For the first time, Notre Dame College in South Euclid has MBA students.

With a cohort of 20 students slated to graduate in August 2021, the program is 10 courses over eight weeks, followed by a final semester-long strategy capstone. Students can either pursue an online degree or learn in person. Students have the option to complete the program in one year via the traditional cohort model, or they can complete their degree on their own time.

Joyce Banjac, director of the MBA program, said choosing to introduce the new program now made the most sense to college leadership.

“We have talked about having an MBA program back and forth for years now, but we felt it was our ethical responsibility to offer a graduate degree in business because a vast majority of our first-generation students are either education majors or business majors,” she explained. “That has been typically true for years now. And so, it was just a time where it just all crystallized where we said we just need to do this. It is the right thing to do to ensure we have something unique and different in the marketplace.”

The first cohort has also responded well, Banjac said.

Conducting research right after the midterm point four weeks into the classes, the college asked students what they expected from the program, if the program has met their expectations and if they’d recommend the program to their contemporaries.

“Some of the comments said it met their expectations, saying they’ve already learned so much and that they’d recommend it because it is a challenging program and that they’re enjoying the course work and connection with fellow students,” she noted.

As the cohort continues their studies, Banjac said her goals are focused on the present.

“Our No. 1 goal is to retain the students that we do have,” she said. “So, we have each student assigned to an adviser. What we’ve been starting to do is reach out and we’ve already met with some of the students, emphasizing collaboration. So, our immediate goal is to retain students by supporting and advising them, getting to know them, making them feel comfortable and showing that we care about them.”

Looking at the bigger picture, J. Michael Pressimone, president of the college, said the addition of the MBA program shows that Notre Dame has a place in graduate-level education.

“We knew from alumni and the community that there continued to be a need in grad education in business,” he said. “One of the things happening in higher education is a proliferation of MBA programs and some have been looking if MBAs are where the future is. We found in this market there was a place for Notre Dame to place a claim. And to have it both online and in-person has helped us as well.”

Adding the program while going through a pandemic also made sense, Pressimone added.

“What is more interesting is during times of crisis, like the 2008-2009 financial crisis, as the economy detracted because of external stimuli, the need for more education came more clearly into focus,” he said. “People that are in industries now feel more vulnerable because of the contraction of the economy. An MBA might better position them to weather the storm. What is nice about a place like Notre Dame, we’re small and nimble enough to move in directions we see the market going.”

Pressimone and Banjac both said they’re excited to see the future of the program unfold, especially what it might mean for the future of the college as a whole.

“Having graduate education and having our graduates eventually working in local companies in mid-level or above, this makes a statement to the community that Notre Dame is a serious player in graduate education,” Pressimone stated. “There are a lot of differences in the kinds of MBA programs, but we’re here for the person who is a committed Northeast Ohio person that wants to live their life here and expand their opportunities for success. That is the niche and image we find ourselves filling.”

Banjac added, “I’ve been in higher education for years and still this program is so exciting to me because what we’re doing is breaking down the bond between business and higher education by getting to do more collaboratively and looking at how we serve others. I think we’re on this great program where (students) are learning how to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. That creates a better business environment for themselves and the future.”

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