Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
But to move beyond mere stability, business schools must adapt their curricula to the needs of the communities they serve, says Kathleen Getz, the new dean of Loyola University Maryland's Sellinger School of Business and Management. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Not business as usual at Loyola’s Sellinger School

New dean Kathleen Getz looks to revamp program

After half a decade of decreasing MBA applications amid a financial crisis, graduate business schools across the country have steadied the ship in recent years, with the number of applications remaining relatively stable since 2012.

But to move beyond mere stability and build that number back up, business schools must adapt their curricula to the needs of the communities they serve, said Kathleen Getz, the new dean of Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management.

Coming to Maryland after a four-year stint as dean of Loyola University Chicago’s business school, Getz has only been at her new job since July 1. She’s spent her first month laying the groundwork for what she hopes will be a mutually beneficial relationship between the school and Baltimore City.

With universities fighting to attract talented students and increase enrollment, they will have to counter the long-term trend toward uniformity between schools. Getz said that the rush for accreditation has given current business education programs a “commodity aspect.”

“Now, business schools are saying, ‘OK, we’ve got to differentiate ourselves,” she said. “We’ll all still teach accounting, finance, marketing, management, those fundamental concepts — but we have to each of us find our own place in this environment.”

Getz believes that this differentiation should be spurred by geography, and her main quest so far has been to determine what Baltimore businesses need. She said that business education at Loyola should be different than that in New York City, for instance, because Baltimore lacks the Fortune 500 companies that students would encounter in internships and upon graduation in New York.

At her previous stop in Chicago, localized education came with the creation of a master’s degree in supply-chain management, which Getz described as perfect for that city. “Chicago is a central hub for transportation with airports, rivers, a lake,” she said, “so we developed a supply-chain program responsive to the needs of the community.”

Although she’s quick to clarify that her inklings of how that might manifest in Baltimore are just speculation at this point, she noted that programs focusing on port management, small businesses and closely held firms might tap into the needs of the local environment.

Catering curricula geographically would in turn help prepare students for post-graduate placement in the region, Getz said. Many of the Sellinger School’s undergraduate students come from the Mid-Atlantic region, and the bulk of graduate students are even more local.

“If our students plan to stay in the Baltimore area, and many of them do, these will be the issues they’re facing the rest of their careers,” Getz said. “What better way to learn how to do it than understand business can be and ought to be part of the solution?”

How to differentiate?

This localized approach to business education is a starting point for both attracting students and maintaining positive ties with the community, said Dan LeClair, chief operating officer of the accrediting board Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). According to LeClair, Getz’s approach with the Sellinger School is in line with the AACSB’s recent encouragement of its member institutions to tailor their programs toward local needs.

Although LeClair attributed the homogenization Getz discussed to business schools trying to climb the rankings rather than receive accreditation, he emphasized that the AACSB sees the need for schools to differentiate themselves.

“We think business schools have been and will continue to be anchors for their local communities,” LeClair said. “When I visit with schools, I encourage them to look at the strengths and the opportunities of their local community in doing their own strategic planning.”

Just this month, LeClair wrote a blog post on the AACSB’s website discussing this burgeoning national trend, and he said Getz is coming to the Sellinger School at the perfect time for it to be localized.

Another national effort Getz hopes to adopt is an increased emphasis on keeping graduates tied to their respective communities. LeClair mentioned this as one of the fastest-growing trends he sees in schools across the country.

Beyond the largely local student body to which the Sellinger School’s graduate programs already cater, this trend can be borne out through Getz’s main demographic goal: to increase the school’s international population, an area of familiarity for her after working at American University from 1991-2011.

International students comprise less than 1 percent of the Sellinger School’s current population. By comparison, 44 percent of applicants to full-time, one-year MBA programs in the United States last year were foreign candidates, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Because many international students stay in the region of their chosen university after graduation—a Loyola graduate would likely look for a job between Washington, D.C., and New York—devoting more effort to recruiting outside the U.S. would mesh with Loyola’s increased emphasis on localization, Getz said.

And it would also help expand the connections between the school and its city.

“If we connect them well with the Baltimore community… they would be inclined to stay in Baltimore because they might get internship opportunities in Baltimore, they get a level of comfort with being here,” Getz said.

No apologies

The last major piece of a Sellinger School education Getz is quick to discuss is its Jesuit backdrop, which the new dean—who experienced the same context at Loyola University Chicago—described as the best way to provide a business education. But, she clarified, “It’s not a Jesuit business education unless it’s a business education— the primary adjective is business.”

For Getz, the Jesuit piece comes through an emphasis on social justice, which she defines as using business to do good for the world. She said she believes this notion can act in concert with self-interest. Business owners, for instance, “are making products and services that people want or need. They’re employing people and helping those people become self-sufficient — but not because they’re trying to be nice to those people but because those people are actually adding value to the business,” she said.

Self-interest is, and should be, an important motivator in business, Getz added, but one that she sees faculty too often “embarrassed about.”

“We need to stay away from a trend that I’ve noticed in business education recently, not just Jesuit but across the spectrum, which is almost apologizing for delivering a business education. We have lost the capacity to talk about why business is a good institution in the world,” she said. “I think that business should be profit-motivated, self-interested, but not greedy — they’re not the same thing — and I want to help our students have the capacity to talk about that with pride.”

Ultimately, the goals she brings to the program, Getz said, point toward a holistic vision of how the Sellinger School can serve as a modernized business school capable of meeting the needs of its students and surrounding community. And, in Getz’s telling, ironically, the business school of the future isn’t so focused on the school itself.

“Wouldn’t it be great if people came around Loyola in the afternoon and no one was on campus because all the students were out somewhere working?” she said. “And I don’t mean by co-op, I mean out learning and working — I think Loyola is going to be that way.”

Sellinger School enrollment

Fall 2010: 1,863

Fall 2011: 1,723

Fall 2012: 1,537

Fall 2013: 1,331

Fall 2014: 1,429

Source: Loyola University Maryland