Training for the future: Maine Business School reaches enrollment milestone

Posted Nov. 22, 2013, at 7:45 a.m.
Richard Borgman, professor of finance at UMaine, teaches a class Tuesday morning in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago.
Richard Borgman, professor of finance at UMaine, teaches a class Tuesday morning in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago. Buy Photo
Adam Bates shows the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago.
Adam Bates shows the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago. Buy Photo
Richard Borgman, professor of finance at UMaine teaches a class Tuesday morning in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago.
Richard Borgman, professor of finance at UMaine teaches a class Tuesday morning in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago. Buy Photo
From left, MBA student Adam Bates, Dean of the Business School Ivan Manev and Professor of Finance Robert Strong show the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine Orono.
From left, MBA student Adam Bates, Dean of the Business School Ivan Manev and Professor of Finance Robert Strong show the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine Orono. Buy Photo
Adam Bates shows the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago.
Adam Bates shows the Bloomberg terminal in a computer lab at University of Maine in Orono. Undergraduate enrollment at the Maine Business School at UMaine is at an all-time high of 947 students, an increase of nearly 21 percent from a year ago. Buy Photo

ORONO, Maine — Adam Bates, a graduate student at the Maine Business School at the University of Maine, has a wealth of information at his fingertips.

At a desk inside the D.P.Corbett Business Building at the University of Maine, Bates sits in front of two computer monitors and a specialized keyboard, which he deftly works to pull up information and research from a dizzying array of sources.

“You can get real specific or real broad,” said Bates about the information he can access with the piece of equipment, called a Bloomberg Terminal.

One minute he’s looking at a flow chart showing the supply and distribution chain for Westbrook-based Idexx Laboratories; the next he’s looking at a real-time map of Casco Bay that shows a small red arrow, signifying a container ship, leaving Portland harbor.

Want coffee prices in Vietnam? He can pull those up. Need the number of uninsured people in Maine over the past decade? Only a few keystrokes away. Even the scores for UMaine’s football team for the last several seasons are readily available via the terminal.

A ubiquitous piece of equipment on Wall Street, where financial analysts at the country’s largest banks use it to track real-time financial data and keep an eye on world markets, the terminal is now available to students at the Maine Business School, who can use it to quickly compile research that would otherwise take hours of trolling various data sources on the Internet.

The piece of equipment, which was purchased last spring, costs $2,000 a month, according to Ivan Manev, the school’s dean. But it’s worth it, he said, because of the learning opportunities it offers.

The Bloomberg Terminal is just one draw for the Maine Business School, which reached a milestone this semester with a record enrollment of 947 undergraduate students, nearly 21 percent higher than a year ago. It also offers a Master’s of Business Administration, which 48 graduate students are currently pursuing.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the Maine Business School as No. 141 on its list of the nation’s top business undergraduate programs. There are currently 476 undergraduate business programs in the country accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB.

Manev, who has taught at the Maine Business School since 1997 and became its dean four years ago, credited the enrollment growth to recruitment and marketing efforts spearheaded by the school’s associate dean, Stephanie Welcomer.

The presence of a successful business school is “absolutely crucial” to the health of the state’s economy, Manev said, and the school has been working hard to stay relevant. As an example, he said the school recently introduced a new concentration in entrepreneurship.

“We created it in response to the needs of the state, where the overwhelming proportion of businesses are small, and where entrepreneurial growth is much needed,” Manev said. “This concentration enjoys a lot of student interest.”

Two-thirds of the students who graduate from the Maine Business School stay in Maine, Manev said. These are people who have the skills and experience to work in finance, marketing and business administration. They also graduate prepared to grow and manage their own businesses.

But there’s always more that can be done. “We can certainly play a stronger role,” Manev said.

‘As big or small as you make it’

The Maine Business School was founded as the College of Business in 1965, and has been accredited by the AACSB since 1974.

The school offers a four-year undergraduate degree in business administration with majors in accounting, finance, management and marketing, as well as concentrations in entrepreneurship, international business and management information systems.

The Maine Business School is one of two business schools in the state accredited by the AACSB. The other is the School of Business at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, which has 790 undergraduate students currently enrolled. It also has 110 students pursuing MBAs.

Manev gave credit to the school’s faculty for its record growth.

“We have faculty who have national, very often global, reputations as being an expert in their field,” Manev said.

They’re also accessible, said Bates, who has formed close relationships with the professors after spending four years in the undergraduate program before beginning the graduate program. He expects to graduate with an MBA next May.

“I don’t have any problems stopping in their offices to ask questions,” Bates said. “I don’t know what it’s like at other schools, but I think that’s a strong point here.”

Manev cited two other elements that bolster the school’s pitch to students: Rich learning opportunities, including campus organizations and access to advanced equipment like the Bloomberg Terminal, and high post-graduate job placement numbers.

“Our alumni are spectacularly successful,” Manev said.

In a recent survey, nearly 80 percent of 2011 graduates of the Maine Business School reported having full-time jobs six months after graduation, while another 15 percent reported going to graduate school.

Over the years the school has graduated students who have gone on to successful careers as executives at some of the country’s most well-known companies, such as Home Depot and Deloitte.

“They are great role models and we have dozens of them,” Manev said.

Besides the faculty and the learning that goes on inside the classroom, it was the extracurricular activities that stand out for Bethany Mealey, ’09 and Dianne Grade, ’08, alumnae of the Maine Business School who met on a business school trip to China.

Mealey, a Farmingdale native, is currently an analyst and member of the leadership development program at UNUM in Portland, while Grade, a Rockland native, is an engagement product manager at Tyler Technologies in Falmouth.

“The school is as big or as small as you make it,” said Mealey, who was president of the American Marketing Association on campus, which allowed her to compete in marketing competitions around the country against students at some of the country’s top business schools.

Grade, who was a member of the Student Portfolio Investment Fund, agreed.

“I didn’t learn software development at the Maine Business School,” Grade said, referring to the fact her current employer is a software company. “I learned how to interact with people, to communicate with people. I think that’s a lot of what you take with you.”

The student-run investment fund also recently reached a milestone. The fund’s portfolio in October surpassed $2 million for the first time, an impressive result for a fund that began 20 years ago with $200,000.

Manev said student members, some of whom visited the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month, take the investment group very seriously, showing up in business attire to pitch their fellow students on which stocks to buy and which to sell.

“They’ve taken upon themselves a commitment to be professional,” Manev said.

Training the future workforce

The Maine Business School, along with the USM School of Business, are essential to the future of the Maine economy, according to Alan Caron, president of the nonprofit organization Envision Maine.

“It’s enormously important that we develop more people with business management skills and more entrepreneurs. There’s no question about it,” Caron said. “The economy overall is decentralizing. It’s moving from large businesses that dominate the economy to an increasing number of small businesses, which means we need to have more people who can build smaller businesses and manage them effectively.”

One of Maine’s chief economic challenges will be its workforce, and not necessarily that it won’t have the necessary skills. The worry is it won’t have the necessary bodies.

Obviously, young people need access to jobs in Maine in order to stay in Maine, if that’s what they want to do. But they also need local access to high-quality education and training, otherwise they leave Maine to go to school elsewhere, and once they leave it’s hard to get them back.

Mealey, the ’09 grad who now works at UNUM, said some of her favorite moments are when she’s asked about her background, and she’s able to say: “I was born in Maine, raised in Maine, educated in Maine and now I’m employed in Maine.”

“That’s something I’m proud of and something not a lot of people can say,” Mealey said. “I wanted to study business and the Maine Business School allowed me to do that in Maine.”

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