Fostering Business with Soul: Personal Touch Defines New MBA Program

February 21, 2018

As the executive director of Renewing Homes of Greater Augusta, Philip Holbrook keeps his organization moving every day. It is challenging, but rewarding, work, he says, coordinating with clients, volunteers, and funders to provide critical home repairs and modifications for elderly, disadvantaged, and disabled homeowners.

Now also a student in Mary Baldwin University’s brand-new master of business administration program (MBA), Holbrook has found a graduate school curriculum that integrates well with his daily work with a social purpose.

“I really like the soul of the Mary Baldwin program,” Holbrook said. “I’ve been interested in pursuing an MBA for years but hadn’t felt called to join up. There was a certain synergy I felt with this curriculum. I am leading a nonprofit, want to further my business leadership skills, and feel that my connections to the community could bring value to the program.”

The flagship new MBA prepares students to lead businesses or organizations driven by purpose above profit.

“MBU’s new degree goes beyond preparing for a career in sustainable business; it’s a practical MBA,” said Joseph Sprangel, associate professor of business administration, and dean of MBU’s College of Business and Professional Studies, who brings 28 years of industry experience to academe. “We’re going to provide students relevant workplace experiences that will train them to arrive at viable solutions using essential oral and written communication, teamwork, navigation of complex multi-stakeholder issues, and effective problem solving skills that allow for the potential to make an immediate impact upon graduation.”

The MBA at MBU has a purpose-driven focus, aimed at creating business leaders who also want to make a social or environmental difference. The curriculum was patterned after the B Corp Impact Assessment that values community, customer, environment, governance, and workers in evaluating the success of a company. This assessment is used by those wanting to resemble or become a Certified B Corp. The goal? Guiding students to use business as a force for good, and apply it through the development of a business plan or strategic plan for a social enterprise.

“Focusing on the ‘for-benefit’ or ‘fourth sector,’ these organizations combine the best of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors,” Sprangel said, “which dovetails perfectly with our mission and entrepreneurial spirit.”

MBU is attracting students wanting to make a social or environmental difference through the power of business with an affordable MBA, a degree that is flexible and one that can be completed in as few as 32 weeks, either completely online or in a hybrid online and in-class format.

The program — made possible by a generous donation from Susan Nolan Palmer ’67 — is designed so that students can customize their experience, whether their goal is to fast track to a new job title, change careers, or launch a business. The purpose-driven MBA is appealing to students from a wide range of backgrounds — not just those who earned their undergraduate degrees in business.

Photo: MBA student Philip Holbrook (left) chats with Joseph Sprangel, dean of MBU’s College of Business and Professional Studies, during a reception for the MBA program in Carpenter Academic Building.