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December 2011
Moving to Center Stage
By Barbara Fagan

     After 16 years in the SouthPark area, the nationally ranked Wake Forest University MBA for Working Professionals Programs in Charlotte will move to a new expanded campus in the heart of Uptown. Wake Forest’s part-time MBA program was recently ranked in the top 10 percent in the nation and the #1 program of its kind in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report.

     Its new facility, set to open next month, is located in 30,000 square feet of the former International Trade Center at 200 North College Street, and will be named Wake Forest University Charlotte Center.

     “Our students, faculty and alumni are the thought leaders of Charlotte. It’s only fitting that we move to the center of this vibrant business community,” says Wake Forest Dean of Business Steve Reinemund. “We want to be at the center of business thought leadership in Charlotte,” he continues. “There’s currently no dominant force filling that need.”

     Reinemund joined the University in 2008 after retiring from a 23-year career with PepsiCo, Inc. where he served as chairman of the board and prior to that, CEO. He is also currently a member of the board of directors of American Express, Exxon, Walmart and Marriott.

     “We feel a move to the center of the city will allow us to better meet the needs for executive education in Charlotte,” adds Dr. Yvonne Hinson, Dean of Charlotte Programs. “We also want to be centrally located for both student and business access.”

     Hinson, who has been a faculty member at Wake Forest’s main campus for 14 years and is a PricewaterhouseCoopers Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor, was appointed dean earlier this year because of her “strong track record of performance” according to Reinemund.

     Hinson also has personal ties to her new position. She is a Charlotte native who received both her B.S. in accounting and her MBA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

     “The new location will also be a gathering place for Wake Forest alums,” Hinson says. “Charlotte has the largest concentration of our alumni in the country—more than 6,000 graduates. We want this facility to be a place they can call their second home.”

     The Uptown campus is built for flexibility. Classrooms allow for break outs into group work and two lecture rooms are equipped to stream video back and forth with the Winston-Salem main campus. Other features include a state-of–the-art boardroom, atrium, catering kitchen and interactive learning labs. The emphasis on group learning is encouraged outside classrooms with laptop workstations and seating areas grouped for discussion.

     Dr. Dan Fogel, executive professor of strategy and winner of the 2010 Teacher of the Year for the Charlotte Evening, Saturday and Winston-Salem Evening MBA Programs, believes the new campus will give the University greater visibility and better support the programs.

     “The new location is dynamic and demonstrates our commitment to Charlotte,” he says. “It will help us attract new opportunities. In addition to the new technology, it’s also designed with the University’s emphasis on personal attention in mind. The study spaces, the social spaces, all facilitate communication between the faculty and the students and among the students as well.”

     The campus was also designed with the community in mind. Portions of the facility will be available for rental by local groups and the new center city location will afford the Charlotte business community greater access to the University’s acclaimed “Leading Out Loud” Broyhill Executive Lecture Series.

     “Recently we’ve hosted Jeff Inmelt (chairman and CEO of GE), Mike Duke (president and CEO of Walmart), Marilyn Carlson-Nelson (chairman and former CEO of Carlson), and Dean Kamen (founder of DEKA research and the inventor of the Segway, iBot, and many other revolutionary devices),” notes Reinemund. “We have the chairman of Novartis AG, Dan Vasella, speaking this month. We bring in speakers who are practitioners in the marketplace—who are actually out there doing the work. We hope to provide our students and the Charlotte business community with outstanding speakers.”

 

Coming Into Its Own

     Wake Forest University began as Wake Forest Institute in 1834 in rural Wake County, 16 miles north of Raleigh. It was rechartered in 1838 as Wake Forest College, and finally as Wake Forest University in 1967. Since 1956 the school has been located in Winston-Salem and now is comprised of Wake Forest College, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Divinity, School of Medicine, School of Law and Schools of Business. Wake Forest offered its first MBA program in 1969 and is now ranked among the world’s best graduate business schools by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, Entrepreneur, Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.

     The Working Professionals MBA program began in Charlotte in 1995 as one program with 30 students. Currently, the school has 180 students in its two Charlotte MBA programs—one meeting evenings, the other on Saturdays.

     “We’d like to increase to 240 students total within the next two years,” says Hinson. “But to maintain the personal interaction among students and faculty, we plan to keep each class section to no more than 60 students.”

     “It’s a ‘cohort’ program. Students coming into the program will all graduate together. We demand a lot from them and the students bond with each other. Each graduating class is further broken down into teams, usually of five. We make sure the students in the teams have diverse backgrounds. In this way, they learn not only from their professors but also from each other.”

     The Saturday and evening programs will continue in the new campus, but with twice the space of the SouthPark facility, the University has room to expand.

     “The current programs are a base to develop other offerings,” offers Reinemund.

     “The goal is to meet a market demand,” says Hinson. “Health care is the primary employer in Charlotte and financial services is No. 2. So, in January, in addition to general management, our MBA program will offer career track specialization in these two areas while maintaining the general track with student-selected electives.

     “Now that we have the space to grow, we’re also exploring other degree and non-degree programs. We’re looking into certificate, open enrollment and continuing education programs. Right now we’re working on a Certified Financial Planner certificate program in conjunction with Dalton Education that we’ll offer next year to students and alumni as well as the general public,” Hinson explains.

     “We also have a Private Capital Markets Certificate program that will run for two days in February and a Digital Marketing Series that will run for three Saturdays in February. Not all of the programs will be business-oriented, though,” she adds. “We’ve contacted other areas in the University to see what things they would like to offer in Charlotte as well.”

     “We want to listen to Charlotte community leaders,” Reinemund says, “and see in what areas they want us to focus or even to come in and run their own company’s educational process. We can partner with a company to customize a program specifically for them. We’re already in initial discussions with a couple of Charlotte companies regarding that option.”

 

Built on Ideals

     T.J. Eberle, a 1998 graduate of the Evening MBA program, is senior vice president and president of U.S. IT solutions for hiSoft Technology International Limited. He assumed this position in July 2011 when NouvEON Technology Partners, Inc., a business and technology consulting company that Eberle started in 2003 for less than $100,000, was purchased by hiSoft for an initial consideration of $5.5 million with substantial payments to follow.

     “I had a degree in Industrial Engineering and was working in the information technology industry,” says Eberle, “but after working for 10 years, I realized I needed a more well-rounded background. I needed to know how businesses operate. My MBA education not only gave me that, but what I learned helps guide me even now in my day-to-day decisions. It also taught me entrepreneurial skills. I’m not sure if I would have started my company if I hadn’t learned what I did in the MBA program.”

     “I came to Wake Forest on purpose,” Reinemund reveals, “because I share a common passion with the University’s president that each student find who they are here, that they find their calling, and that we help match that passion with the right vocation. We want to make that the hallmark of Wake Forest.

     “We have a dedicated resource for career services. At the Career Management Center, students can get counseling to figure out what they want to do or they can take advantage of our workshops or the networking opportunities through our alumni nationwide. Our graduates are extraordinarily helpful. In today’s marketplace, you have to question the value of going back to get an MBA if you don’t have that type of network to support you in advancing your career.”

     “And a graduate of Wake Forest has free lifelong access to career services,” adds Hinson.

     “The other piece of career services is employer relations,” Reinemund points out. “We just hired someone from Stanford to make calls on companies at the senior management level to understand their needs. We like our Career Management Center to be the ‘matchmaker’ between the needs of employers and the goals of our students. We want every one of our students to graduate with a job they are passionate about.”

     “I believe an MBA is no longer just an added benefit but a requirement at a certain level in business,” says Owen Hernandez, a 2009 graduate of the Charlotte Evening MBA Program.

     Hernandez looked at several online MBA programs before choosing Wake Forest. “I wanted the social and networking aspects that a classroom setting provides and I wanted the national name recognition that Wake Forest has.”

     Hernandez, manager of investment analysis at Delhaize America, was chosen to develop a Hispanic marketing and merchandising strategy for Food Lion. The strategy is currently in place in 25 stores. “My MBA was an important factor in the choice,” he acknowledges.

     “One of the things I’ve found most rewarding about teaching at Wake Forest is that the University motto Pro Humanitate (for Humanity) is actually lived at Wake Forest,” says Hinson. “I’m passionate about helping in the community and the University assisted me in securing a grant to develop the Forsyth Working Families Partnership in conjunction with the local United Way and other leaders in Winston-Salem.

     “Students worked with the Internal Revenue Service to help prepare tax returns for lower income families and counsel them on how to best use the resources they had. I’m really excited about bringing the University’s Pro Humanitate spirit to Charlotte.”

 

Educating Leaders

     “Two types of individuals can benefit most from the MBA program,” Reinemund shares. “Those who want to advance their careers and need skills, experiences and relationships that they don’t now have, and successful individuals who are not happy in their current field and want to break into a new field that their life story wouldn’t support without a logical transition in an educational environment.

     “The commonality is that both candidates have to have meaningful experience in the marketplace to be accepted and successful in the program.”

     “We did something with our most recent graduating class that we had not done in a few years,” Hinson says. “We looked at their salaries when they came into the program and then again when they graduated. Their salaries increased an average of $30,000 while they were in the program. And you know corporate America wasn’t handing out increases like that in the recent past.

     “That says to me that students are taking the knowledge they’re getting from the program and using it immediately in the workplace. Also employers are experiencing the value of those MBAs while students are in the process of earning their degrees and they’re rewarding them for it.”

     “There’s a need for leadership more now than ever,” Reinemund comments. “Our goal is to produce leaders that are not only competent but also ethical; leaders that will go out and make a difference in the companies they join and communities they live in.”

     “The differentiating aspects of our program from others are quality and connection, “says Hinson. “Connection to business, connection to the not-for-profit community and connection to our students. I consistently hear from students how our process here is so personal. In addition, our rankings and highly regarded faculty speaks for itself in relation to quality.

     “It’s not just a degree. It’s an experience. And not just for two years, but for the rest of your life. You’re always going to be a Wake Forest alum.”

Barbara Fagan is a Greater Charlotte Biz freelance writer.
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