← Return to the Grad Guide

Schoolnight at the Improv

The faculty at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business includes distinguished professors specializing in a wide range of core business disciplines. So what’s acclaimed Broadway actor Marc Kudisch doing at the front of the class? The answer: he’s helping students enhance their ability to think quickly and respond on their feet by teaching them the secrets of improvisational performance.

“Self-awareness is critical for success and we've been working on that with students in the Smith MBA program,” said Jeff Kudisch, Marc’s brother and executive director of the school’s Office of Career Services.

The improv workshop, offered each fall, runs students through a series of theatrical exercises designed to build their self-confidence, listening skills and “adaptability in various environments,” according to the Smith School Web site.

Is a Fast-Track MBA for You?

Traditionally, students wanting an MBA from a U.S. university had to be prepared for two years (or more) of classes, cases and homework. But over the last several years, many U.S. business schools have borrowed an idea long embraced by their European peers and created programs that enable students to cut in half the time it takes to get an MBA.

One of the latest additions to the growing assortment of one-year MBAs offered by U.S. schools comes from the University of Maryland University College. UMUC's One-Year MBA, which launched in the fall of 2011, is offered entirely online. The accelerated schedule includes eight five-week content courses in topics from management and marketing to finance, as well as three 11-week business practicum courses focused on applying the academic content to workplace situations.

Rosemary Hartigan, director of the UMUC program, said it offers the same core curriculum as UMUC's standard online MBA. But she admits it’s not for everyone. “We don’t make any bones about it. Students in this program have to be very self-disciplined and driven,” she said, adding that the minimum commitment of time is 30 to 40 hours per week.

Loyola University of Maryland's Sellinger School of Business and Management has put its own unique twist on the accelerated MBA. Its 12-month Emerging Leaders MBA (ELMBA), launched in 2010, targets students with undergraduate degrees and limited work experience.

“We're doing this to reach a younger demographic who are highly qualified but who might not have the few years of direct work experience that are expected in many MBA programs,” said Ann Attanasio, assistant dean for business programs at the Sellinger School.

Nima Nejad is one of the older students in the second ELMBA cohort. Nejad served in the Army for seven years after graduating from high school. He then attended Stevenson University in Maryland, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration. He spent about a year looking for work with defense-related companies before deciding that he needed the added credential and skills that an MBA would provide.

“The job market is very tight right now, and I need this degree to set me apart,” Nejad said, adding that the accelerated nature of the program was a key selling point.

Job Search Teams a Team Effort

Students at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business don’t have to face a tough job market alone. Since 2011, they have been able to join “Job Search Teams” that provide an opportunity to share leads, ideas and frustrations with other students.

“This is what I call an isolation buster,” said Patty Buchek, assistant dean of the MBA Career Curricula at the McDonough School. “It gives people a forum and a space to work with others who are looking for jobs in the same field.”

Job search teams include up to 12 students and are focused on specific industry areas, from consulting and healthcare to investment banking and travel and tourism.

Michael Bannon, 29, is a second year MBA student at the McDonough School who participated in a job search team of students interested in careers in real estate. “It's a great place to go to bounce ideas off of others and brainstorm about the best strategies for finding jobs,” he said.