Moving to Center Stage
Reposted from Greater Charlotte Biz | By Barbara Fagan
After 16 years in the SouthPark area, the nationally ranked Wake Forest University MBA for Working Professionals Programs in Charlotte will move to a new expanded campus in the heart of Uptown. Wake Forest’s part-time MBA program was recently ranked in the top 10 percent in the nation and the #1 program of its kind in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report.
Its new facility, set to open next month, is located in 30,000 square feet of the former International Trade Center at 200 North College Street, and will be named Wake Forest University Charlotte Center.
“Our students, faculty and alumni are the thought leaders of Charlotte. It’s only fitting that we move to the center of this vibrant business community,” says Wake Forest Dean of Business Steve Reinemund. “We want to be at the center of business thought leadership in Charlotte,” he continues. “There’s currently no dominant force filling that need.”
Reinemund joined the University in 2008 after retiring from a 23-year career with PepsiCo, Inc. where he served as chairman of the board and prior to that, CEO. He is also currently a member of the board of directors of American Express, Exxon, Walmart and Marriott.
“We feel a move to the center of the city will allow us to better meet the needs for executive education in Charlotte,” adds Dr. Yvonne Hinson, Dean of Charlotte Programs. “We also want to be centrally located for both student and business access.”
Hinson, who has been a faculty member at Wake Forest’s main campus for 14 years and is a PricewaterhouseCoopers Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor, was appointed dean earlier this year because of her “strong track record of performance” according to Reinemund.
Hinson also has personal ties to her new position. She is a Charlotte native who received both her B.S. in accounting and her MBA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“The new location will also be a gathering place for Wake Forest alums,” Hinson says. “Charlotte has the largest concentration of our alumni in the country—more than 6,000 graduates. We want this facility to be a place they can call their second home.”
The Uptown campus is built for flexibility. Classrooms allow for break outs into group work and two lecture rooms are equipped to stream video back and forth with the Winston-Salem main campus. Other features include a state-of–the-art boardroom, atrium, catering kitchen and interactive learning labs. The emphasis on group learning is encouraged outside classrooms with laptop workstations and seating areas grouped for discussion.
Dr. Dan Fogel, executive professor of strategy and winner of the 2010 Teacher of the Year for the Charlotte Evening, Saturday and Winston-Salem Evening MBA Programs, believes the new campus will give the University greater visibility and better support the programs.
“The new location is dynamic and demonstrates our commitment to Charlotte,” he says. “It will help us attract new opportunities. In addition to the new technology, it’s also designed with the University’s emphasis on personal attention in mind. The study spaces, the social spaces, all facilitate communication between the faculty and the students and among the students as well.”
The campus was also designed with the community in mind. Portions of the facility will be available for rental by local groups and the new center city location will afford the Charlotte business community greater access to the University’s acclaimed “Leading Out Loud” Broyhill Executive Lecture Series.
“Recently we’ve hosted Jeff Inmelt (chairman and CEO of GE), Mike Duke (president and CEO of Walmart), Marilyn Carlson-Nelson (chairman and former CEO of Carlson), and Dean Kamen (founder of DEKA research and the inventor of the Segway, iBot, and many other revolutionary devices),” notes Reinemund. “We have the chairman of Novartis AG, Dan Vasella, speaking this month. We bring in speakers who are practitioners in the marketplace—who are actually out there doing the work. We hope to provide our students and the Charlotte business community with outstanding speakers.”
Coming Into Its Own
Wake Forest University began as Wake Forest Institute in 1834 in rural Wake County, 16 miles north of Raleigh. It was rechartered in 1838 as Wake Forest College, and finally as Wake Forest University in 1967. Since 1956 the school has been located in Winston-Salem and now is comprised of Wake Forest College, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Divinity, School of Medicine, School of Law and Schools of Business. Wake Forest offered its first MBA program in 1969 and is now ranked among the world’s best graduate business schools by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, Entrepreneur, Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report.
The Working Professionals MBA program began in Charlotte in 1995 as one program with 30 students. Currently, the school has 180 students in its two Charlotte MBA programs—one meeting evenings, the other on Saturdays.
“We’d like to increase to 240 students total within the next two years,” says Hinson. “But to maintain the personal interaction among students and faculty, we plan to keep each class section to no more than 60 students.”
“It’s a ‘cohort’ program. Students coming into the program will all graduate together. We demand a lot from them and the students bond with each other. Each graduating class is further broken down into teams, usually of five. We make sure the students in the teams have diverse backgrounds. In this way, they learn not only from their professors but also from each other.”
The Saturday and evening programs will continue in the new campus, but with twice the space of the SouthPark facility, the University has room to expand.
“The current programs are a base to develop other offerings,” offers Reinemund.
“The goal is to meet a market demand,” says Hinson. “Health care is the primary employer in Charlotte and financial services is No. 2. So, in January, in addition to general management, our MBA program will offer career track specialization in these two areas while maintaining the general track with student-selected electives.
“Now that we have the space to grow, we’re also exploring other degree and non-degree programs. We’re looking into certificate, open enrollment and continuing education programs. Right now we’re working on a Certified Financial Planner certificate program in conjunction with Dalton Education that we’ll offer next year to students and alumni as well as the general public,” Hinson explains.
“We also have a Private Capital Markets Certificate program that will run for two days in February and a Digital Marketing Series that will run for three Saturdays in February. Not all of the programs will be business-oriented, though,” she adds. “We’ve contacted other areas in the University to see what things they would like to offer in Charlotte as well.”
“We want to listen to Charlotte community leaders,” Reinemund says, “and see in what areas they want us to focus or even to come in and run their own company’s educational process. We can partner with a company to customize a program specifically for them. We’re already in initial discussions with a couple of Charlotte companies regarding that option.”
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