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Sunday, 25 May 2014 22:00

WMU expands MBA program with aviation concentration

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The Western Michigan University College of Aviation and Haworth College of Business teamed up to survey the market need for an MBA degree with a new concentration in aviation. The program launches this fall with an expected maximum of 25 to 30 students. Officials expect the program will serve as a draw particularly for international students. The Western Michigan University College of Aviation and Haworth College of Business teamed up to survey the market need for an MBA degree with a new concentration in aviation. The program launches this fall with an expected maximum of 25 to 30 students. Officials expect the program will serve as a draw particularly for international students. COURTESY PHOTO

Western Michigan University is positioning a new degree concentration to help serve the global aviation industry that’s expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Officials said they expect the new Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in aviation — offered in collaboration with the WMU College of Aviation and the Haworth College of Business — will help meet growing demand from the market and act as a draw for international students.

The university designed the program to reflect the increasing complexity in the aviation industry, officials told MiBiz.

“When it comes to making decisions in the industry … if you don’t watch the bottom line and you don’t watch the changing best practices, it will be impossible to avoid poor management,” said Dave Powell, dean of the WMU College of Aviation. “Airlines are getting more complex and the education and experience you need to manage them is doing the same.”

WMU plans to launch the program this fall and expects about 10 students will enroll in the concentration, which the university will likely cap at 25 to 30 students, Powell said.

Development of the program started in 2012 after roughly a year of research to determine whether the program would meet a market need and to gauge if there was enough interest to pursue the new MBA concentration.

With two internal grants from the university’s provost office totaling $40,000, a small team with members from both the business and aviation units surveyed students and built a framework for the program’s curriculum. The team found that at least 50 percent of the current undergraduate student population in the aviation college had a significant interest in pursuing the degree concentration, said Satish Deshpande, associate dean for graduate programs and operations at the Haworth College of Business.

The program benefitted from a close relationship between the two university programs, Deshpande said.

“The concentration is essentially three courses which cover safety, the supply chain and governance in a global environment,” he said. “What we asked ourselves in developing the program is how do we put together a program that teaches those best practices.”

The global aviation industry is expected to approach a critical demand for skilled workers and administrators in the coming years. Consolidation among large U.S.-based carriers is creating demand for workers skilled in systems integration and business development, according to a 2013-2032 industry outlook from Boeing Co. Under pressure from rising fuel costs and tightening environmental regulations, the industry must restructure and find ways to cut costs, the report stated.

At the same time, the sector is expected to grow as the global economy expands. Boeing forecasts a 5 percent increase in both passenger traffic and cargo traffic over the next 20 years based on GDP growth trends.

Boeing also estimates roughly 1 million new commercial airline pilots and maintenance technicians will be needed through 2032. North America alone accounts for approximately 85,700 pilots and 97,900 technicians in the company’s estimate.

On top of a growing need for pilots and airplane technicians around the world, the industry also needs professionals with high-level management skills to support operations, Deshpande said.

For WMU, the industry’s growth serves as an opportunity to capture and train students looking to enter an aviation career, but it also leverages the university’s programmatic strengths, Deshpande said. While the college of aviation already has a significant reputation for collaboration with the college of business, this new program brings WMU’s aviation industry offerings full circle, he said.

“The (aviation) industry is a multi-trillion dollar international industry, and with (WMU’s) highly recognized College of Aviation, we started talking about how we can come together to build a professional management program specific to the industry,” Deshpande said. “There aren’t many programs that offer this concentration in this area, which makes us unique.”

The new program comes after an announcement in January that the university is requesting a $19 million capital outlay from the state to expand the brick-and-mortar facilities of the College of Aviation. That project is just the first phase in a two-phase plan that would require an additional $32 million to build a fully fledged campus at the W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Powell told MiBiz for a previous report.

“For us to continue to work with the college of business in developing these programs is very important,” Powell said, “especially when we’re talking about the airlines doubling in (size) in the next 20 years.”

Read 5550 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 08:07

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