Nov. 24, 2021Print | PDF
Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a significant step for any future business leader. It's an investment of both time and financial resources, and there are many schools to choose from. When you choose to pursue the Lazaridis MBA at Wilfrid Laurier University's Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, you get more than outstanding education and a degree – you become part of a robust and growing alumni community with a global reach.
Keeping our MBA program options relevant and up-to-date for today's business world and tomorrow's challenges is the task for Associate Professor Karin Schnarr. Schnarr was named as the Director of the MBA Program at the Lazaridis School in July. We sat down with Schnarr and Brad Davis, associate professor and associate director, MBA Programs, to learn more about the challenges and opportunities for students pursuing an MBA.
Schnarr joined the Lazaridis School in 2014 and is currently an Associate Professor of strategic management. Before joining the University, she worked in both the private and public sectors holding many senior-level positions including Chief of Staff at the Ontario Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, Environment, Attorney General, and Transportation.
Davis has taught at Laurier for almost 30 years and is currently an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the MBA program focusing on marketing, communications, and branding. He also has the distinction of being one of the original faculty for the Toronto MBA program.
As traditional career paths continue to evolve and adapt to changes in business, professors Schnarr and Davis see new opportunities to engage with MBA students — whether they're recent grads or experienced professionals looking to upskill or change careers.
"Our business department has largely been tailored to in-person classes. We've got wonderful relationships between faculty and students, so we get to know our students, there's a really deep relationship there. But the pandemic has shifted everybody's thinking on in-person and online learning," Schnarr said.
"It's a much more competitive environment which requires more investment and more agility in adopting new programs, new courses, and new variations. We're not on university calendars anymore. We're on industry calendars — and that's a really tough adjustment for a lot of schools and institutions who are not structured to respond that quickly."
As with any significant change in work and learning over the last two years, the main driver has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Schnarr explained that moving to work and learning from home has shifted the university's understanding of what remote options could look like.
"We pivoted literally overnight. I was supposed to go to Toronto and teach an MBA class on Friday, March 13. As the day progressed, the whole universe was sort of shutting down. We pivoted to teach that night online for the very first time. Now we're looking at how that may inform how an MBA program could evolve," Schnarr said.
Schnarr says the goal now is to continue to adjust the programs to help MBA students reach their goals as the future of work continues to unfold. "Our students all have different life and career goals. We're looking at what students are interested in and what's going to help students the most. What is going to help them in terms of what our curriculum looks like. Then as we go forward, we can ask what the future MBA looks like. It's one of the cool things that I get to work on right now."
Exploring what future MBA programs could look like isn't years away from happening — it's part of what the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics is delivering today. Schnarr pointed to the Master of Science in Management Analytics program and the upcoming Master of Supply Chain Management program as examples of providing educational opportunities to address the changing needs of students.
The changing role and applications of an MBA are topics that Davis follows closely. "We're going through massive changes in the MBA sector. Over the last 10 years, there has been a shift to more online programs. The pandemic forced the move to remote for everybody. Many schools have decided they prefer remote and that's thrown a left turn into what was already becoming a bitterly contested market space," he said.
He noted that, in the past, if you wanted a professional graduate management degree, your option was an MBA. While today's students have more degrees to choose from, Davis explained the Lazaridis School is already ahead in adapting to changing demands. "It's a much more competitive environment which requires more investment and more agility in adopting new programs, new courses, and new variations. We're not on university calendars anymore. We're on industry calendars — and that's a really tough adjustment for a lot of schools and institutions who are not structured to respond that quickly."
One example of evolving the MBA programs at the Lazaridis School is how we use business cases within the Lazaridis MBA curriculum. While MBA programs are known for their use of business cases as teaching tools, they're often static reading assignments. Schnarr was featured earlier this year by Harvard Business Publishing: Education. It was an opportunity to showcase the leading-edge use of business cases in our classes.
“I teach, write, and do academic research related to cases and was so honoured to be asked by Harvard Business Publishing: Education to contribute to their series on the case method, 100 years later. This series is now available in six languages which demonstrates the ongoing, global appeal of cases in business education. We are proud to have faculty in our MBA program who are experts in this type of case-based teaching and learning,” said Schnarr.
Choosing a graduate school for an MBA is still one of the most critical career decisions a prospective student can make. Professors Schnarr and Davis said that while today's students have more choices, the decision still comes down to choosing a program that meets their career needs today and in the future and offers a strong sense of community.
Schnarr said: "I've asked students in class why they chose Laurier. Being competitive in price often comes up — but what they say more often is that there is engagement with faculty. Once you're admitted, we're going to do everything we can to help you get through the program. We recognize that students are coming in with anthropology degrees or political science degrees, even engineering degrees. Sometimes people don't necessarily see themselves in this business and what we do really well at Laurier is allow students, no matter what their background is, to see themselves with an MBA."
It's a sentiment Davis echoed with a story from a business leader who has hired multiple Lazaridis School graduates. "I was talking to a VP of Marketing who hires a lot of our graduates and I asked him why. He said because they just really like our students. More than being well trained, they fit into the culture immediately. What we really want to desperately avoid is being that kind of cookie cutter MBA program. We want to give you MBA skills, but not force you into that stereotypical MBA mold and linear way of thinking."
The goal of the Lazaridis MBA programs is to train strategic leaders — those who can understand the big picture and what it takes to get things done on the ground.
"We're trying to create leaders that can critically think and understand where markets are going and prepare them to be able to pivot and transform," Schnarr emphasized.
Earn your Lazaridis MBA in the way that best suits your lifestyle and career goals. With one degree in six program formats - we're confident you will find your fit at the Lazaridis School. Learn more about our program formats in both Waterloo and Toronto, and our unique MBA curriculum.
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