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February 1, 1996

KGSB's dual MBA/info science degree valued by corporations

One of the most valued degrees in business today is a dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in the Management of Information Systems (MBA/IS).

Computerworld magazine believes that graduates with techno MBA degrees such as the MBA/IS "will shape the future of corporate technology usage as they become next-generation managers, CIOs, and even CEOs." Exactly how valued an MBA/IS degree is in the corporate world was made evident in January when Federal Express took the rare move of dispatching a jet to Pittsburgh to pick up 11 MBA/IS students from the Katz Graduate School of Business. The company transported the students to its corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., for job interviews.

On the jet from Memphis, Federal Express also brought several faculty members from the University of Memphis and Christian Brothers University to learn about the Katz MBA/IS program and possibly use it as a model for starting similar programs at their schools.

"They brought faculty members up here so that they could see what our curriculum was like to perhaps modernize their own curriculum," said Dennis Gal-letta, a faculty member in the Katz MBA/IS program. "It's kind of exciting to have other schools looking at us and saying, 'Wow, how did these people do this?'" According to Sharon Flake, public relations director for the Katz School of Business, Federal Express took the unusual move of sending a corporate jet to Pittsburgh because it wanted to demonstrate how much it valued the Katz students.

"A few months ago several of our students met a Fed Ex representative at a job consortium and wowed them with their knowledge of IS, as well as the strength of our program," Flake said. "Not long after that, the representative was up here at Katz visiting with faculty and listening to presentations by our IS students. That resulted in the invitation to jet several students down to Memphis for interviews." In December, Pitt's dual MBA/IS degree program was ranked ninth in the nation by Computerworld with an average starting salary for graduates of $50,175. The average starting salary for the 25 schools in the survey was $53,375.

The top techno MBA program in the nation, according to the Computerworld survey, was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management, where graduates had an average starting salary of $89,000. Pitt's program was ranked just behind the one at Purdue University and ahead of New York University.

The Katz MBA/IS program was launched in 1986 with a grant from IBM. According to Galletta, who helped design the original curriculum, IBM was attracted to the program because it coupled an MBA's knowledge of business with an in-depth knowledge of information systems.

Galletta said corporations had been calling for such a dual business degree for decades. "They want personnel who can understand both business and information technology," he explained. "It is a rare combination of skills, so we decided that we would do our part to try to fill that gap." The Katz program allows students to earn dual MBA/IS degrees in 20 months and includes a paid internship at a corporation. In any given year, the program has 40-50 full-time students, and another 30-40 part-time students, according to Galletta.

Graduates have been hired by Alcoa, AT&T, Exxon, General Dynamics, IBM, Nationwide Insurance Co., Price Water-house and Westinghouse, in addition to Federal Express.

"We changed the curriculum about two years ago and put in all kinds of stuff that firms are real excited about," said Galletta. "I think that also is something that Fed Ex was reacting to." New courses include Distributed Architecture, which covers the technical and managerial methods and problems of distributing computing resources over a vast array of processors in an organization, and Object-Oriented System Design, which studies the processes and structures necessary to integrate object-oriented programming into the methods used in a modern organization.

–Mike Sajna

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