For Steve Paulone, director of graduate business programs at Post University in Connecticut, the re-naming of the business school in honor of Malcolm Baldrige, was much more than a changed business card. It was about family.
Paulone saw several members of his family’s work lives affected by Baldrige and live out the quality principles the school will look to bring its on-campus and online students. Paulone’s father Sam worked for the Hamilton Beach division, serving as controller and vice-president under Baldrige. His maternal grandmother worked in the brass factory. His paternal grandfather, an Italian immigrant, and his brother both worked in forging shop.
“Mac (Baldrige) was a quiet guy who came from a humble background,” described Paulone. “He achieved things that few people have in life. He couldn’t be a better allegory for our program.”
Prior to being named Secretary of Commerce by former President Ronald Reagan, Baldrige led the successful transformation of Waterbury-based Scovill, Inc. from a financially troubled brass mill to a diversified consumer, housing and industrial goods manufacturer. During his 20-year tenure at Scovill, Baldrige also served as a Trustee of Post College from 1966 to 1970. His career-long leadership and commitment to managerial and business excellence led to the creation of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987. Baldrige died in 1987 at the age of 64.
“Mac (Baldrige) took a dying brass mill and turned it into a world-class conglomerate,” said Paulone. “Post was on the way to extinction; if it wasn’t for our innovation and our commitment to changing education in a quality manner, we wouldn’t be where we are today. In the MBA, we try to practice what we preach.”
Throughout Post University, professors and faculty refer to themselves as “scholarly practitioners” – many of the faculty average decades of professional industry experience, along with terminal degrees in the fields they teach, and have taken those lessons into the classroom.
“We focus on critical thinking, innovation, leadership – all the things that are required of executives today, especially in flattening organizations,” said Paulone, who worked for 25 years in the manufacturing industry, including Ingersoll-Rand, before joining Post. “We know to build the bridge between the practical and the academic.”
Post University is regionally accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business also is a candidate for specialized accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The School’s fully online MBA degree program includes seven concentrations – general (or multidisciplinary), corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, finance, leadership, marketing and project management.
Post began offering distance learning programs in 1976, and went fully online 16 years ago with an accelerated degree program, which Paulone referred to as the genesis of the current MBA program. Seven years ago, Post changed course from an institution thinking of online as the “step child” to focusing its innovative efforts on developing student-focused, practice-based online degree programs, including a top-tier online MBA program, especially for adult learners. Paulone sees this revolution as just another natural tie between the school and Baldrige.
“That transformation is seen in the way we run our organization, like how Mac transformed Scovill,” said Paulone. “He was one of the first transformational leaders; that’s why President Regan tapped him for commerce. He was a quiet leader who helped transform a sleepy industry to a modern-day conglomerate. We are doing the same to education.
“It’s also in alignment with what is needed in the marketplace,” he added. “Most academic institutions are so far behind the 8-ball. They don’t see that and are fighting the transformation.”
Post’s acceptance of online learning nearly a decade ago has led the school to become the second-largest online MBA program in Connecticut. Post’s online MBA program is 45-credits and can be completed in an average of 23 months, but can be completed at an accelerated rate of 14-20 months. Tuition for the program is $680 a credit. The success of the school’s MBA program also is seen in the undergraduate business programs, which include more than 4,500 students.
“I think people are looking for new models in education,” said dean Don Mroz. “Folks that are at work, leading busy lives, are looking for a means to still get their education but they don’t want to have to drive or even fly to a place for an executive MBA program. They want to go to a place with a great name and quality education, but do it on their own time.”
Mroz says it’s more than the flexibility that the program provides that has led to its growth – there are nearly 500 online MBA students at Post currently – but the faculty and design of the MBA degree that makes it attractive. He points to Post MBA ’12 graduate Jean Fredrick, Director of Marketing at the Sloan Consortium, a non-profit organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education.
“She went out and looked at all of the MBA programs online and she said ‘By far, your curriculum is the most unique,’” said Mroz. “The innovation and leadership themes flowing throughout and the concentrations make it pretty unique. These things, in addition to offering it online, are where the customer wants to go.”
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets