Warren County residents looking for an advanced business degree but lacking the ability to go off to college for two years or more have an option.
In January, members of the sixth cohort of the Gannon University MBA program through the Warren-Forest Higher Education Council will begin their path to Master of Business Administration degrees.
The first course offering in the four-year program will be Financial Accounting. The class will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays from January 14 through March 11.
Students attend classes at the Hi-Ed offices in North Warren. "Instructors from Erie travel to Warren to teach the courses," Hi-Ed Executive Director Joan Stitzinger said. "Dr. Robert Wallace, assistant professor of finance, has played a pivotal role in the success of the Warren program through recruiting and continuing to stay in touch and work with former students."
"He really takes the students under his wing," Stitzinger said.
Thanks to the dedication of the university in bringing a quality program to Warren County, "doing the MBA here in Warren is just like you're stepping onto the campus in Erie," Stitzinger said.
Gannon's willingness to reach out to Warren was important in the council's early years. "It was a huge validation of the council" to host the MBA program, Stitzinger said.
Since the 1990 cohort graduated, the program has been making positive impacts on the community.
"Most of the graduates have stayed in Warren," Stitzinger said.
Past students have taken their expertise to United Refining, Ellwood National, Whirley Drinkworks, Warren General Hospital, the Economic Opportunity Council, and Northwest Savings Bank.
"Through the program, we have made a significant impact on the upper level of Warren business," Stitzinger said.
Some graduates have been able to thrive in their own businesses.
Accountants and engineers have benefited. "We've also had some doctors and lawyers go through the program," Stitzinger said. "They're trying to run a business."
Many of the students could not attend classes on campus. "The people in this program have the kind of jobs that would make it very difficult, to almost impossible to be commuting around the region for the same education," Stitzinger said.
Northwest Savings Bank's Joe Colosimo is a graduate of the program. "Gannon provides experienced faculty that really enhance the learning aspects of the program," he said. "Dr. Wallace is the foundation of the program. He challenges each student to reach beyond the 'textbook' understanding of topics and helps apply them to real world experiences."
"Joan and Gannon have structured the program in a way that it allows for a student to have work and family obligations and still be able to participate, successfully," Colosimo said. "I would definitely recommend the program. Just like everything else the Hi-Ed coordinates, the program is top notch and a bonus to have available in Warren."
In addition to bringing advanced degrees and in-depth business knowledge to professionals in Warren, each cohort - a group that advances through a program together - creates a business policy project or a market plan.
Feasibility studies on the Revitalization of Warren Business District (the forerunner of Warren Main Street), a Kinzua resort, riverfront development, and an assisted care living facility for Warren General Hospital (prior to the development of the hospital's Pine Grove center) were done by the students. Marketing plans were created for the Warren County Humane Society, Struthers Library Theatre, the Hi-Ed Council, and Erie International Airport.
Stitzinger knows about the program from the inside out. "I'm a graduate," she said. "If it hadn't been available here in Warren, I certainly wouldn't have gotten my degree."
"I would highly recommend it to anybody who is exploring that master's option," Stitzinger said. "It's a very strong program." It gives graduates "that hard core business acumen that people expect out of an MBA program."
So far, there are 16 people enrolled for the start of the 2010 cohort.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, but do not have to be Warren County residents.
More applicants are welcome, but those who haven't yet signed up are running out of time.
"We're hoping that we're going to start with around 20 students," Stitzinger said. "They still can get into the program, but they need to get it done quickly."
Because the university does not have to maintain the space and equipment for the Warren program, tuition rates are reduced. The per-credit cost is $755 before the reduction and $565 after. The Applications for local scholarships are available at the Hi-Ed office.