MBA 710 and the importance of clusters

The Suffolk University MBA has been revamped to contain some unusual elements that no-one else has. MBA 710 Understanding World Class Clusters is a good example. It is meant to be a distinguishing feature of MBA education at Suffolk. MBA 710 is designed to get people thinking about the Boston economy and the Boston job market. Contrary to conventional pedagogical thinking about MBA programs, we are not trying to master a discipline in this course. We are not trying to “master” anything at all. Instead, we are trying to trigger thought processes about the regional economy and the regional job market to provide our students an edge in the longer term.

The course is a carefully orchestrated learning sequence designed to promote certain habits and mental foci that are not on the radar of most MBA programs. Thinking about the local economy and the local job market fills a gap. The overriding concern of most MBA programs is to offer skills that are as generic and global as possible: the idea is to prepare you to work anywhere in the world. In principle, this may sound good. In practice it means that all MBA programs end up being fairly identical.

Now while most MBA skills may indeed be generic, job markets are local! If you want to navigate the local job market, you need to investigate the local particulars of regional industries. In Boston these are the four clusters of finance, biotech, healthcare and technology. We are not going to survey these clusters in depth, of course. But we can teach a bit of economic geography and provide students with tools to reconnoiter local developments. This means more than just networking. It means learning about current developments in the local industries.

I will let you in on a secret. The role of MBA 710 has evolved a lot from its original purpose. The original idea was simply to develop some course offerings that make better use of Suffolk University’s central urban location. mark-lThat was the initial idea. But the more we looked at how generic other MBA programs were, the more we saw an opportunity to redesign our courses, including but not limited to MBA 710, to give our students an edge in the job market over other MBAs. That does not mean we teach students about the regional economy or the local job market in depth. Simply that we get our students thinking about the Boston economy and the Boston job market early on — at the beginning and not at the end of their MBA studies.

– Mark Lehrer, Professor of Strategy and International Business 

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