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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

The Saint Vincent Approach to Graduate Business Education - Why Do We Offer an MSMOE?

Posted by Michael Urick on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 16:04 PM

I have had the pleasure of directing the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence (MSMOE) program at Saint Vincent for the past two years. I am very proud of our students, faculty and the program in general. Over the past several months, our students and faculty have published or submitted research for consideration in some of the field’s top journals and conferences, we have had exceptional job placements for our students and graduates and the program was recently named as a “Top 50 Best Value Master’s in Management” program. We’ve grown enrollment in the program and have also provided students with immersive experiences such as overseas opportunities, a partnership with the University of Kentucky’s True Lean Center in its College of Engineering that can lead to certification, independent studies so that students can choose the direction of their learning and flexible hybrid learning options.

Along with the success of the program and its students, I get a lot of questions regarding the program.  Two major ones are:

  • Why does Saint Vincent offer an MSMOE instead of an MBA and what is the difference between these two degrees?
  • What even is Operational Excellence?

Since I hear these questions a lot, I often reflect on them. For this blog, I thought it might be useful to write my current thoughts on this first question and to share them with you. The second question will be answered in my next blog.

Dr. Bill Hisker teaching

The MBA (which stands for Master’s in Business Administration) is a very common and practical graduate business degree. Saint Vincent does not offer this degree, which is not to say that this degree is not useful. In fact, the opposite is true! I personally have an MBA and I learned a lot through my studies for this degree. The truth is that there are many other colleges and universities in the area that have already offered fantastic MBA programs for a long time. As SVC is a relative newcomer to graduate education (when considering some of the other area schools), it doesn’t make sense for us to offer this degree when so many other good ones exist. The competition is already pretty stiff.

The MSMOE, on the other hand, was started at Saint Vincent because Dr. Richard Kunkle (the director of the program at the time) and the McKenna School identified a strong need in graduate business education from local and regional organizations. This need, though, was very specific. Organizations needed their managers and employees to know more about continuous improvement, problem solving and waste reduction – three cornerstones of what would become the MSMOE program. As such, our MSMOE program developed in response to needs of the local community. 

Student raising his hand

It should be noted, then, how much this approach differs from an MBA. Though valuable, an MBA is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to graduate business education. The MBA was originally designed for students who had a limited organizational background (meaning that they did not have an undergraduate degree in business, had never had any formal or informal leadership roles, and/or had limited experience working with others). As such, MBAs tend to draw on a breadth of business disciplines including (but not limited to) marketing, economics, law, finance, accounting, etc.

This generalist approach was not what Saint Vincent’s community was asking for when the MSMOE was founded. Many of the students who attend the MSMOE program already have some organizational background, whether from their undergraduate studies or from working. Some of our students don’t have this background but still want to study in the MSMOE program due to its focus.  Though a niche focus, and one that certainly may not appeal to all potential students looking for a graduate business degree, this program takes academically supported management techniques and combines them with real-world examples of continuous improvement tools. Though we touch on multiple business disciplines, our focus is much more fixed on crucial management concepts. We believe that, to be an effective manager-leader in an organization, one needs to truly be able to understand the people, processes and organizational factors that impact the overall success of the enterprise. Such an approach harkens to esteemed management scholar Henry Mintzberg’s thoughts in “Managers not MBAs” (2005). In his book, Mintzberg suggests that MBA programs do a disservice to would-be leaders because they teach students to be more like analysts rather than to truly understand how to be effective positive change agents in their organization. We like to think that our focus allows our students to be effective positive change agents – and the organizations that they work for seem to agree with our belief.

Student staring intently at her computer

So, what do you think?  Do you believe that a focused approach to graduate business education might be helpful to individuals in your organization? I’m always interested to hear your thoughts!  Email me at michael.urick@stvincent.edu or get in touch with me through Facebook (www.facebook.com/urickmj) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-urick/a3/775/5b/).

Dr. Michael J. Urick 


Mintzberg, H.  2005.  Managers not MBAs.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: San Francisco, CA. 

Topics: Michael Urick, Graduate programs, MSMOE, business, MBA, Operational Excellence

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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