MBA program hits milestone with 500th graduate

| Judy Berthiaume

When UW-Eau Claire honors its newest graduates this month it also will be celebrating an achievement for one of its premier programs — the 500th student will graduate from the University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium.

“It’s definitely a milestone for our MBA program,” says Dr. Robert Erffmeyer, a UW-Eau Claire professor of management and marketing who serves as director of the UW Consortium. “Faculty from three campuses created this consortium more than 20 years ago when we recognized there was a need, but also acknowledged that none of us could fill that need on our own.”

Instead, business faculty at UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Parkside joined together to create an innovative shared program.

Faculty from each of the three institutions’ College of Business began teaching MBA students via interactive television, and each campus began offering a full complement of pre-MBA courses.

“This interactive television format allowed students on each of the campuses to move through their programs at a more efficient and convenient pace,” Erffmeyer says, noting that UW Oshkosh soon became the fourth campus to join the consortium.

Three years after it was launched, the UW Consortium moved out of the ITV studios and into an online environment. 

With support from the UW System, the program also expanded its offerings to include a completely online MBA program.

Demand for the program — which U.S. News & World Report rankings place in the top 5 percent of MBA programs in the country — is booming, Erffmeyer says.

In 2009, the program graduated a total of nine students. This year, it will graduate 76 students, Erffmeyer says, noting that the number includes this month’s milestone 500th graduate.

“This consortium is an example of how innovative thinking by faculty and collaboration among campuses are helping the UW System prepare more highly qualified graduates for businesses in Wisconsin and beyond,” says UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “The quality of the MBA program and the success of its graduates also are enhancing Wisconsin’s national reputation.”

About 50 percent of the students who enroll are from Wisconsin, 25 percent are from Minnesota and Illinois, with the remaining 25 percent hailing from 36 different states and four other countries, Erffmeyer says.

By every measure, he says, the program is a success.

“We have one of the best graduation rates for women among MBA programs,” Erffmeyer says. “Our students are employed by large employers, such as Mayo Clinic, Nestle, Lockheed Martin, Trane, Target, Kimberly Clark and the U.S. military, as well as small, locally owned family businesses.

“They work in a variety of positions, including as engineers, health care administrators, medical professionals, technology managers, educators, managers and supervisors, attorneys and business leaders.”

Clearly, Erffmeyer says, the UW Consortium is meeting a need and educating leaders in a variety of fields and professions.

While four campuses make up the consortium, since the program’s beginning, UW-Eau Claire has served as the managing partner, handling nearly all administrative aspects of the program, including admitting, registering, transcribing, and, most importantly, graduating the students.

Consortium personnel work with more than 50 faculty and four College of Business deans every year.

For more information about the UW MBA Consortium, contact Dr. Robert Erffmeyer at erffmerc@uwec.edu.

Photo caption: The nationally known UW MBA Consortium is celebrating its 500th graduate this month.