Frustration with health care, a desire to globalize non-profits, and a decision to build on skills gained on Iraqi battlefields lead new MBA candidates to MIT Sloan

Frustrated with the structure of the health care system, Ashok Roy, MD, a 30-year-old surgery intern at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, has decided to find answers in his field by pursuing an MBA

“The people making the financial decisions that impact the lives of medical practitioners and their patients are not doctors — they are MBAs,” he says. “Our studies in the field of medicine are so specialized that we are never exposed to the business side of health care. When hospitals want to save money or make systems run more efficiently they bring in consultants. But wouldn't it make more sense for a doctor with a business background to take on this role?”

Roy is hoping to someday do just that as an incoming student of the MIT Sloan School of Management's Class of 2007.

Roy's viewpoint embodies a growing sentiment that traditional paths of education are too specialized, failing to provide a window on business skills that impact a given sector and, ultimately, one's career path. For a new MBA class well aware of emerging Asian markets, globalization, and the rise of outsourcing, many incoming students are opting to better secure their future by pairing their existing skill set with hands-on business savvy.

Nearly 70% of the Class of 2007 holds undergraduate degrees in other fields besides business and economics. Approximately 40% of the incoming class is composed of non-U.S. citizens whose median age is 28 years old. Approximately 50 students ages 25 years and under boasting a variety of internships and work experience also make up MIT Sloan's Class of 2007.

Ben Cohen-Leadholm, 27, started his career in the IT field in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. Having experienced both the boom and the bust, he decided to explore the non-profit sector. He joined Ghana New Ventures Corporation, a non-government organization that allowed him to move to West Africa to teach young people the nuts and bolts of starting their own businesses.

“Corporate social responsibility is one of those infant areas that will be a distinguishing factor in business ten years from now,” predicts Cohen-Leadholm, who last served as a development officer for YouthBuild USA, a non-profit addressing poverty issues in the U.S. and abroad. “I mean, it seems so backwords that corporations view community involvement as an obligation rather than a business opportunity. I think corporations will better recognize and chose non-profit partners that extend the work that they are already doing. Global partnerships, in particular, appear to be an untapped resource. Besides being smart business, it's also great public relations.”

Summing up his future career aspirations, Cohen-Leadholm says, “To truly make an impact and to advocate in the non-profit sector you need an MBA”

Heather Tow-Yick, 29, who has served as special assistant to Chancellor Joel Klein at the New York City Department of Education, agrees. “Public-private partnerships would be a great way to upgrade the outdated education IT infrastructure,” she says.

Tow-Yick also expresses concern that U.S. schools are lagging behind in math science measures. “What does this mean 20 years down the road?” she asked. “I want to gain insight into entrepreneurship, leadership and technology to explore how education can better play into the economy now.”

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Malone, author of The Future of Work, stresses the importance of expanding one's expertise to attain future job security as advances in the Internet and low-cost computers make it easier to shift some jobs overseas. “For example, if you have only high-tech knowledge, you are vulnerable,” he says. “But if you can combine business with technical savvy, there are suddenly a lot of opportunities that are less likely to be outsourced.”

For incoming MBA candidate Ben Hur, a 29-year-old Olympia, Washington native, it took joining the U.S. Marine Corps to expose him to new cultures and different points of view. Hur was part of the first U.S. forces to invade Iraq in March 2003. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, he wants to pair the lessons in leadership he has learned on the battlefield with an MBA

“With nearly half the class composed of an international student body, it'll be easier to grasp lessons on globalism,” says Hur. “It's not just a buzz word — it's my and my generation's future and I want to embrace it.”

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