Update on Business/Leadership Education at Simmons

August 20, 2015

A message from Provost & Senior Vice President Katie Conboy

I am pleased to share an update on how Dean Minehan and I are envisioning the transformation of business/leadership education at Simmons College. As many of you know, we are developing important educational initiatives that will help keep our expertise in women’s leadership and business education relevant and competitive in the marketplace.

Dean Minehan and I see business education and research on gender in organizations executed on three strong delivery platforms at Simmons: the first is online MBA education (with an elective gender component) that attracts a national audience; the second is a robust Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) that offers our undergraduates major concentrations in the core business disciplines of accounting, finance, marketing, and management and has an academic foundation in leadership; and the third is research and non-degree education/training on gender equity and leadership, delivered through an Institute or Center at the College.

We are well on our way to moving our two MBAs online. Our “Enterprise Model” agreement with 2U calls for the marketing launch of both a traditional MBA and a Health Care MBA (HCMBA) in October 2015, with our first online students matriculating in March 2016. 

Professor Patricia Deyton is Program Director for the online programs, and she is working with SOM faculty on curriculum, course sequencing, and “immersion weekends”—when cohorts of students from across the country will be together on the Simmons campus and in other locations for intensive learning experiences. The team is also working through key marketing messages on how to leverage the Simmons expertise in women’s leadership as part of our differentiation, but not exclusively our differentiation. Career services will be critical to the success of our online MBA/HCMBA students, so this will be a priority on the front end of the program development work. Our partner, 2U, is very experienced with career placement, and their expertise will directly benefit our students.

The Simmons MBA was launched forty years ago at a time when women were not welcomed in MBA programs. Today, women are recruited aggressively for the MBA wherever it is offered. An ongoing challenge for businesswomen is their very busy schedules, which require balancing many demands and can complicate their ability to travel to a campus to complete their degree. Many men face these challenges as well. In the national context, there are thousands of people who simply have no accessible campus-based options for an MBA. Our new online MBA programs will address this challenge directly. Beginning in January 2016, we will recruit all prospective MBA students for only our online MBA/HCMBA program offerings. We will offer current MBA students the opportunity to choose online options as their specific courses become available in that format. And we will suspend recruiting for the Master of Science in Management (MSM) program as we focus our efforts on the online transition. We know that our current students can help us to evaluate the effectiveness of this new modality.

We will implement the second element of our strategy with undergraduate women who are entering in the Class of 2019 this September. This class will be the first to experience the new Simmons PLAN (Purpose, Leadership ActioN) curriculum, which enables students to develop their own understanding and practice of leadership, to engage substantively with the city of Boston, to develop integrative learning across academic disciplines, and to design key components of their academic experience. All undergraduate women will experience the PLAN foundation in leadership, and those who choose to study for the BSBA will extend those learnings in business programs designed to launch them successfully in corporate, small-business, and not-for-profit sectors. We will continue to use our generous alumnae networks and business connections to grow experiential opportunities that have a distinctive Simmons signature.

Preliminary work is underway for the third element of the strategy. Dean Minehan and a team of faculty and staff have been working on a concept proposal for an Institute for Gender Equity and Women’s Leadership in Business, which will be shared with the President and the Operations Team at the end of August. This concept work will be incorporated into our current Simmons strategic plan, Strategy 2020, which is in intensive development now. We expect to share an update on all Strategy 2020 key initiatives at the October 2015 Board of Trustees meeting. The Institute structure may be ready for discussion and review at that time.

Founding Deans Margaret Hennig and Ann Jardim had a vision for ensuring that women could benefit from business education—specifically the MBA. It is exciting to be a part of the evolution of our signature MBA program designed for women and to think about access to the MBA in a new way and on a new scale. I think we can all agree that this is an important and pivotal time for business and leadership education at Simmons College, and I look forward to continuing to highlight our important work in this area.