New Penn State iMBA Program Practices What it Preaches

July 25, 2001

An MBA is a hot commodity. So it seems only natural that the best MBA programs would analyze the market, target distribution to reach students, and develop courses based on industry trends and corporation needs. It may be natural, but it’s surprisingly rare. At Penn State, innovative professors and administrators have used business principles to develop a new online master of business administration, dubbed the iMBA. The result, they hope, will be the most responsive program and the most effective online learning experience for MBA students worldwide.

Launched this month, the Intercollege Master of Business Administration (iMBA) represents a collaboration between Penn State Erie, The Behrend College; Penn State Great Valley, The School of Professional Studies; Penn State Harrisburg; and The Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration, Penn State University Park. The degree program was designed by a program planning committee comprised of business faculty from all four Penn State Colleges. Courses will be delivered through the distance education technology of Penn State’s World Campus.

According to Dr. John Fizel, professor of economics at Penn State Erie and interim iMBA chair, extensive market-based program planning makes this program unique.

“The demand for MBA degrees is expected to grow significantly, with an increase of approximately 648,000 prospective students anticipated by the year 2005. Under conservative estimates, five percent of this audience will earn their degree online. Our program conducted market surveys to readers of the `Economist,’ an international business periodical, and to Penn State alumni with both business and non-business undergraduate degrees. Our findings indicate that the Penn State iMBA program can thrive and have a prominent position in the online market for graduate education,” Fizel said.

“The iMBA World Campus program was developed to respond to the needs of business,” said Dr. Peter A. Rubba, director of academic programs for the World Campus. “The program will focus on six business themes derived from values and concepts found in high-performance organizations: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market, information and analysis, human resources, and process management.”

The new iMBA curriculum addresses industry-based criticisms of conventional programs as too focused on disciplines instead of organizations and not focused enough on strategy and the global economy. The integrative design of the iMBA curriculum responds to that criticism. iMBA courses will include four core business areas: domestic and global economic environments; human behavior in organizations; creation and distribution of goods and services; and financial reporting, analysis, and markets.

World Campus student services and educational technology will also provide students with opportunities to develop networks and form collegial relationships. Students will enter the program in class cohorts and participate in the online learning community of the iMBA CyberForum. In the CyberForum, students will engage in discussions of business and management issues with faculty, worldwide business leaders, and classmates in the iMBA and the resident MBA programs of all four collaborating colleges.

Two short residential experiences are also planned, serving as culminating learning activities for courses taken online.

The first class cohort will be admitted to the iMBA program to begin studies online in January 2002. For more information, visit the World Campus online at

Launched in 1998, the World Campus delivers Penn State’s signature, academic programs in an interactive, on-line learning environment to students throughout the world.