Elon Musk, the popular founder of Tesla and SpaceX, sent shockwaves through the business world when he criticized the “MBA-ization of America.” His point: Too many business executives focus on financials and meetings—taught to them by various masters of business administration (MBA) programs—rather than the products and services themselves. 

Dale Cyphert, coordinator with the College of Business’s MBA program, actually agrees with Musk—to a point. MBAs around the country have pivoted to focus more on the numbers, rather than innovation, Cyphert believes. But that’s not the case everywhere, including the College of Business, which places an emphasis on practicality and real-world applications. 

“You need both [the numbers and innovation] to run a company, but looking at the numbers is not the visionary role,” Cyphert said. “So, I think [Musk’s statement] is true. If you bring in those MBAs and nobody else, you will not be in a creative or forward-thinking mode. I don’t go as far as he does, but I do agree.” 

For example, the College of Business will launch an entrepreneurship certificate for graduate students in the near future, which can work along with an MBA to create a program that really focuses on  innovation and start-ventures. The College of Business's excellent John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center works with the program as well. Students who are interested in building a business with some guidance can take advantage of the resources and receive hands-on experience. 

Students who pursue an MBA at the University of Northern Iowa also get real-world training, working with case studies, simulations and client projects to apply classroom concepts in practice. The small class sizes allow networking and teamwork with other professionals from the region. Cyphert believes Musk was talking primarily about leaders in the tech arena, which boasts many graduates of large East and West coast business schools. Here  in the Midwest, people take a more practical approach to problems.

 “When you get right down to it, [UNI ] is a pretty pragmatic place where people are going to figure out how to get something done.”

For more information on the College of Business’s MBA program, click here.