With B-school applications on the decline for the third straight year, many mid-tier schools are attempting to carve out niches that would allow them to remain competitive -- not only with each other but with top-ranked schools as well. Here are a few of the specialties:
Boston University (School of Management) -- Four years ago its popular MS in information systems was combined with an MBA. Nearly 50% of the incoming class are part of this intense MS/MBA program, which requires 20 more units of course work than the general MBA.
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper School of Business) -- The program's integrated product-development track provides students with an understanding of how to develop and launch useful, desirable products. This track is just one of nine distinct focuses that MBA students can choose.
Emory University (Goizueta Business School) -- The leadership focused program requires students to take four first year courses in leadership. They're also videotaped five times a year to analyze public speaking skills and are required to hold at least one leadership position in a club or organization while on campus.
Iowa State University (College of Business) -- The B-school has partnered with the ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture to offer an MBA with a minor in sustainable agriculture, the only graduate-level program of its kind in the country.
Rutgers (Business School in Newark) -- The school partnered with seven area drug companies in 2000 to begin offering a pharmaceutical management MBA.
San Diego State University (Graduate School of Business) -- This year SDSU launched an MBA program in sports management at the urging of the hometown baseball team, the Padres. Students attend lectures given by Padres management, do internships with the team, and study the inner workings of the organization.
UC Davis (Graduate School of Management) -- Among four international B-schools and universities to offer a program leading to a Wine MBA awarded by the Bordeaux Business School in France
University of Maryland (Robert H. Smith School of Business) -- It has developed joint programs that combine an MBA with master's degrees in business administration, social work, law, and public affairs.
University of Minnesota (Carlson School of Management) -- Roughly 80% of its student body choose to participate in one of the schools four enterprise programs in fund management, consulting, venture capital, and brand management. These students spend 20 hours a week for 3 semesters helping companies with a wide range of products and problems.
University of Oklahoma (Price College of Business) -- The energy risk-management concentration gives students a fundamental knowledge of the energy companies operating in the school's backyard. Five other concentrations also are available.
University of Toronto (Rotman School of Management) -- The program's "integrative thinking" focus aims to help students learn how to continually build new and flexible problem-solving models to better suit an increasingly complex, global business world. Class offerings include "Integrative Management Challenge," a simulation-based course where students play a game based on integrative-thinking principles. A seminar series draws top-level speakers including Dell (DELL) founder Michael Dell and Procter & Gamble (PG) CEO Alan G. Lafley.
University of Wisconsin-Madison (School of Business) -- In 2004 the B-school scrapped its general management MBA in favor of 13 specializations including real estate, applied corporate finance, and arts administration.
Vanderbilt University (Owen Graduate School of Management) -- It's launching a new health-care MBA that will work in close collaboration with some of the 300 health-care companies in its Nashville area.
Washington University (Olin School of Business) -- While not a true specialty degree, students in Olin's MBA program can spend a lot of time working as consultants to large corporations and nonprofits through the school's Center for Experiential Learning.