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Taking Care of Business: ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business part-time program climbs eight spots in national ranking


A recent list published by U.S. News & World Report ranked ASU’s Professional Flex M.B.A. program in the W.P. Carey School of Business as part of the top 25 part-time M.B.A. programs in the United States.

At No. 25, the ranking is an eight-spot improvement for W.P. Carey’s part-time program since 2017, according to a press release from the school.

Small class sizes and low out-of-state tuition are part of what assistant dean of graduate programs Stephen Taylor says makes the program special. However, he says a more important factor in the recent rise in rankings is due to the increasingly capable students the school has been able to enroll.

“On the selecting and attraction front, there are students that we’re seeing in the program that we consider to have higher sophistication in their work experiences, higher scores on their entrance exams, higher GPAs in their undergraduate programs,” he says.

Those outstanding students eventually graduate from W.P. Carey, and admissions staff can point to their successes after their education to keep the cycle going.

“We can talk to potential students about the increase in the number of graduates that, within a year of graduation, have seen an increase in their responsibilities and salary or promotions. And that’s attractive to people,” Taylor says.

The Professional Flex Program allows current professionals in the Valley to not have to quit their jobs or move away from home, while still pursuing a top-notch M.B.A. degree from qualified teachers and career counselors.

Christina Ratto, a first-year student, says the ability to continue her career while going to school was what initially drew her to W.P. Carey.

“Part of the reason I went into the pro-flex W.P. Carey program was because I could work full-time during the day, but still go to school at night, and get that real in-class experience… the ASU program just made sense for that,” she says. “It’s definitely not easy but they really do a lot to help with your schedule because they know everyone is busy.”

With a plethora of online and hybrid classes available throughout the day, the school offers options for those who have obligations at work and cannot attend classes regularly, which career coach Clarence Moore says is crucial to the many students hesitant to pursue a master’s degree while working.

“For a rigorous M.B.A. program, especially when it’s ranked like this one, a lot of students start to feel the pressure and stress, but talking about that flexibility, you can see that stress level pretty much just go away,” he says.

W.P. Carey also offers a full-time, two-year M.B.A. program. ASU’s part-time program offers a distinct advantage because it allows students to sift through work-place obstacles in real time.

Because they are currently dealing with the same issues at work that they are theoretically in classes, pro-flex students can apply their lessons and solutions immediately, rather than waiting for the end of school and testing things out later in a new job.

“Our evening or pro-flex students typically have a lot of experience, and they actually can bring in challenges that they’re having at work into the classroom,” says Jennifer Whitten, W.P. Carey’s career services director, “It’s very timely to have them be able to work through stuff that they’re dealing with in work and find solutions right there and then.”

Being ranked top-25 in the country prompts pride from W.P. Carey staff, and it serves as recognition that staff and students are making tangible efforts to improve the school overall, not just the pro-flex program.

“We don’t really have to manage rankings, which is a pleasure as a professional, but we do hold that out as a goal there for us because it’s one of the primary tools for students to pick what programs are right for them,” Taylor says.

After students enroll, though, it is up to staff to make sure students are engaged in classes and projects. It’s not always easy to coax interaction in a theoretical economics presentation at 10 p.m. after a long day of work and make sure the material is challenging enough that the minds of the students are consistently expanding.

In fact, Ratto says the difficulty caught her off guard a bit, but the reason she pursued an M.B.A. in the first place was to be challenged and grow as a professional.

“The perception might be that if you’re taking classes online or in the evening, it might be a little bit easier than a full-time program, but that’s certainly not my experience. It’s super challenging, but I like that and I’m learning a lot.”

Other recent high U.S. News & World Report rankings for the W.P. Carey School of Business:

No. 5 online M.B.A program in the nation
No. 2 online graduate program (non-M.B.A)
No. 8 return on investment, full-time M.B.A programs
No. 24 best undergraduate business program

What makes a business successful? We asked local business professionals what it takes to start — and sustain — a booming business.

“Find something you’re very passionate about. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find it pays dividends in the future. If you talk with some of the most successful entrepreneurs that have come through, they’ve all anchored into a problem that they’re passionate about solving. I think the big thing that’s most surprising is entrepreneurs, is we hear on Shark Tank, on TV and news stories about the overnight successes. But, what I’ve seen is the best entrepreneurs are the people who get up every day ready to solve a problem and work through creating a very viable and sustainable company over the long-term. Don’t go at it alone. We think having a co-founder is great for starting a business or having capable team members. Having the people around that are going to make you better and keep you going is crucial. Take advantage of your opportunities at universities. A lot of schools have entrepreneurship centers that have business competitions; they have resources there to help think through the beginning stages if you’re interested in starting a business at any point.”

-C’pher Gresham, vice president of communities of Seed Spot, an organization that provides education and resources for young entrepreneurs aiming to create solutions to social problems

“First, you need a business concept or idea. Ask yourself these key questions: How do you make money? Are you offering a service or a product? Are you going this alone? Will you have a business partner? Have the best team available. Find experienced outside legal, accounting, tax and business professionals to help you. Create a team that you can trust and one that will help you succeed. With your team in place, decide what entity is best. Will your company organize as an LLC, corporation or partnership? Make that decision in consultation with your legal team. Don’t wait for everything to be ‘perfect’ – that place does not exist. Get your product or service into the market, and make adjustments as you go.”
-Robert Reder, managing partner of Blythe Grace, a law firm that specializes in helping businesses start on the right foot and stay successful

“First and foremost, starting a business requires a strong work ethic and an extreme passion for what you’re doing. Creating something of your own is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world, but don’t underestimate how much patience and sacrifice goes into sustaining a business. Last, find your niche so your business is unique and take pride in customer service because that creates brand loyalty.”
– Michael Spangenberg, co-founder of State Forty Eight LLC, an apparel company started by local entrepreneurs to produce gear that embodies the Arizona lifestyle


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