Interview: John Mooney at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business

John Mooney

John Mooney

Part-time MBA programs can offer flexibility and value for working professionals. John Mooney, associate dean and professor at Pepperdine’s Academic Programs for Working Professionals, says that the benefits don’t stop there.

What are some of the advantages of part-time MBA programs?

For one thing, it’s a far more immediate learning. Theories of learning have recognized for many years that the quality of learning improves dramatically when you move beyond passively consuming new knowledge and are able to apply it immediately. And that’s the big advantage for working professionals.

The other big issue about MBA programs for learning professionals is the affordability issue. If you’re going to do a full-time MBA program, it means that you have to make a conscious decision to stop working. And that implies a loss of income for the duration of that program.

And with part-time programs, students also get to continue progressing in their career. Many of our students tend to get promoted before they finish, and that’s a clever strategy on the part of employers because as an employer, you don’t want  somebody to finish their MBA and then decide they want to go somewhere else.

Are Pepperdine’s part-time students generally mid-level or management level, in terms of their career development?

They’re more mid-level. And often, it’s because they want to advance in their careers. It’s becoming increasingly the case that for mid-level positions and even for career progression within organizations, the candidates need MBAs. That is putting an increased motivation on business professionals to do MBAs to further their careers.

For our MBA program for working professionals, the average age is about 29 years old. Students have on average about seven to eight years of work experience. If someone has really, really strong academic credentials or a really solid GMAT score, we will admit someone with as little as two years of work experience, but that’s the absolute minimum.

And generally, what are the goals of part-time students?

For some students, their goal is to progress within their own firm. For some students they desire to move companies, and for some students the desire is to move professional areas. In the Southern California market, there were a lot of students who were working in financial services in the last five years, and with the changes that have happened in that industry, a number of students are perhaps looking to change into different professional areas.

The largest group is people who are looking to progress within their own firm, within their existing profession, within the same industry. But there are people who use the MBAs as a stepping stone or a leverage point to either change firms, change professions, or change industries.

Our fastest-growing group in the last year and a half, is the group of students who aspire to set up their own businesses. Our entrepreneurship classes, in part because we just redesigned our entrepreneurship concentration, is extremely popular.part-time MBA progams

How is the Pepperdine part-time program paced?

We give students the choice to either ramp up or ramp down the pace to be in good synergy with their commitments to work and their commitments to family.
So we made a decision many years ago to opt for a flexible schedule which allows for fully employed working professionals to choose each trimester what workloads to take. The student has the choice of the pace at which to take the program and that then results in them having the option to finish the program as quickly as 24 months, but they can also pace the program over a longer period of time and take up to seven years.

How do you feel about distance learning, and does Pepperdine plan to integrate any distance-learning options?

This is the advice I always give students: if you have no other choice because you’re not close to a good quality campus-based MBA program, then distance learning is certainly a good option.

I do have a very strong personal belief that graduate business education requires, as part of the experience, face-to-face interaction. It requires extensive groupwork; it requires discussions and debates, and it requires presentations. And that’s really the reality of business. Absolutely I accept that business is becoming more technologically mediated, but there’s still a huge amount of management that really requires and benefits from face-to-face interaction.

I think that the notion of programs that are solely campus-based is not an ideal model either, especially for working professionals who are busy and who need to travel – but I also have personal reservations about distance programs or pure online programs. To me, the sweet spot in graduate business education and management education is figuring out a way to blend the best of classroom-based education which involves face-to-face interaction with the best of technology-supported learning.

Photo courtesy: Pepperdine University – Graziadio School of Business and Management

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