Fighting MBA Flab

Illinois students use business tools to start a fitness program. Plus, getting real in Shanghai, a homeland security competition, and more

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign MBA student Chris Mulh had an unusual gripe about B-school after his first year of PowerPoint presentations, number crunching, and incessant networking at the College of Business. "I was sick of seeing many of my classmates go from fit to fat," said the lifelong exercise advocate (see, 3/16/06, "Fit to Be a Leader").

Mulh, the MBA Assn. president, said he and his fellow classmates put on the pounds and adopted unhealthy practices because of exhausting class schedules, late-night team projects, and greasy food runs. So he and his buddy T.J. Houren decided to do something about it.

This fall they will team up with professors at the College of Health & Sciences to get more than 50 of Illinois' 260 MBA students back in shape. With a yearlong program called Get Fit Illinois!, students put their B-school savvy at Excel spreadsheets to use, tracking exercise regimens and nutrition—how many times they go to the gym, what percentage of recommended nutrients they're getting, and so on.

At the end of each month, these results-driven students will tally up the total number of days they worked out and dole out prizes to the top three teams.

Mulh's working to secure sponsorship in addition to funding from the student association. The professors have been seeking research money with hopes of monitoring the program and publishing their findings. Mulh hopes to move this fitness program into all University of Illinois graduate and undergraduate schools, and eventually other B-schools across the country.

Get Fit Illinois! hopes to bring fitness and healthy-lifestyle speakers on campus, and to include personal training sessions and consultations with dieticians. And since the work grind doesn't end at graduation for many of these soon-to-be investment bankers, the impact may be felt way off campus as well—all the way to the cubicles of Wall Street.

Real Life in Shanghai

Ever see a chicken being plucked in Shanghai? Students enrolled in the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) program at the University of Navarra's IESE Business School in Barcelona get to do that and more before graduating. The purpose is to show students what life in an emerging-market country is really like.

As part of the GEMBA's required modules, professor of economics Pedro Videla takes the 35 or so students in the program to Shanghai. There they compare prices at a marketplace—where, among other things, live chickens and frogs are sold—to those at Carrefour's flagship Chinese store in the city's Pudong district. Students are also encouraged to get haircuts in Shanghai and visit factories where many of the assembly-line women work and live (see, 3/27/06, "How Rising Wages Are Changing the Game in China").

The idea is to get students to understand why low-wage workers, for now, are happy to work for such little pay, and how that's helping the country's economy. Like all good courses, it gets students thinking about the future, too. "The wages will go up, and they'll have to charge more eventually," says Jorge Morgadinho, a recent student. "What will they do when prices are not as competitive with other emerging markets?"

What's unique about the class is that it's one of the few on emerging markets that is not intended to help students come up with ways to make money in the country. "If I knew how to do that, I wouldn't be standing in front of you," says Videla to his students. Instead, he says he wants to let them see the future and how the development of countries like China will affect their lives.

Students say going to the source of an emerging economy and seeing the people, culture, and work firsthand helps them better understand Videla's simple message: "The solution to these problems is not to dump money on these emerging-market countries but to let them get rich on their own." After all, that's what makes the world go round.

MBA Students Compete For A Safer World

Homeland security is a fast-growing market , but there are concerns that innovation in technology-based security is not up to pace with society's needs, because startups have to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to market their ideas.

Students from London Business School are trying to tackle this deficit by launching the Global Security Challenge—the first business school competition to feed the growing market for new security technology businesses. Simon Schneider, MBA 2007 and co-director of the GSC, says: "For us, this program is a measured response to the terror threats we face and an innovative way of advancing technology in this important sector." (see, 8/10/06, "Airport Security Goes High-Tech")

The competition is being sponsored by organizations such as NATO and Siemens Venture Capital and is now in its judging phase. The plans come from Britain, the U.S., Israel, Asia, and Eastern Europe and deal with technology solutions in secure communications, contingency software, data integrity, chemical detection, biometrics, access control, and biotechnology. The winner will be announced in London in October.

Says Schneider: "We are extremely happy with the amount and quality of entrants to our inaugural competition. Having succeeded in unearthing innovative technologies from entrepreneurs from around the world is a big milestone for us and hopefully for the industry."

Wisconsin-Oshkosh Heads North

After 35 years of offering evening MBA courses at several Green Bay locations, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh College of Business Administration will permanently establish a program at the Regency Center in downtown Green Bay. The school says UW-Oshkosh offers northeastern Wisconsin's only nationally accredited MBA program. The center will include three state-of-the-art classrooms, three breakout rooms, and a student lounge.

Don Gudmundson, head of the B-school's graduate program, says the new facility will allow the school to double the enrollment in the Green Bay market from 150 to 300 MBA students a year. UW-Oshkosh previously held its master's classes at other schools. The new classrooms are being built in vacant office space in downtown Green Bay.

De Meyer Takes Over At Cambridge

Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge has appointed Arnoud de Meyer, an administrator at INSEAD, the school's new dean. He took over on Sept. 1, succeeding Sandra Dawson.

As the new dean, de Meyer hopes to orient Judge's one-year full-time MBA students for work in the current highly diverse and international networks. One of the main challenges that he faces is developing more interdisciplinary executive programs that combine research about management, economics, law, policy, and technology. "As for any dean, one of my biggest challenges will be to find the resources, in particular the faculty, to respond to the opportunities we see in the market," he said.

De Meyer was founding dean of INSEAD's Asia campus in Singapore. While he said Judge has no plans to set up campuses in other parts of the world, it will need to develop strategies to keep up with developments in China, India, Southeast Asia, and southern Africa.

First Dean for Carleton

At Carleton University in Ottawa, William W. Keep, a marketing professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., has been named the first dean for Carleton's Sprott School of Business. At Quinnipiac, Keep served three years as associate vice-president of academics and two years as director of assessment in the School of Business. His appointment is effective on Jan. 1 and is for a six-year term.

Manchester Names Director

Manchester Business School in England said its current director, John Arnold, will leave at the end of this year after 12 years and will be replaced by Michael Luger, a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

Luger is professor of entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Competitive Economies at UNC. Before joining the Kenan-Flagler Business School, he was chairman of the department of public policy and was the professor of city and regional planning at UNC. He has taught at Duke University and the University of Maryland.

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