Students are specializing their graduate school experience by developing custom degree plans. In this business climate, niche talents can find their place to shine. Currently, the University of Arkansas’ Walton MBA program offers five different career tracks in entrepreneurship and innovation, retail marketing, supply chain management, financial management and data analytics. For some, however, these degree options may not have the level of specificity in an area that they desire. Developing a custom track gives students the opportunity to have a unique perspective within their fields of interest. It creates the chance to essentially hand select some of the classes and experiences they hope to have as an MBA student, as well as giving them the opportunity to connect with specific teachers, projects and opportunities that they may not have otherwise had as much access to.
The Be EPIC Podcast hosted by Matt Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, recently brought in three students who are seeking their MBA degree in a custom track. Through the podcast, they were able to share some of the specifics of developing their custom track as well as how it has benefitted them. All three students are participating in the custom track “Marketing in the Arts.” One student, Coleman Davis, gave some insight into how he first decided on branching out into a custom track.
“Going into the MBA program, I had decided to focus on entrepreneurship However, as I moved on into the first semester, we were in Jeff Murray’s class and he taught the MBA marketing course,” Coleman said. “His course was really great. It got into consumer behavior, psychology, brand stories and how brands were built, essentially, and that was something that we just didn’t have a lot of exposure to in undergrad. Most of our undergrad was global marketing; it was more about how to execute things than the psychology of the customer.So I approached Jeff and asked how I could incorporate some independent study and after doing a couple of assignments in his class, he proposed the idea that we create a custom track.”
Students in the Walton MBA that would like to develop a custom track must have a faculty advisor. Coleman’s faculty advisor is Jeff Murray, a marketing professor. Much like other professors in the Walton College, Murray takes lots of time to actively invest in his students and has helped many develop a custom track where they can add their own creative touch to their degree. This hands-on approach from professors offers students lots of opportunity to select a faculty advisor should they wish to develop a custom track. The goal is to help students find the purpose of their brand and to analyze what specific problems in the world they hope to solve. This is the way that many students have landed on a highly specific and detailed degree plan that caters to their interests.
There are currently 25 students in custom tracks in the Walton MBA program. Marketing in the arts, homeland security, business analytics and a marketing business analytics blend are just some of the tracks that students are currently participating in. Student Abigail Roberts, who has developed her career track around homeland security, is working with both the College of Engineering and the Walton College. While completing her homeland graduate certificate program through the engineering school, she has gotten to custom build additional MBA classes to suit her specific interests. She is able to participate in classes such as homeland security for operations managers as well as risk management and operations management. Her ability to bring together a unique blend of classes within her custom track will help her with the specific goals she hopes to achieve. Grace, Helen and Coleman -- three students participating in the marketing in the arts custom track -- have the chance to take art history, a class that their cohort hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in. These examples are great indicators of how a custom track can be made personal to the student and help them to achieve a blended degree goal.
A custom track may not be for everyone; it requires highly specific degree goals that cannot be achieved with the degree options already available. It is an option for those students who wish to develop a blend of classes that will push them toward a niche job position where they feel they can thrive. As a whole, custom tracks are a great way for students to pursue specific degree goals in a creative and unique way.