Department; Srdjan Gojkovic, a management development associate; and Oleg Efimockhin, an associate on a Web development project in the MIS department.
“We have found that the MBA program at Alcorn attracts many quality students who demonstrate a strong work ethic, professionalism, drive and ambition,” said Becky Vaughn-Furlow, executive vice president and director of human resources. “Our experience in hiring graduates from their program has been very good. Some of the most recent ones include three who were all originally hired into our internship program and then later were hired into other positions.”
She added, “Dr. Wells is doing an outstanding job at Alcorn and he and all his staff are very proactive and involved in student placements by working with businesses like us in our recruiting efforts.”
Wells says the program’s main value is two-fold. “It’s to have a high-quality program designed to prepare students with the skills and competencies to be successful in today’s global marketplace,” he said. “And, it’s to prepare individuals, no matter where they go, to have extra values to take back to their families, communities and employers.”
He points out that all decisions in the program are hinged to the needs of students. The faculty is focused on graduate students and prepares an individual program of study based on each student’s career goals.
“The students come out with a broad business understanding and know how all courses relate to business,” he said. “That makes us unique. We have a responsive, student-oriented program that’s conducive to learning. That’s our mission.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.