Why the MBA for Working Professionals is the “best of both worlds”

Alex Snedeker | Marketing Manager, MBA | Student Experience

Why the MBA for Working Professionals is the “best of both worlds”

For many professionals looking into management education, the alternatives to a full-time MBA degree often fall short. Non-degree executive programs don’t go in-depth and don’t last long enough to have a transformative effect. Part-time MBA programs focus more on delivering the required coursework than creating an immersive experience.

And then there’s ASB’s MBA for Working Professionals (MBA-WP).

“We met with a lot of corporate partners, and they continuously asked if there were opportunities for their employees to earn an MBA without leaving their jobs,” says Juliana Roth, who manages the MBA-WP program. “We surveyed these partners to design a curriculum that was the ‘best of both worlds,’ allowing students to access a world-class education and remain productive in their jobs.”

From the beginning, the program was designed with the needs of these partners in mind. Throughout the program development process, company leaders and HR teams gave feedback to every aspect from the curriculum to the professional development offerings.

Both partner organizations and their employees received some surprising benefits from the program even before the first cohort arrived on campus.

“One company considered using the application process for succession planning,” Juliana notes. “They opened up the application to everyone in the company, and managed to find talented employees that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.”


Leveraging the MIT Sloan connection

In the MBA-WP, half of the courses are taught by visiting MIT Sloan faculty and the other half are taught by ASB resident faculty. This is another instance in which the program represents the “best of both worlds,” combining award-winning Western education with a global faculty that has a deep knowledge of Asian business.

This partnership also makes the program a unique offering in the Malaysian education market. There are currently no equivalent programs that involve partnerships with American schools, although some involve partnerships with British schools.

And because MIT Sloan is a founding partner of the school, the MBA-WP curriculum borrows many elements from its parent school that set it apart, most notably the concept of “Action Learning.”


Action Learning (with a twist)

Action Learning, or the concept of applying theories and frameworks to real-world business challenges, is embedded in ASB’s culture. The school’s full-time residential MBA features 5 projects in up to 5 countries, with students traveling onsite roughly one-third of the time.

When designing the MBA for Working Professionals, it was necessary to make some changes to this model. While students still participate in 5 semester-long Action Learning projects, they all take place within the student’s company.

“The company sees an immediate return on their investment in their employees, and the student can shine as a changemaker within their company,” Juliana explains.

The focus of these projects varies according to each student’s expertise and interest. One current student is evaluating supply chain improvements, while another is embarking on a corporate redesign, and a third is finding ways to diversify cashflow. The projects will progressively broaden in scope as the student gains more experience throughout the program.

Action Learning projects are supported by faculty and business coaches to help students accurately identify the problem and work through solutions using what was learned in the classroom.

But this doesn’t mean that MBA-WP students never work in teams or venture outside of Kuala Lumpur. The program also includes 3 practicums, or week-long intensive Action Learning projects hosted at various partner organizations.


Capitalizing on global diversity

The first MBA-WP cohort includes students from countries such as Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, as well as two students who commute from Mexico. While it’s more difficult for students from far-flung countries to benefit from the modular format of the program, MBA-WP cohorts also have the chance to mix with residential MBA cohorts and benefit from the school’s global diversity.

ASB’s residential MBA cohorts include students from over two-dozen countries and six continents. They take select courses together with the MBA-WP cohorts and sometimes even complete projects and assignments together.

The two cohorts also share a residence, which facilitates spontaneous interactions outside of the classroom. Both students and staff take care to plan events around the MBA-WP schedule, providing even more opportunities for the classes to mingle.

All MBA-WP students are eligible to run for positions within the ASB Student Association, and can be involved in a diverse set of student clubs with focuses ranging from finance to sports to community service.


A focus on accelerating careers

One reason the MBA-WP stands apart from other modular programs is its rigorous Professional Development Program. Designed with input from corporate HR teams, the Program includes workshops, personal assessments, executive coaching, and relationship building.

Students are also offered the option to work directly with their employers to identify and address skills gaps. This way, each student is not only equipped the next promotion, but also for long-term career progression.

“We have a roadmap of the skills we think all professionals need, but we are also very nimble,” Juliana says. “As we identify skill gaps, we adjust and refine our curriculum to make sure what’s learned is directly applicable to our students.”

The combination of a rigorous academic curriculum and professional development makes the MBA-WP program challenging to maintain while working full-time. But for students who want to accelerate their careers and stand out in their organizations, there’s no doubt that the program delivers.