With a little luck and a lot of hard work, Walla Walla University will be unveiling a new MBA program in the fall of 2024. The primarily asynchronous program will allow students from all over the world to enroll and complete the program online. It also follows the 4+1 model, allowing Walla Walla students to have a master's degree within four quarters following graduation. This model is largely thanks to the vision of Dr. Stephen Pilgrim, the new dean of the University's School of Business.
Dr. Pilgrim is a multitalented individual with a plethora of experience, from serving as governor of Newbold College in England, to running the Ph.D. program at Montemorelos University in Mexico, as well as several other countries and positions in between. This international, multilingual background has informed his leadership style in many ways and inspired much of the program's framework.
The program emphasizes flexibility, including plans for emphases in healthcare, accounting, and entrepreneurship. A joint effort is in the works with Loma Linda University, offering students the opportunity to “finish the program with two things, an MBA and a healthcare administration certificate from a leading university hospital in the world. We think that adds value to the program we are putting on the table.” Another emphasis in the program specifically prepares students for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. In Dr. Pilgrim’s words, “we see our MBA as a gateway.”
Thanks to the generosity of a yet unnamed benefactor, Dr. Pilgrim is hoping to add to these opportunities with the launch of the Center for Entrepreneurship. Though still in the planning stages, the center is also expected to be open in the coming year, and “once that is done, we are going to be linking that to the MBA program, so there might be some courses that we run at the center that will allow for a concentration in entrepreneurship or small business management.”
With all these plans in motion, Dr. Pilgrim made a point of acknowledging the support he has received from the department. “I have an assistant, Lana Van Dorn, who is very experienced. I have an associate dean, Dr. Bruce Toews, with about 30 years' experience here. So, armed with them and a team of very hard-working professionals, I think we have a good thing going here.” Speaking on the groundwork done by Dr. Toews, Dr. Pilgrim emphasized that, “he has probably trained and put out into our wider environment more specialist in the field than anyone else I know.”
It is thanks to this team that in the last year, the School of Business was able to place 100% of the students who graduated from the program in careers relevant to their training or in higher education. “In the past, our major field test results have been in the top ten percent of all universities in the United States.”
The long-term goals for the program remain incomplete, but Dr. Pilgrim is not without ideas. “I’m consolidating what we have right now, […] but as I get more fully entrenched in how we do things here, I will be adding some changes to the program.” Some of those changes include leveraging years of connections and international experience to pursue the possibility of multilingual classes, among other opportunities. “Wherever I go, changes do happen. I’m not here to sit down and keep things as they were.”