Eyes on the Midwest: Top business school looks for talent in the region

GRAND FORKS--One of the nation's top business schools is boosting its Midwest recruitment efforts and offering a new fellowship to attract applicants from the region.

Forum News Service
Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS-One of the nation's top business schools is boosting its Midwest recruitment efforts and offering a new fellowship to attract applicants from the region.

The Master of Business Administration fellowship offered by Stanford Graduate School of Business, ranked by Forbes as the nation's best business school, will pay for students' tuition and related fees, which amounts to $160,000 over two years. Eligibility requires "strong ties" to states such as North Dakota and Minnesota.

The catch? Those MBA fellows must return to a Midwest state within two years of graduation, and they must work there for two years. If those stipulations aren't met, the fellowship money will have to be paid back, said Simone Hill, the MBA admissions office assistant director at Stanford.

"We're hoping that that's a big enough flag," she said. "We are truly going to be awarding people this fellowship that are really passionate about going back, people who have thought about all the different ways they can impact the region."

In 2016-17, Stanford's business school will award up to three USA MBA fellowships, according to its website.


But Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, said he's not hearing from business leaders about a desire for MBA grads. Instead, he often hears about a need for people with specific skills, such as welders and nurses.

"An MBA is helpful, especially if it comes with some experience behind it. That goes without saying," Peterson said. "But I don't hear it directly."

Stanford's decision to launch the new MBA fellowship comes as only 43 percent of full-time two-year MBA programs reported application growth this year, according to a recent report from the Graduate Management Admission Council. In the Midwest, just 33 percent of those programs saw an increase in applications, according to GMAC.

MBA programs largely focus on skills such as management, finance, marketing and others, said Michelle Garske, director of graduate programs and accreditation at the UND College of Business and Public Administration.

Hill said Stanford was looking for more representation from the Midwest, given its manufacturing and agriculture industries. They wanted to "attract students who could bring those perspectives into the classroom at Stanford" and produce leaders for the Midwest.

"We know that there is talent there, and we wanted to get in on that," Hill said.

But the biggest barrier to attracting those students was "sticker shock," Hill said. They've seen increased interest since they began marketing the fellowship, and beefed up recruiting in the Midwest over the summer.

While Peterson was unaware of Stanford's motives for looking to the Midwest, he said the work ethic in this region stands out from the rest of the country.


"Those folks at an early age learned what work is all about, and I think that carries a lot of weight in the workforce overall," he said.

The MBA program at UND, meanwhile, is largely based online. About 70 percent of its students are distance learners, meaning they log in from a computer elsewhere to participate in classes.

"Grand Forks is a community of 55,000 residents," Garske said. "So you only have X percentage of people who are qualified applicants."

In the last four years, UND has graduated between 31 and 49 students per year from the MBA program, Garske said.

Among recent UND MBA grads are local business owners, such as Sarah Horak, a co-owner of several bars in downtown Grand Forks. She and her husband, Nick, own Brick and Barley, O'Really's and Level 10 on North Third Street.

"When I started the program, we didn't know if we'd be buying these properties or not, so I was just trying to further my education and position myself so that if and when I needed to go out and interview, I'd have that MBA background," she said.

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