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MBA for Professionals Celebrates Five Years

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On a busy January day in 2006, painters, construction workers and Willamette MBA staff members put the finishing touches on the Willamette University Portland Center. With the paint still drying and the desks freshly assembled, the staff rushed to change their clothes before the students arrived for orientation.

Just seconds before the first students walked in the door, a banner reading “Welcome Inaugural MBA for Professionals Cohort” was attached to the reception desk. A line of eager staff and faculty were waiting to greet them. It was a momentous occasion — and the momentum from it hasn’t stopped since. 

After the program launched in Portland in January 2006, it was expanded to Willamette University’s Salem campus in September. Now, new cohorts start in Salem annually (in September) and semi-annually in Portland (September and January).

Tina Alexander, director of the MBA for Professionals, has seen the program flourish. “It’s exciting to see the transformation that takes place from when students first inquire to when they finish,” she explains. “During and after the program, students report new jobs, new responsibilities and new successes at work.”

These life transitions aren’t always work-related. Several of the students have gotten married or had children. A few expectant mothers even had their children in the midst of pursuing their degrees — jumping right back into classes when they were able.

“Graduates keep me up to speed on both new career changes and family additions,” adds Alexander. “It is an honor to share in their successes.”

The list of MBA for Professionals graduates includes students from all sectors and all industries, representing more than 150 different organizations. The diversity of experience in class is one of the major factors cited by students as adding to the program’s strength. Keeping cohorts small provides students with the opportunity to take various leadership roles.

The September 2011 MBA for Professionals commencement adds another group of graduates to the program’s alumni community — pushing the total number of graduates to more than 200. In just five years, Willamette’s newest MBA program has not only impacted positively the lives of these students — it has also made an indelible mark in Oregon’s business community.

An MBA for Professionals class at the Willamette University Portland CenterAn MBA for Professionals class at the Willamette University Portland Center