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St. Kate's MBA offers students "a better you, a better world"

St. Kate's newest MBA students teamed up for the "MBA Quest."
St. Kate's newest MBA students teamed up for the "MBA Quest."
Rebecca Zenefski '10

Caroline Portoghese has worked as an occupational therapist for 18 years. She has had “wonderful opportunities” to teach, conduct research and pursue international speaking engagements. Her current job at Fairview Rehabilitation Services in Minneapolis includes supervisory responsibilities.

Still, “I’m kind of restless,” Portoghese concedes. That’s why she enrolled in St. Catherine University’s new Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. “I need to do more and have a broader influence,” she explains.

Similarly, Monique Trageser — who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from St. Kate’s Evening/Weekend/Online program in 2002 — wants to enhance an already robust career.

Both are among the nearly two dozen women and men who are in the initial cohort of the St. Kate’s MBA, the newest of the University’s 12 graduate programs. Focused on emerging business leaders, the MBA offers concentrations in management, healthcare, and integrated marketing and communications (IMC).

Classes began this spring semester and are meeting on both the St. Paul campus and the University’s new space in International Market Square on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.

Among the students are early- to mid-career professionals at Xcel Energy, U.S. Bank, Second Harvest Heartland, Target, Presbyterian Homes, and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Their bachelor’s degrees are equally wide ranging, with majors in accounting, women’s studies, broadcast journalism, psychology and nursing.

Value of a St. Kate's MBA

At a time when the value of an MBA is being questioned, why did this program take off so energetically? Because it offers both the business basics and a broader vision, says Assistant Professor of Business Administration Sara Kerr, who developed the IMC concentration.

“My MBA wasn’t about how I could use business to make a better world,” she explains. “But our students will be different. Everything we do at St. Kate’s has an effect in the world. And that’s the way we teach business here.”

A recent Saturday morning session of Professor Mary Henderson's MBA 6100, “Leading Teams for Quality and Competency,” began with a presentation by First Bank branch manager Doug Scalia. He urged his fellow students to articulate their purpose and then prioritize their numerous responsibilities.

Portoghese, for example, works full time and has three children, ages 13, 11 and 4. “It’s a busy time,” she says with a smile. She deliberately sought an MBA program in the Twin Cities that “will flow with and complement my family life and work life.” Her mentor at Fairview urged her to attend St. Kate’s because of its focus on holistic leadership. “I want to role-model lifelong learning,” Portoghese says.

The orientation session in January was students’ first clue that this wasn’t their grandfather’s — or even their father's — MBA program. Developed by Kerr, a favorite among students for her fun-loving approach and deep knowledge of social media, the focus was a St. Paul Winter Carnival–inspired scavenger hunt, "MBA Quest." Students were divided into four teams that each visited sites on campus (the bookstore, the library, a classroom, a faculty office), located with rhyming clues and hints on Twitter.

Once the students had reunited and settled down for more serious presentations by a business librarian, an accounting professor and the head of academic support services, they concluded their orientation with an activity called “Where in the World Will You Do Business?”

The question had two meanings. “Where will you practice your MBA?” Kerr asked the students. And, less literally but more ambitiously: “What does being a positive force of change in business mean to you?”

Again, the creativity augmented a larger purpose. “Global perspectives are not an add-on in the courses but an intrinsic part of our curriculum,” says Professor of Economics Deep Shikha, program director of the St. Kate’s MBA. “Faculty members bring in this perspective through their lived experiences related to work and research.”

Learn more

The University is pursuing accreditation for the MBA through the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). For more information, visit the MBA website, attend a Graduate College information session or like us on facebook.

March 24, 2014 by Amy Gage

See also: Business, Faculty, Students