September 8, 2000
Doing anything this weekend? Why not get an MBA?
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. "In some circles of the job market today, the MBA is the price of admission, the way you get in the door," says Eddie H. Midha, who will finish his executive master of science in management degree at Purdue University in December. "The educational bar has gone up."
Midha is already in the door at Caterpillar, Inc. For the past two-plus years, he has spent most of his Saturdays at the Krannert Center at Purdue with his 30 classmates working on a degree through Purdue's Weekend Executive Master of Science in Management Program. The students are in class from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., taking one class in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Midha, who has a bachelor's degree from Wabash College and a master's degree in manufacturing from Purdue, started out in manufacturing engineering at Caterpillar. Now he works in operations the management of inventory, scheduling, production and facilities for producers of goods and providers of services.
Midha describes manufacturing operations as "exhausting, yet an exciting adrenaline rush. For me, that constant action is the juice."
He remembers the operations management class he took from Maqbool Dada, a Krannert Graduate School of Management associate professor, as having "rocked my world."
Midha also says the class was a humbling experience.
"I live, work and breathe operations, and Dada taught me that you don't have to fire from the hip to manage manufacturing operations, "Midha says. "He showed me how to apply elementary mathematical and statistical principles to streamline and optimize operational processes. While the shop floor with its human interfaces and inevitable bloopers is challenging, Dada gave me a vision of what operations should be. With sound operations theory you can take the lessons from a manufacturing environment down the street to manage a hospital or a retail store. I couldn't do that before, but if faced with it now, I wouldn't struggle."
Learning in the weekend master's degree program doesn't come just from the classroom, according to Erika Steuterman, director of the Krannert School of Management's executive master's degree programs. The students are experienced working managers or managers-to-be with an average of 10 years experience. They come from a who's who of central Indiana companies, including Eli Lilly & Co., Great Lakes Chemical Corp., Delphi Delco Electronics Systems, Comdisco and Alcoa.
"The high-achieving and high-potential individuals in the weekend program learn from and challenge each other," Steuterman says. She is in the process of signing up students for the new class that begins in January 2001.
Midha says most of the homework assignments and presentations are practical case studies that the students complete in teams. He estimates he spends six to 10 hours a week studying outside of class. Midha and some of his fellow students get together on Thursday evenings at a local coffee shop for informal discussions on anything and everything class work, the stock market, career tracks, life experiences and conspiracy theories.
"I've made some really good friends in the program," Midha says. "This program is unlike most other college experiences. It's not even like regular graduate school. There is some serious executive horsepower in the class, and that in itself makes for some very lively and fascinating class discussions."
The curriculum includes economics, accounting, quantitative methods and organizational behavior; finance, marketing, operations and strategic management; the legal environment of business, and a final-semester elective in an advanced management subject the student chooses.
The three-year program consists of two 13-week semesters a year. There are no summer classes.
Tuition for the weekend master's degree program is $8,000 per year, not including books and case packets. Most students receive support or reimbursement from their employers.
Caterpillar's Lafayette Engine Center's general manager Rod Bussell says the company supports employees' efforts to further their educations.
"We have traditionally reimbursed employees who want to continue their educations," Bussell says. "Today, continual learning whether it is in the classroom or by means of diligent individual reading is necessary to keep up with technological changes. We have, for example, computer kiosks on the shop floor for our technicians to use."
While Caterpillar does not automatically promote its employees who achieve higher levels of education, Bussell says it makes a difference.
"Caterpillar encourages employees to be the drivers in their career development," Bussell explains. "When a person takes his or her own time to improve educationally, it tells us a great deal about an individual's motivation and interests. At the end of the day, further education will directly or indirectly help the employee's career."
Sources: Eddie H. Midha, (765) 448-2064, midhaeh@CAT.com
Erika Steuterman, (765) 494-4501, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Mike Lillich, (765) 494-2077, email@example.com
Additional source: Rod L. Bussell, (765) 448-5200, busserl@CAT.edu